JOHOR BARU - Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said on Sunday (April 14) that the federal government should stop "wasting time" in talking about who has the authority over Johor, in a clear reference to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
In a statement on Facebook after the swearing in of a new Johor menteri besar, the 60-year-old ruler said: "I would like to advise the government to stop wasting time by talking too much about non-beneficial things, slandering and creating stories just to attract attention or to confuse the rakyat.
"Instead, focus your attention on assisting the people's welfare and improving the country's economic development."
The Johor ruler and his son, Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, have been at loggerheads with Tun Dr Mahathir over who has the right to appoint the new menteri besar after Datuk Osman Sapian resigned last week, and whether the federal government has the right to speak about Johor affairs.
Dr Mahathir, 93, said he has the right to speak about Johor, as it remains part of the Malaysian federation.
He was quoted by Malay Mail online news as saying last week: "I am (of) the opinion that if we assume that those who choose prime ministers and menteri besars are the monarchs, we will no longer be a democratic country.
"This is because a party that was rightfully chosen by the people, that has the power to appoint menteri besars, have had their rights denied. We would be a country with an absolute monarchy."
Sultan Ibrahim said on Sunday: "The Johor government has long been established, where it has its own culture and way of administrating itself.
"Those on the outside do not have to start talking about who has the power and how to administer the state."
Experts say under the state Constitution, the political party or coalition that wins the state in an election has the right to pick the menteri besar, which the ruler would then "appoint".
Sultan Ibrahim, who has extensive business interests in the state, regularly makes public declarations on its economic policies and does not shy away from getting directly involved in state administrative matters.
Emeritus Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi, writing in The Star newspaper on Saturday about the ruler's powers, recalled a paragraph written by the late ruler of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, who was also a former Agong and Lord President (chief justice).
Prof Shad Saleem wrote: "I quote the learned words of our revered Sultan Azlan Shah in the article 'The Role of Constitutional Rulers in Malaysia' in 1986: “While it is true that the appointment of a Menteri Besar is a prerogative of the Sultan, the Ruler is not free to appoint anybody he likes. When the party which obtains a majority of the seats decides to nominate one of its members, the Ruler has no choice but to appoint him.”