Mahathir to meet Johor sultan for the first time since becoming Malaysia PM

Relations between Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Johor royalty have been strained following incidents involving the Forest City project and Pulau Kukup. PHOTO: REUTERS

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad will on Thursday (Jan 10) meet Johor's ruler for the first time since he took power last May.

Citing a source from the Prime Minister's Office, The Star Online said the meeting comes following a request by Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar a couple of weeks ago.

The news portal said Tun Dr Mahathir will meet Sultan Ibrahim alone at the Istana Bukit Serene in Johor Baru, and that the meeting is expected to last between one and two hours.

The source did not say whether the appointment of Malaysia's new king would be discussed during the audience.

But Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah was quoted by Malaysiakini as saying separately that the meeting will not touch on issues pertaining to Malaysia-Singapore ties.

Malaysia is seeking to elect a new monarch after the Sultan of Kelantan, Sultan Muhammad V, abruptly stepped down as the 15th Malaysian king, or Yang di-Pertuan Agong, on Sunday, purportedly due to his recent marriage to a Russian model.

The unprecedented resignation sparked a scramble to avert a constitutional crisis, triggering a sharp exchange of words between Dr Mahathir and the Johor crown prince.

Under Malaysia's unique five-year rotation system involving the nine royal houses, the next in line for the Malaysian throne is Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, 88, followed by the Johor Sultan and Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak.

Talk has been rife that the ailing Pahang ruler will abdicate to pave the way for his son, Tengku Abdullah, 59, to become the new king.

Meanwhile, relations between Dr Mahathir and Johor royalty have been strained.

Last August, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia will not allow foreigners to buy residential units built at Johor's US$100 billion (S$135 billion) Forest City project, which is a partnership between Chinese developer Country Garden and the Sultan of Johor.

Last month, Dr Mahathir took issue with the Sultan's conversion of Pulau Kukup, the world's second-largest uninhabited mangrove island, located in southern Johor, from a national park to sultanate land.

The move sparked another war of words between the Premier and Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.

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