PETALING JAYA: Johor and Johor Darul Ta’azim (JDT) will "always" come first for Johor crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, and warns that the state will secede from Malaysia if terms are breached.
"Over the years, we’ve always been strong and independent as well as resourceful. In fact, we only joined the Federation of Malaya, upon both parties agreeing to several basic terms," said Tunku Ismail.
"And if any one of those terms are breached, we have every right to secede from this country," he said in an interview with sports publication Fourth Official.
When asked about the state-based sentiments he shares on social media, Tunku Ismail said that people deserve to know that "the mess" in Malaysia should no way be associated to the Johor royal family.
"You can accuse me of instigating state-based sentiments, but to me, I’m merely doing my duty to the people of Johor, and reminding them of the history and heritage behind this great land.
“I am going to be the future Sultan of this state and my main responsibility goes towards the people of Johor. Malaysia is important to me, but Johor and JDT will always come first," he said.
Tunku Ismail also said that besides his father, his biggest idol is Cuban politician and revolutionary Fidel Castro.
"He may be a communist, but I respect the fact that he stood for the principles he believed in," he said.
Tunku Ismail said that he is not concerned with critics who claim that he is using sports for political mileage.
“Johor isn’t just about football. It’s beyond that. It’s a tool for uniting people and bridging the gap of racism and segregation within society," he said.
"So, I’m perfectly fine if people think I’m using JDT as a political tool, as that’s precisely what I’m doing. I’ve got nothing to hide,” he added.
But to his critics, Tunku Ismail said: “Don’t judge me by my age, judge me for my qualification and the actual merit of my statements.”
He said that over the decades and centuries, the people of Johor were encouraged to be united and committed to a cause.
"So politicians may instigate racist sentiments, but the people of Johor will always be racially united and that very unity will go on to become the backbone of this football club," said Tunku Ismail.
Tunku Ismail is the driving force behind Johor's football team, and has implemented several significant reforms since he took over at the end of 2012.
Johor FA is now the reigning Malaysia Super League champion for two consecutive years, and they recently made history by being the first Malaysian team to ever progress into the semis of the AFC Cup.