Siaran Langsung Istiadat Kemahkotaan DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Johor Pada 23 Mac 2015

Rabu, 25 Mac 2015

The Man Behind The Crown

Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar was officially crowned the fifth Sultan of Johor in a ceremony steeped in Johorean tradition.

The last time a coronation was held in the country was 55 years ago when the sultan‘s grandfather observed the tradition in all its pomp and pageantry.

At that time, the streets of the state capital were abuzz with excitement as people lined the roads leading out of Istana Besar, the ceremonial palace used for state functions involving the monarch.

Today, the tradition has been revived and a nation will be glued to their television sets as Sultan Ibrahim and Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah are bestowed their Crown and Diadem, respectively.

Sultan Ibrahim will don the same crown his grandfather Sultan Ismail wore in 1960. The crown was commissioned by Sultan Abu Bakar Daeng Ibrahim in 1886, making Johor the first state to have a crown for its sovereign.

Only three other states, Selangor, Terengganu and Kelantan, have commissioned crowns for their rulers but do not hold exclusive coronation ceremonies.

For many Malaysians, it will probably be the first time they will witness such an event and it will go down in history as the biggest showcase by the much-revered royal institution.

Sultan Ibrahim is a traditionalist who has made it his mission to restore Johorean traditions so that they are appreciated and understood, especially by the younger generation.

His passion to uphold tradition is as infectious as his drive to see to the development of the state.

Since ascending the throne five years ago, Sultan Ibrahim has been determined to reinstate long forgotten royal traditions including that of the coronation.

He personally looked into every minute detail of the preparations for the momentous event, including refurbishment works for Istana Besar and Istana Bukit Serene, the ruler‘s official residential palace.

His objective was to restore these historic structures to their former glory, and leave a legacy Johoreans can be proud of. Under his reign, Johor continues to enjoy a staggering rate of economic progress, it is as its Arabic name suggests truly a "precious jewel“.

It is no wonder the people have dubbed him Johor‘s "Father of the Millennium“.

In a recent interview with the New Straits Times, the sultan spoke frankly about his late father and the strict upbringing which made him the man he is today.

He spoke candidly about his diet regime following a bout of back pain and reminisced about his younger days when he courted Raja Zarith Sofiah.

Tuanku, you have lost a lot of weight, could you please share with us your method?

Sultan Ibrahim: Yes, I have lost weight, 20kg in two months. I started my diet in mid-January. I gain and lose weight easily. I have been following the General Motors weight loss programme strictly. It works on a weekly cycle. For example, on day one, you are allowed to eat mixed fruits, preferably watermelon, on day two only carbohydrates, and so on.

I don‘t exercise much. I stopped playing polo, which was my favourite sport on the advice of Raja Zarith Sofiah) and our children as I had sustained many injuries playing polo.

I have broken 13 bones and have hundreds of stitches all over my body. I even have titanium plates installed in my shoulders.

I have had three surgeries on my arm, however, I still suffer pains in my arm. At times, the pain became so unbearable that I used to beat my arm with a ruler until it turned blue-black.

So, I undewent a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test and discovered that my lumbar number two and three were rubbing on my nerves, hence the pains. So I had to wear external pads. It‘s a pain killer that lasts 72 hours, but a side effect was that you get hallucinations.

You think you are asleep but actually you are not. Your imagination starts running wild. You see things that are not there.

In fact I asked Raja Zarith how I got to Australia and underwent the surgeries. I could not remember.

They took a disc out, pushed in the bone and inserted a metal plate with four screws. You could say I‘m semi-bionic.

My wife and children worry about my safety. They don‘t want me to take any risks prior to the coronation.

Since I can‘t exercise, I gained several extra unwanted kilos... I felt heavy. When you are overweight you are prone to injuries. So I started dieting.

I am trying to look good for all of you at my coronation.

It is learnt that you have been involved several accidents, including a helicopter crash in 1977. Care to elaborate Tuanku?

Sultan Ibrahim: I pick up things rather quickly. To me everything is a challenge.

I mastered the skills needed and took up licences to operate almost all vehicles because it was challenging. The only licence I don‘t have is the one needed to pilot a submarine. I don‘t have a submarine. Almarhum (his late father Sultan Iskandar Sultan Ismail) taught me how to fly an aircraft. Within an hour I mastered the skill of taking-off and landing.

I crashed a helicopter in 1977 and ended up with 36 stitches but I survived. Almarhum was furious.

I told him that it wasn‘t my fault. It was the co-pilot‘s fault. It was windy and the aircraft swayed. He panicked and pulled the control column down. The helicopter crashed into a stable.

Bah (the late Sultan Iskandar) didn't even listen to my explanation. He gave me an earful and accused me of not reading the manuals, thus the crash.

As part of my punishment, I was sent to the Malaysian Army Combat Training Centre (Pulada). His exact words were "to be disciplined by the army“.

I trained in Pulada for 10 months and underwent the Young Officers‘ course to be a platoon commander.

This was my background and how I entered the army.

I thought the army "disciplined me enough“ but Bah had other plans.

Bah‘s friend was attached to the US Embassy and suggested I attend training at the United States Army Manoeuvres Centre of Excellence in Fort Benning, Georgia.

Almahrum liked the idea.

There I took up three courses - Infantry Basic Officer, Ranger and Airborne.

The only thing I could think of was Bah. Bah, had only one advice - "Don‘t embarrass me“.

Whatever it was, I knew I had to complete the course. That was the challenge.

Since I was a Johor military officer on attachment, I was paid an allowance of US$12 (RM44) a day.

I had to pay the rent for the Bachelor Officer Quarters, which was US$2 (RM7) a day. Breakfast was US$1.75 (RM6.50) a day, while lunch and dinner was US$2.75 (RM10) a day.

The balance was US$2.75, which I spent on cigarettes and phone bills. I used to smoke those days. I could not afford to snack in between.

I knew I had to save more money. I needed to go out for dinner or lunch.

So I bought a portable cooker, which I kept in my room to cook frankfurters and burgers.

I ate a piece every day. For the next six months I survived on frankfurters and burgers, that I ate with tomato ketchup.

Now, if I see frankfurters, hotdogs or burgers, I feel nauseated and faint.

Almarhum was very strict with me. He didn‘t allow me any privileges. Alhamdulillah, I survived.

Upon completing the course, I returned to Johor. A month later, Almarhum called me into his bedroom.

He said "Yem (Sultan Ibrahim‘s pet name). Bah wants you to do one more thing.

He wanted me to undergo the Green Beret Commando course (special forces).

So, I made a deal with him. I told him that I wanted a gift if I completed the course. He asked me what I wanted. I said I wanted a car, and he agreed.

So, I returned to the US.

I was an honour graduate and Ahmarhum attended my graduation.

The next day, we visited a car showroom. I chose the most expensive car they had in stock — a Cadillac.

Then I returned to Johor.

Almarhum then wanted me to get my helicopter pilot's licence. He sent me to the Royal Malaysian Army Air Wing at Mahkota Army Camp in Kluang to train to be a helicopter pilot.

During my helicopter pilot certification, I flew solo within four hours and I was allowed to graduate with the earlier batch and receive my Rotary Wing Aviator.

The colonel in charge met Almarhum to update him on the graduation ceremony.

After listening to the lengthy explanation, Almarhum asked him where I would be during the ceremony, and the colonel said I would be in the tent seated next to Almarhum.

Almarhum said "Mana boleh! (That cannot be) Make him the break commander (the commanding officer giving out instructions).

With only two weeks of notice of my new task, I had to train two hours in the mornings and another two hours in the evenings every day for 14 days.

But Alhamdulillah, I did the break very well.

During the luncheon after the ceremony, Almarhum approached me.

He told me that he was very proud of me.

He opened his cigarette case and offered me a stick.

I didn‘t take it. I was too afraid. I was worried that if I had reached out for the stick, he would snap the case shut on my fingers. I thought he was testing me.

So that is how I became a pilot. I am certified to fly fixed wings and rotor.

Almarhum said I was too smart and understood the life of a soldier. He wanted to shake me out of the strictly regimented army mind set and make me understand the life of a civilian.

I was enrolled in the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and took up two subjects - Southeast Strategic Studies and International Law of the Sea.

After completing my studies I returned to Johor and joined the Royal Malaysian Navy. I then served in the Navy in Lumut, Perak, for a few months.

That is how I learned to navigate my own yacht and understand the sea.

Did you meet your consort Raja Zarith Sofiah, while serving at the naval base in Lumut?

Sultan Ibrahim: No. In fact, I got in touch with Raja Zarith Sofiah via telephone. Someone gave me her number and I thought if I managed to "tackle“ (court) Raja Zarith Sofiah, it would be an achievement. So, I called her but she did not entertain me at all and hung up. When I called again, she didn‘t pick up. I was so embarrassed that I stopped. I fell in love with Raja Zarith Sofiah even before meeting her.

Six months later, the same person gave me Raja Zarith Sofiah's new number. He encouraged me to call, as she was back in Perak on a study break. I told him that I was too embarrassed and would not be able to handle the rejection, but he kept convincing me to call. So I did.

She remained quiet. I used reverse psychology and spoke for four hours while all she did was listen to me talking. I called her every day in the mornings and nights, until she slept off, while I was still talking.

A few days later, I accompanied Bah on a tour, visiting all the islands in Johor. In those days, there were no handphones. Upon returning to Johor, I called her immediately. My heart skipped a beat when she said "I missed talking to you“.

"Wah! Ulat bulu dah naik daun" (Malay phrase, which means to win a lady‘s favour).

One night while talking to Raja Zarith, I did not notice Almarhum standing behind me listening to our conversation.

He asked me who I was talking to. I told him it was the Sultan of Perak‘s daughter.

Bah asked me to invite her over. He wanted to meet her. I managed to convince Raja Zarith to visit after several more conversations over the phone.

Bah invited her to our house in Singapore for a barbeque gathering, an old palace in Combi Hills.

After all our guests had left, Almarhum gestured for Raja Zarith and me to come over to his table.

These were his exact words — "Apa lagi propose lah“ (Why you waiting, propose lah)

I just smiled and said that I would think about it, to save Raja Zarith from the situation.

I then sent Raja Zarith back to her home. I returned home at 3am and found Almarhum seated in the same spot.

He asked me "are you Bugis Yem“, to which I answered - "Ya Bah, Bugis“. Bah then said — "Don‘t be a coward Bugis“.

Are your intentions honourable or dishonourable? he asked.

When I answered honourable, he instructed me to return to Raja Zarith‘s house to ask her if she was willing to be my wife. I went back and asked for Raja Zarith‘s hand. Her sister called their father who consented.

When I returned home later that morning, Bah was still there in the same spot. When I told him that she had agreed, his orders were to take the aircraft the next day to Ipoh at 8am, and the awaiting helicopter to Kuala Kangsar where Sultan Idris Shah‘s palace was located to seek his permission.

We were engaged two weeks later. That was in 1982. But I was not allowed to meet Raja Zarith for a year as she was to graduate from her studies at Oxford first. We were married the following year.

Alhamdulliah, we are blessed with six beautiful children.

Can you describe your relationship with the late Sultan Iskandar?

Sultan Ibrahim: I was very close to Almarhum although he was strict. He always wanted me to accompany him wherever he went.

When I was five, he taught me how to navigate a boat, and how to clean it as well as care for its engine. I learnt almost everything from him.

He was a simple man. People may think that as royalties we have two roast lambs and 20 chickens on our table for dinner. That is not true. Our meals consist of only a dish or two. Almarhum could live only on biscuits.

He loved Nasi Ambang. There was a period when he had Nasi Ambang purchased from the stalls for three consecutive months in a row. If he had Nasi Ambang, we all had to eat Nasi Ambang,

Another thing about Almarhum was that he hated to lose. The word lose was not in his vocabulary.

A funny thing about Almarhum was that he enjoyed copying my hobbies.

I have a lot of hobbies. I don‘t lead a boring life.

When I was into radio cars, Almarhum went to Singapore and purchased a more powerful one, so when we raced, I would lose. He bought all the gadgets to upgrade his radio car and I finally gave it up when he purchased a whole shop.

When I was into boating, he purchased one secretly with a higher horse power. One day, he asked me to follow him boating. I told him my boat could not keep up with his, so he bought me a new boat, but of course it could not go as fast as his could.

So, I had to take up hobbies that he was not interested in such as parachuting.

He thought me how to ride and also how to wash motorcycles and I was the only one trusted with the responsibility of washing his bike.

When there were problems or state related issues that needed to be handled or people in need, he would send me to solve it.

My most memorable moment with him, was when he asked me to follow him jungle trekking. Since Bah could survive on biscuits alone, I often hid a stock of instant foods in a secret compartment in the car when traveling with him for my consumption.

That night, while we were in the forest, he told me that he was hungry. I cooked for him and served rice with instant curry. I also made sambal belacan (scrimp paste). He refilled his plate four times. The next day, I made a place for him to have his bath by the river. He was very pleased.

Just after I had returned from Australia after undergoing surgery to install metal plates in my shoulders, he asked if I had recovered.

I told him that I was fine. I caught him staring at me out of the corner of my eye. There was a long pause and he asked again. Are you fit? When I answered yes, he then asked if I was fit like a bull to rule, to which I answered yes. He died two days later.

- sumber, NST, 23 March 2015