KUALA LUMPUR - A senior Malaysian minister has downplayed the recent fiery exchanges between Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, saying that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government and the royal institution remain on good terms.
"The relationship is good, it is always good... I don't think that just one or two incidents mean that we don't have a good relationship with the rulers," news portal Malaysiakini quoted Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as saying in a joint interview with the Malaysian media on Thursday (May 2).
"We acknowledge their role in society and understand the people's respect for the royal institution. As such, Pakatan Harapan (government) can't differ in its approach from what is the societal norm."
He said this following an ongoing clash between Tun Dr Mahathir and Johor's royal family.
The relationship between the two became testy after Kuala Lumpur's retracted its decision to accede to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and over appointments to the state government.
The government later decided to withdraw from ratifying the Rome Statute of the ICC following claims, led by Tunku Ismail, that acceding to the convention was unconstitutional.
The clash of these two giants following Malaysia's historic first-ever change of government a year ago was inevitable, given the Premier's low tolerance for royal interference, and the insistence by Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar and Tunku Ismail that their family remain sovereign over Johor.
Moreover, this is not the first time that Dr Mahathir has clashed with the Johor royal family.
The testy relations between Dr Mahathir and the royal house date back to the early 1990s, during the 93-year-old leader's first period in office, when the government removed immunities enjoyed by the Malay rulers following episodes of assault by Johorean royalty.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin said on Thursday that it was normal for one or two disagreements to crop up between the government and the royalty, but stressed that what is important is that the relationship between them remains cordial and that any differences be dealt with wisely.
Asked whether any royal interference would jeopardise PH's governance of the country, Mr Muhyiddin replied that the two should know their respective roles as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
"The royals are constitutional monarchs. Their role is defined in the Constitution. In a democracy like Malaysia, if we follow the Constitution, whether we are regular citizens, the government or the royalty, then there won't be a problem," he added.