PETALING JAYA: The Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, says she can trace her ancestry back to China’s Guangdong Province.
In a recent interview with Sin Chew Daily in conjunction with the upcoming installation ceremony of her husband, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, on July 30, Tunku Azizah said it was even possible to find the ancestral house and fourth-generation descendants.
“I am a Raja Permaisuri Agong with Chinese parentage. I am a Cantonese. I can speak a bit of the dialect and some Hokkien.
“Whether it is Ong or Wong, I confirm that I am a Raja Permaisuri Agong with Chinese parentage,” said Tunku Azizah, the daughter of the late Johor Ruler Sultan Iskandar and younger sister of the current Johor Ruler, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar.
Chinese lineage came into her family in 1885 when Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar, widely known as the Father of Modern Johor, married Wong Ah Gew, the daughter of a Chinese merchant. (Wong was later crowned as Sultanah Fatimah).
“That’s where I got my Chinese lineage from,” said Tunku Azizah, adding that Sultanآah Fatimah came from a wealthy merchant family in Singapore.
On a humorous note, Tunku Azizah said she had to wear spectacles when she was young to correct her amblyopia (also known as lazy eye syndrome), which led to many memorable moments.
“When wearing the wingtip spectacles like the ones (late Hong Kong actress) Lydia Shum wore, I really looked Chinese,” she said.
“There was a time when my birth certificate went missing, so my father joked that I was actually picked up from a dumpster in China and since my birth certificate was missing, I had to be cut up in pieces and cooked in curry. Then I had to be eaten in order to be reborn.
“How scary was that for a child?” Tunku Azizah recalled, adding that she ended up crying for a long time.
In the same interview, she revealed that her family once lent $3,000 (ringgit was then known as dollar) to Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok when he wanted to be an entrepreneur in his younger days.
She said the Johor royal family was close to Kuok, whose parents supplied daily necessities to the army at that time.
It was after World War II that Kuok requested to borrow money to start a business, Tunku Azizah recalled.
“I don’t remember the details, but I know that my grandmother took my father’s savings and gave them to him. I believe he has already returned the money.
“At that time, $3,000 was a large amount. As a child, I thought it was quite amazing for my father to have that much in savings,” she said, adding that Kuok had not forgotten about the assistance.
“He still remembers, but he told me that he had no idea the money was Sultan Iskandar’s savings.”
Tunku Azizah also revealed that when her late father was the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (1984-1989), he offered to award Kuok a Tan Sri-ship, but Kuok turned it down and insisted on not being given any title.
“I really respect Robert Kuok and I want to invite him to the installation ceremony. I hope he can make it,” she said, adding that Kuok, who is 95 now, was 89 when they last met.
On her husband, Tunku Azizah said she is the chatty one in the relationship.
“I like to talk, while the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is more of a reticent person. He listens to me talk most of the time,” she said.
She also still remembers her teachers, including the then former deputy internal security minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow (now Star Media Group Bhd chairman), whom she still calls “cikgu”.
Recalling a heart-warming friendship with a cellphone shop assistant who referred to her as “kakak” (sister) from years ago, Tunku Azizah said she would be comfortable if Malaysians addressed her with various terms of endearment.
“Just call me ‘kakak’, ‘nenek’, ‘popo’ or ‘nana’ (grandmother). Everyone calls me that, (it is) no problem.”