KUALA LUMPUR • The Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin, was yesterday officially sworn in as Malaysia's 16th King in a traditional ceremony.
Sultan Abdullah, 59, ascended the throne by taking his oath and signing the instruments of office before Malaysia's Conference of Rulers, comprising nine rulers of the Malay-majority states and the four governors of the remaining states with no hereditary royal houses.
The constitutional monarch, who is Sultan of Pahang, will reign for five years as Malaysia's King in a unique rotation system involving the nine Malay rulers.
The nine rulers elect the king among themselves based on a strict order of rotation that has been in place since 1957, when the country achieved independence from the United Kingdom.
Sultan Abdullah became next in line to the national throne just one week prior to his election, after he was named the ruler of Pahang on Jan 15, replacing his ailing father, Sultan Ahmad, 88.
The previous monarch, Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan, 49, stepped down unexpectedly on Jan 6, just two years through his term in an unprecedented abdication, following reports of his marriage to a Russian beauty queen.
The Kelantan sultan was the only ruler who was not present at the ceremony yesterday.
The ceremony was held at the gold-themed throne room of Istana Negara, the national palace in Kuala Lumpur, with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Cabinet present in full regalia.
Singapore leaders congratulate new King
President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have written to the Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin, to congratulate him on his ascension to the throne as Malaysia's new King yesterday.
Sultan Abdullah was crowned the country's 16th King after taking the oath of office at the national palace in Kuala Lumpur in a ceremony that was steeped in tradition and attended by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
In her letter, Madam Halimah extended her "warmest congratulations" to Sultan Abdullah, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. "Your Majesty is widely respected for your generosity and concern for the welfare of Malaysians from all walks of life. I am confident that under Your Majesty's leadership, Malaysia will continue to enjoy prosperity and progress," she wrote.
"Singapore and Malaysia enjoy a longstanding history of friendship and cooperation, underpinned by strong bonds between our peoples. I look forward to working closely with Your Majesty to further strengthen bilateral ties between our two countries," she said. She also took the opportunity to wish Sultan Abdullah and his wife, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Sultan Iskandar, good health and happiness.
Writing to congratulate Sultan Abdullah, PM Lee said: "With Your Majesty's wisdom and grace, I am confident that Malaysia will reach even greater heights of progress and success."
Mr Lee said Malaysia and Singapore shared a long and unique history built on close people-to-people ties and mutually beneficial cooperation across many sectors. He added that the two neighbours also worked well in regional and international fora.
"I am confident that our bilateral ties will strengthen further during Your Majesty's reign," he said, adding that he and his wife Ho Ching sent their respects and best wishes to the new King.
While the King's position is largely ceremonial, he holds special discretionary powers, including swearing in the prime minister and pardoning convicts.
On Monday, the government convened a tribunal to probe former election commissioners. It will present recommendations to the King, based on the findings.
Earlier yesterday, Sultan Abdullah and his wife, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Sultan Iskandar, arrived at the Malaysian Parliament after flying in from his home state of Pahang.
He was welcomed by Tun Dr Mahathir and his wife Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and her husband Anwar Ibrahim, as well as other ministers and their deputies.
Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azi-zah Aminah were ushered to the stage at the square.
The ruler received a 21-gun salute with the national anthem playing in the background.
He was also given the royal salute by the Royal Malay Regiment Central Band. He later inspected a guard-of-honour mounted by four officers and 103 members from the First Battalion Royal Malay Regiment.
The Federal Territories Mufti Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri then performed a prayer recital.
Shortly after this, the royal couple left for the national palace.
Sultan Abdullah is a keen athlete who plays polo and holds positions in several sporting bodies.
He is a member of the council of world football governing body Fifa, president of the Asian Hockey Association and a former head of the Football Association of Malaysia.
Tunku Azizah Aminah, 58, is the younger sister of the Johor ruler, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.
Yesterday, the ruler of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Shah, 62, took his oath of office as the deputy King.
BLOOMBERG, THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK