Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar describes the people who believe in the lies spread about him and the running of the state as akin to those who have committed treason. In a no-holds-barred exclusive interview with the Media Prima Bhd group at Istana Flintstone in Mersing, the ruler opens up about his disappointment with politicians from outside Johor who continue to meddle in the affairs of the state.
Question: There are people from outside Johor who are trying to “advise” the people of Johor. What is your view on this?
Answer: My advice for the people from outside Johor, whether they are in politics or otherwise, is do not interfere in Johor’s matters. I know what is best for my people as I look at them not in the political sense. I love my people. When outsiders come and divide the people of Johor, or Johoreans who live in Kuala Lumpur and have political ambitions return to divide the people, I say ‘Get lost, you are not welcome here’. When their political ambitions do not come true, those who lose out are the people.
Q: How do you see Johoreans who are with the opposition?
A: There are areas under opposition members who have been in power for more than 10 years. I want to see development in the constituencies they represent. They can’t be making promises and not deliver. I understand there would be no checks and balances without the opposition. There are times when I put myself in a position to look into the reality of things. If it’s black, I will say black, if it’s white, I will say white. I always check to make sure things are in order. Alhamdullah, the government listens to me.
Q: There are Johoreans who seem to believe in a claim that you have sold land.
A: I sold land? If I tell you that I have bought land, you won’t believe me. Previously, when they wanted to build sophisticated buildings like the CIQ, the crooked bridge and to reclaim land, who supported them? Not me. A premium of RM1 does not make sense to me. It is true in Tanjung Puteri there were two endorsements for two companies or individuals with a premium of RM1. The land was valued at less than RM100 million, but I paid RM300 million. I overpaid. Nobody knew. Ask the land office. I did not take the land for free and sell it. I set up a joint venture and made my profits. Don’t be jealous with the profits I made. I never sell any land. Any land that people buy can’t be taken away. The one who benefits is the government. Taxes are important as there will be assessments and rent collected. Jobs will be created and retailers will come in. Look at these things instead of the negative things. Retailers look at these things. These are what the government will get. We are not giving away Malaysian citizenship. The one who came up with the Malaysia My Second Home concept is not me. Go ask the person who came up with it.
Q: If Johoreans are influenced (by a claim that the ruler sold land), does that mean that they do not love you?
A: For Johoreans who are influenced, it is like they have committed treason. All my hard work, my love, my efforts in visiting the districts every year, if this is what they show me, it is like they have committed treason.
Q: Regarding the Forest City project, the freehold status is actually related to the strata title of the building?
A: The freehold is actually the strata, not for the land. The company owns the freehold land, not the buyers.
Q: Maybe there are some who don’t understand this issue or it has been twisted by some quarters.
A: Give it a rest. If I wanted to hide or lie to my people, why would signboards be put up there? Use your brain. If they want to come and live in Johor, I would welcome them.
Q: In conjunction with your birthday, many people will wait to receive titles from Johor. What about this year?
A: Johor titles and medals are the most difficult to get. When my father was alive, he would ask the government to conduct the first vetting process, the Johor Council of the Royal Court to conduct the second vetting process, and the Tunku Mahkota Johor, who was me at the time, to conduct the third round of vetting.
So, I vetted the list after it went through the state government and the Johor Council of the Royal Court before the list was presented to the sultan.
My father used to ask me, ‘Yem, have you checked all of them?’ I would say ‘Yes, Bah’. It would be checked three or four times, and then my late father would sign it.
Under my reign, it will be more difficult to obtain (the titles). During my late father’s reign, titles and medals were his sole prerogative. It was his right to bestow and no one could recommend any name.
The Johor Council of the Royal Court cannot recommend anyone unless the ruler sought the council’s opinion (on a candidate).
A candidate will undergo police security vetting.
Umno, MCA, PPP, DAP and all political parties will send a list of candidates.
We look through the candidates and how long they have been members.
Some of them have been Umno or MCA members for close to 40 years, but that does not mean that they will receive a title or medal.
They do not play any role as they are members who merely vote.
Candidates among mosque committee members, imam and village heads are also scrutinised.
We will see if a person has served as village head for five years and is aged 60, or a mosque committee member who has served 10 years. For instance, an Umno member who has been a member for 30 years, we might appreciate their contributions.
But if they are below 45 or if they have only been a party member for fewer than seven years, even if he is a department head or in the Johor civil service, he is not qualified to be given a title.
A Pingat Ibrahim Sultan II (PIS) or Pingat Sultan Ibrahim II (PSI) recipient must serve at least 25 years and should not be younger than 45.
The Medal For Merit and Long Services is for members of the Johor Military Force. The Medal For Long Services and Good Conduct for Government Officers is for those who have served no fewer than 25 years.
The Pingat Lama Pekerjaan or Pingat Jasa Pekerjaan for soldiers and for government officers must be given to those who served no fewer than 28 years.
That depends on the background check. We check their lifestyle and vet them with the police.
The Most Honourable Order of the Crown of Johor and Most Exalted Order of Sultan Ibrahim Johor are given depending on a person’s contribution.
Under Article 7(2)(f) of the second part of the State Constitution 1895 and Statutes and Ordinances of An Order, I may award to persons who have rendered extra or important services or to those whose talents, virtues, loyalty or services have merited royal favour.
In Johor, titles and medals are not for sale. There are no agents to obtain them.
When my birthday approaches, many agents claim to sell Johor datukships.
Some people believe that Johor titles can be bought and sold.
They are gullible, so it’s their own doing.
My advice is, you must remember that Johor datukships, medals and titles cannot be bought.
I will issue a decree through the Johor Council of the Royal Court. This year, for instance, I might award only one or two datukships.
My Orders bring with them the title of Datuk and only the most qualified will receive them, based on their contributions.
I’ve been informed that some quarters have formed an association for Datuks from outside Johor.
In Johor, there are no such clubs or associations for Johorean Datuks. They are not given any emblem for their title to be displayed on cars or stationery.
Q: Of late, there have been reports about Datuks and Tan Sris who are involved in unhealthy activities.
A: In Malaysia, if I were to close my eyes and throw a pebble, it may hit the head of a Datuk and that same pebble may bounce off the head of another Datuk, and if luck has it, it may also hit a Tan Sri.
Last year, there were 62 Tan Sris. It’s easy to get a Tan Sri. There were agents who came to see me and told me that I have Tan Sri quotas for sale and wanted to give me RM2 million for the title.
I told the agent, who I do not wish to name because it would be embarrassing, to get lost. I do not sell titles.
What happens in other states does not concern me. I do not wish to get involved and it is not my right to comment on it. I only look at what happens in Johor.
Another unique thing about the datukship from Johor is that if the person does not like it, he can give it back.
Anyone who gets a title from Johor can return it and I will accept it back with a sincere heart.
If they feel they are no longer qualified to uphold the title from Johor, they can give it back. Those who feel the heat know who they are.
Johorean Datuks of the Malay race and who profess the Muslim religion are included as members of the Council of the Supporters of the Country whose responsibility is to confirm the heir as the successor following the death of a ruler.
A member of this council may resign his rank of the Order.
Under Article 13 of the Statutes and Ordinances of the Order, the sovereign shall have power and the right to degrade and expel from the state Order any member who has been convicted of treason, felony or any offence considered derogatory in a man of honour.
Q: Do you have any intention of revoking any medals or titles?
A: I do not have any intention to do so. I am a humble servant of God. If they don’t like it, they can give it back. I have revoked some.
There was also a datukship title that I rescinded from a lawyer who cheated others by faking a signature. That person is not qualified to have the title.
Q: Do you think our people are pampered?
A: You should look at the difference between Malays in Johor and Malays in Singapore.
Look for yourself. There are no squatters in Singapore. Everyone has a home, everyone has an education and everyone follows the law in Singapore.
Why not in Johor? Are we scared that voters will run away?
That’s the cause of it. Whoever is offended with what I say, I apologise in advance. I am expressing what I think and nothing more. It does not mean I hate my people or that I am angry with my people. No.
Q: How about your social media posts. Do you think some people might not get the right message you are trying to convey?
A: Some will be accepting and some will be negative.
I do not hope that all my advice is heeded. Criticism is normal. We must accept criticism. When we receive criticism, we have to ask ourselves, have I been right all this time?
If possible, I want my critics to meet with me. We can sit at the same table and discuss whatever it is about me that is bothering them.
Maybe they have an idea that they are unable to convey and only know how to criticise.
Sit with me and I am all ears. On Facebook, there are many critics. If you are afraid of being criticised, then you should not be on Facebook 24 hours a day.
People on social media should not write nonsense.
I used to be inept at using the iPad, but now, I spend eight hours a day using it to read the news and see whether there are comments.
Sometimes, we get offended at the comments but that’s fine. I will look a bit at those things and not read too much into it.
Some are acting like they are sour grapes and others are jealous with what I do.
I just want to say that in the six years of ruling Johor, the state has changed, but I hope my son will see through even more progress when he takes over. the reign.
In your opinion, why has Johor been the target of criticism by outsiders from the state?
A: We have to look at history since the reign of Temenggong Abu Bakar, who is also refered to as Sultan Abu Bakar. We have to look back at how he strived during his reign.
At that time, rulers from other states did not look highly upon Sultan Abu Bakar as they regarded him as someone who was not of the royal bloodline and someone who was not supposed to sit on the throne.
Once, there was a ceremony attended by Sultan Abu Bakar in which the other rulers refused to attend.
In fact, the other Malay rulers were worried about the ruler’s integrity and charisma as he had the support from, and political influence over the British.
The Malay rulers were worried because Sultan Abu Bakar was English educated and because he had travelled around the world six times at that time.
He was the first ruler who sailed to London in the United Kingdom and met with Queen Victoria.
We were the first to establish a Council of Minister, and it was done 20 years before the British established a similar council in Perak.
These were the reasons why many people were envious of the achievements of the state and it has continued till today as whatever happens in Johor will attract attention of those from outside Johor.-NST