[This article was originally published on 26 February 2020]
The past 3 days have been a rush of confusion, worry, questioning loyalties, and whatsapp conspiracy theories for many Malaysians. Harsh words have been directed at various politicians for putting us in a situation where we are, at time of writing, running without a government or Prime Minister.
But one person stands out for receiving nothing but praise across the usual boundaries that commonly divide Malaysians:
Yep, that’s our current Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah – or YDPA Sultan Abdullah in short.
Most of us would know YDP Sultan Abdullah for two reasons : Making history as the fastest Sultan to ascend to the throne only days after becoming the Sultan of Pahang after our last Agong, Sultan Muhammad V abdicated; or FOR BEING A REALLY NICE
GUY HIS MAJESTY.
The caps lock becomes justified when you read about incidences of His Majesty hanging out with the rakyat at a restaurant, stopping his motorcade to help road accident victims (at least 4 times), and being the first in recent memory to acknowledge the presence of journalists camped outside Istana Negara by sending a variety of meals ranging from KFC to tempoyak ikan patin… all of which seems to reinforce his netizen-granted title of ‘The Nicest King Ever‘
But here are a few things you may not have known about our current Agong….
1. He loves football so much, he set up his own football team (and supports Arsenal)
Apart from having an active military career, YDPA Sultan Abdullah is also known for his enthusiasm in sports, with some saying that his sporting spirit could already be seen in his younger days. When His Majesty was studying in the UK, he led the Pahang Royal Polo team and even participated in international competitions.
And as you can probably tell from the image above, his passion is spread across a wide field – from golf, go-kart racing, and hockey; to ultralight aviation.
But among these, football seems to be his favorite, given that he’s held a string of positions across a number of football sporting bodies. For example, he served as vice-president of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) twice, and went on to become FAM president from 2014 to 2017. Not only that, he was elected as the vice-president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 2002, and was also part of the FIFA Council from 2015 to 2019.
Locally, His Majesty also set up his own football team called Sri Mahkota Alam in Pekan. But when it comes to his favorite football team, it’s Arsenal.
“…the team is Arsenal. If you talk about (favourite) players, it is French striker Thierry Henry, who used to play for Arsenal, as well as the Gunners’ former goalkeeper Pat Jennings because he likes their style of play.” – The Agong’s protocol and special officer Abd Rahman Endut, as quoted by The Star
It’s been reported that when he actually plays, His Majesty dislikes it when handed easy wins because wants to be treated as an equal on the field. Even when he’s sustained injuries, he’d just brush it off as a common occurrence in sports.
“Everyone panicked when His Majesty fell to the ground, but he was not angry at all, saying it was normal in sports.” – Abd Rahman Endut, as quoted by Channel News Asia
2. He was an active army man
Barely a year after he was officially named as Tengku Mahkota (crown prince) of Pahang, His Majesty began his military career as a Cadet Officer when he entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) in the UK for training. RMAS is a long-standing military academy in the UK, where all officers in the British Army receive their initial training. And judging from its alumni list, RMAS has been training members of royalty for a long time.
YDPA Sultan Abdullah was apparently there for a year, until 1979. But in that short time, he managed to forge a friendship with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. They went through training at the same time and ended up becoming best friends, so much so that Sheikh Mohammed attended His Majesty’s coronation ceremony.
- But military training wasn’t just something compulsory that he had to go through – he was actually really good at it. In fact, His Majesty was apparently so impressive that Queen Elizabeth II herself commissioned him to become Second Lieutenant in 1980.
In that same year, His Majesty returned to Malaysia and went on to serve as a Cavalry officer in the Malaysian Royal Armoured Corps, only to become Captain shortly after. He would later find himself assigned to Rejimen 505 Askar Wataniah as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1999, promoted to Colonel one year later and, in 2004, was conferred the rank of Brigadier General.
After that, YDPA Sultan Abdullah’s military promotions stopped…
…since he’s now the commander-in-chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces, making him the highest ranking officer in the military’s chain of command. Can’t get promoted if you’re already at the top!
3. The Agong and Raja Permaisuri were childhood sweethearts UwU
Just like her husband, Her Majesty Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah is also known to be a rather sociable person, always taking to Twitter to connect with the people. There was one time when she deactivated her Twitter account due to critical remarks by a Twitter user, leading to hordes of Malaysians calling for her to reactivate it.
And unlike many of the official looking photos that you’d expect to see of royal families, the ones between our current Royal-est Couple tend to be…..pretty cute.
The future Agong and Raja Permaisuri first met when they were kids, with him at 13 and her at 12. Because their royal status made it tough for them to do normal datey stuff like going for a movie or dinner, the two of them resorted to writing letters to one another. It was only 13 years later that they finally wedded.
“His Majesty is the most kind-hearted person in the world, he is also generous and loves to give alms… I’ve never heard Tuanku raise his voice and neither is he all that stern. And he has never spoken ill of others.” – Raja Permaisuri Agong, as quoted by NST
But did you know that Her Majesty’s actually the sister of the current Sultan Johor, Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj? Both the Agong and Raja Permaisuri belong to a family tree that span several royal households with far-reaching family ties – it’s even possible that they have relatives in the royal family trees of Perak, Selangor, and Terengganu.
“Growing up, my parents didn’t inform us of our ties with other royal families except for our first cousins because we were too young to understand what it all meant.
But as we grew older, we became more exposed to members of other royal households and that’s when we were slowly educated on our family tree and how we are related to one another.” – Perak royal member Raja Sarina Iskandar, as quoted by NST
In addition, Her Majesty is part-Chinese with roots going back to Guangdong, China, when the late Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor married a Chinese merchant’s daughter, who later became Sultanah Fatimah. She once mentioned that she could speak Cantonese and Hokkien.
“If I go to China to trace my roots, it is possible to even find the ancestral house and the fourth-generation descendants. Whether it is Ong or Wong, I confirm that I am a Raja Permaisuri Agong with Chinese parentage.” – Raja Permaisuri Agong, as quoted by The Star
But of course, melting hearts with their love story isn’t the only thing that His Majesty does. As Malaysia’s Head of State, he has recently taken on a more important job than ever…
YDP Sultan Abdullah is trying to form a new government
Just like how His Majesty takes a hands-on approach when encountering car crashes on the road, he looks to be doing the same with the political car crash that has rear-ended the Pakatan Harapan government.
We won’t go too much into detail on what happened (you can check the chronological events on Malaysiakini), but instead of calling for a snap election after revoking all 26 ministerial appointments in the Cabinet on Mahathir’s advice, His Majesty instead decided to interview all 222 MPs on a one-on-one basis to decide on who’d be our next Prime Minister.
“We are concerned, yes I know. Be patient. First let me do my duties. I hope we will find the best solution for our country.” – Yang di-Pertuan Agong, as quoted by NST
And the first 90 interviews happened on the same day he personally distributed McDonald’s to journalists outside the palace gates. We don’t know about you, but We’re Lovin’ Him.