Mahathir addresses recent tensions with royals

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said he is not rejecting the country's royal institution but is trying to save it, amid tensions that have surfaced between his new government and the royal houses.

He said if any of the nine rulers did something wrong, they should be subject to the rule of law. Tun Dr Mahathir told Malay daily Sinar Harian in an interview published yesterday: "We must take care, the King should not be involved in things that the people do not like. The people have no power, so when they are angry, they will rebel. We cannot let that happen."

Dr Mahathir added: "I do not reject the rulers but I believe that if they do something that is wrong, we should take action to save them."

His comments followed events that started with Pakatan Harapan's victory in the May 9 general election. There were perceptions of delays in the swearing-in of Dr Mahathir as the Prime Minister, and the appointment of Mr Tommy Thomas as Attorney-General.

Dr Mahathir said these "should not have happened".

The nine sultans of their respective states, as titular heads, must act according to the Constitution but there were times that the government had to rein them in.

Dr Mahathir, when he was Malaysia's prime minister for the first time, went through two constitutional crises with the rulers - in 1983 and 1993.

In 1983, he pushed through constitutional changes that reduced the king's power to veto laws. Ten years later, he removed the royals' immunity from criminal prosecution.

Dr Mahathir also told Sinar Harian: "We have laws. We have a Constitution. We want to get back to the rule of law."

He also believes most of the nine Malay rulers disagreed with the recent delays in the appointments. "There were some who came to meet me, some of them tried to calm the situation," he said, adding that the situation was resolved by advice among the rulers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2018, with the headline 'Mahathir addresses recent tensions with royals'. Print Edition | Subscribe