Al-Sultan Abdullah, Tunku Azizah a Royal couple cherished by the people

KUALA LUMPUR: It is not unusual to unexpectedly spot this well-known person waiting in line to buy fried chicken at a fast-food chain outlet or by the roadside assisting an accident victim.

Many Malaysians may even recall instances when this individual braved floods to witness first-hand the losses and destruction suffered by the victims.

In the eyes of the world, this person is Malaysia’s Head of State but for the people of this country, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and his wife Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah embody a fatherly and motherly presence, always caring for the people without being bound by protocol.

Indeed, there have been occasions when some people, perhaps carried away by the Royal couple’s friendly and easy-going nature, affectionately addressed Al-Sultan Abdullah as "pak cik (uncle) Agong” or "abang (brother) Agong” and Tunku Azizah as "kakak” (sister).

The King and Queen, often referred to by social media users as "pasangan bersemut” (a colloquial term in cyberspace signifying an exceptionally affectionate couple), never fail to put the public at ease and are ever willing to pose with them for photographs whenever the opportunity arises.

During a visit to Beaufort in Sabah last September, Tunku Azizah was moved to tears seeing how the people waited in the rain to welcome them, serving as a testament to the Royal couple’s sincerity in caring for various segments of society.

"Thank you very much. Tuanku (Al-Sultan Abdullah) and I will remember this for the rest of our lives... We apologise and feel guilty for making the people wait out there in the rain because we couldn’t go out and meet them.

"... only Allah SWT can repay, and Tuanku and I pray that everyone stays healthy and won’t get a fever from waiting in the rain for so long,” Tunku Azizah said in a 40-second video she herself had recorded, which was shared by Istana Negara on Instagram.

This Tuesday (Jan 30), Al-Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah will return to Pahang, His Majesty having completed his five-year term as the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong since ascending the federal throne on Jan 31, 2019.

Meanwhile, people who have had the pleasure of meeting the Pahang Royal couple have spoken of the glowing aura behind their unassuming demeanour.

Bernama reporter Muhammad Basir Roslan, who was among the journalists who "camped out” at the gates of Istana Negara following the resignation of the seventh prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Feb 27, 2020, said it was this aura that made him tremble a bit when Al-Sultan Abdullah greeted him and inquired if he had had lunch or not.

"His Majesty interacted graciously with all the media personnel. For days, we had been camping outside the palace from early morning to late evening to report the latest developments in the political crisis gripping the nation at that time.

"His Majesty was concerned about our welfare and provided us food packs which he himself delivered to us despite the searing heat outdoors,” said Muhammad Basir, adding he would never forget the delicious cookies baked and sent to them by the Queen, who is known for her culinary expertise.

Another person who was touched by His Majesty’s impartiality and genuine concern for the common people regardless of their backgrounds is R. Yogeswary, 45, a security guard at Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh, Perak, who received the Pingat Pangkuan Negara (PPN) from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong during the investiture ceremony at Istana Negara last month.

(Yogeswary was in the limelight recently after a video of her going out of her way to help patients and visitors at the hospital went viral on social media.)

Even more special, the King himself expressed his wish to see Yogeswary personally after the ceremony.

When contacted by Bernama, she said the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s attention helped to change the public’s perception of her career.

"Previously, not many people looked up to security guards. However, after my services went viral and I received the attention of Tuanku, the public began to realise the importance of a security guard’s job,” the single mother-of-two said, adding the three words the King uttered ("You deserve it”) when handing the award to her still resonate in her ears.

She said the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s compliment has motivated her to persist in her efforts to help the community.

"The King and Queen were so humble and they treated me well when I was at Istana Negara... I will cherish those moments forever,” she added.

Durian trader Mohd Rafi Yaakob, 42, meanwhile, sheepishly recalled an occasion when he addressed Tunku Azizah as "kakak” (sister).

"This happened sometime in 2017 before Her Majesty became the Raja Permaisuri Agong. She stopped at my durian stall in Gurney Drive (in George Town, Penang) to buy some durian.

"At that time, I didn’t know who Tunku Azizah was, so I called her ‘kakak’ as her simple ways deceived me. I only found out who she was after she left. You can imagine my shock,” he told Bernama when contacted, adding that the Queen has been his regular customer since then.

A video of Her Majesty’s interaction with Mohd Rafi the first time she visited his stall went viral on social media, earning praises from social media users who were delighted with the casual way Tunku Azizah chatted with the trader.

The video clip also showed Tunku Azizah enjoying the durian at the stall, located by the roadside, without any protocol.

"Tuanku certainly is different. Whenever she is in Penang, if she has time she will stop by my stall, often buying two or three durian. I would refuse to accept whenever she pays for the fruits but she would still hand the money to me,” said Mohd Rafi, adding the last time the Raja Permaisuri Agong visited his stall was in December 2023.

"Tuanku inquired about my well-being as well as how my business was doing. I feel the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Raja Permaisuri Agong enjoy chatting with the people and finding out about their lives.

"Perhaps that’s what makes the people easily connect with the Royal couple.

"Thanks to the Queen’s visits, my durian stall has become well-known and people keep coming here,” he added.

Dr Shafa'atussara Silahudin, coordinator of the Department of Malay Sociocultural and Arts Studies at Universiti Malaya, said as the head of state, Al-Sultan Abdullah’s humble personality and demeanour have earned him a place in the hearts of Malaysians as the People’s King.

And, in his capacity as Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah successfully fulfilled his role as the symbol of unity in Malaysia’s multiracial society, she added.

She said the idiom ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ befits Al-Sultan Abdullah as his father Almarhum Sultan Ahmad Shah Al Musta’in Billah ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar was also humble and friendly.

The late ruler, she added, always reminded the public that the sultan was the "protective umbrella over the people”.

"In 2018, I performed a song in front of Al-Sultan Abdullah, who was then the Regent of Pahang, at Mara Junior Science College in Kuantan of which I was an alumnus.

"A week later, I had the opportunity to meet Tuanku at a function where I was invited to recite a poem.

"After the performance, Tuanku greeted me by jokingly calling me ‘budak sekolah’ (school kid), remembering my performance at the (Mara Junior Science) college (a week) earlier,” she shared.

She also said during his five-year reign, His Majesty elevated Islam as well as Malay heritage and traditions to the highest level.

Principal fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong, meanwhile, sees the "Kembara Kenali Borneo” (Getting to Know Borneo) tour Their Majesties embarked on last September as a bridge that brought the monarchy closer to the people, especially those dwelling in the hinterland of Borneo.

"The (recent) tour was a clever idea. No other Yang di-Pertuan Agong and his family have travelled around Sabah and Sarawak.

"It was not a one- or two-day visit but went on for days and the Royal family explored the interiors of Sabah and Sarawak,” he told Bernama.

Starting their 11-day tour in Tawau, Sabah, on Sept 3, Al-Sultan Abdullah, Tunku Azizah and their children travelled a distance of over 2,332km by the time their expedition ended at Telok Melano in southern Sarawak.

His Majesty himself drove a four-wheel drive vehicle at a stretch of the Pan Borneo Highway, which connects Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei.

Teo said the expedition not only brought the Royal family from Peninsular Malaysia closer to the people of Borneo but also symbolised the extension of royal patronage across the South China Sea, which separates the peninsula from Sabah and Sarawak - more so, given that the two states are headed by governors.

"This Royal tour holds its own significance in Malaysia’s history, evident in the extraordinary response of the people of Sabah and Sarawak (to the Royal visits), with the rakyat eagerly awaiting the arrival of Their Majesties at every location they visited.

"What’s more, since the Royal tour was (relatively) protocol-free, the people will surely cherish their visits,” he said, adding the presence of Their Majesties, coupled with their humbleness, smiling faces and good sense of humour, would leave a lasting impact on the hearts of the people.

Teo also said the royal couple was amused when some members of the public referred to the King as "Pak cik Agong” or "Abang Agong” and the Queen as "Datin Permaisuri”.

"While no one dares to joke with a ruler or Agong, it’s His Majesty’s (friendly) personality that makes the people feel comfortable and able to converse and joke with him spontaneously,” he said.

Teo, who is also a fellow of the National Council of Professors, said his experience meeting Al-Sultan Abdullah started with His Majesty commending his proficiency in the Malay language.

"(I also observed that) His Majesty prefers to say ‘saya’ instead of ‘beta’. His Majesty only uses ‘beta’ when attending official functions and ceremonies,” he said, adding he is sure the people will find it difficult to move on once Al-Sultan Abdullah returns to Pahang.

"It’s proof that His Majesty is cherished by the people.” - Bernama

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