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The King of Malaysia

Ben van Wijnen



Yang di Pertuan Agong Abdul Halim

The 85-year-old Sultan of Kedah, has been elected the 14th Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) for a five-year period. the 84-year-old Malaysian state sultan has ascended the throne to become the oldest constitutional monarch in the country's history.
He took his oath in a glittering golden hall in Malaysia's new palace in Kuala Lumpur, a nationally televised ceremony that was attended by Prime Minister Najib Razak and hundreds of guests.
Dressed in black and yellow royal regalia, Sultan Abdul Halim was sworn in after a 21-gun salute rang out in the capital. He succeeds Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, 49, who was one of Malaysia's youngest kings.

Under a unique system maintained since Malaysia's independence from Britain in 1957, nine hereditary state rulers take turns as the country's king for five-year terms. The monarch's role is largely ceremonial, since administrative power is vested in the prime minister and parliament. But the position is highly regarded, particularly among the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, as the supreme upholder of Malay tradition and symbolic head of Islam.

"The king is the umbrella to the people and the people are the pillars of the king," Sultan Abdul Halim said in comments issued through the national news agency, Bernama. "The king's greatest role is to ensure there will be no cruelty and destruction to the people and to the country."


 Wearing black and yellow regalia, the king was sworn in after inspecting a military honour guard and receiving a 21-gun salute at parliament. His roles include appointing cabinet ministers and senior judges on the advice of the prime minister. He also appoints top Islamic clerics and is considered the highest ranking figure in the armed forces.

Public criticism of the king and state sultans is more or less illegal. Under Malaysian sedition laws people who incite "hatred or contempt" towards the monarchy can be imprisoned for three years. Abdul Halim, an avid golfer and sports fan, is the constitutional ruler of Malaysia's northern Kedah state, nicknamed the country's rice bowl because of its vast paddy fields.


Malaysia's new King Sultan Abdul Halim, third right in front, inspects an honor guard
during a welcoming ceremony at the Parliament Square in Kuala Lumpur.

Besides being Malaysia's 14th and oldest king, Abdul Halim is the first to ascend the throne twice. He was also king between 1970 and 1975, when the father of Malaysia's current prime minister, Najib Razak, was premier. He succeeds Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, 49, who was one of Malaysia's youngest kings. The new king is in robust health for his age. In 2006 he walked more than a mile to a stadium to watch his state's football team in a tournament because his car was caught in traffic.

Abdul Halim, who was installed as ruler of his state in 1958, has been described by his family as a caring leader and a fan of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Nat King Cole. Malaysian media noted that when Abdul Halim became king in 1970 he had to travel by train from Kedah to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's largest city. On Tuesday he took a flight and was bid farewell by an estimated 30,000 people who thronged the roads to Kedah's airport.

Malaysia's new King Abdul Halim (front), Queen Haminah, Prime Minister Najib Razak (R),
his wife Rosmah Mansor (L) and Najib's deputy Muhyiddin Yassin step down from the dias
during the welcoming ceremony at the Parliament Square in Kuala Lumpur Dec 13, 2011.


  Ben van Wijnen

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