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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Monday, February 26, 2024

A Refreshing Royal Address!

 A Refreshing Royal Address

M. Bakri Musa

February 27, 2024


The 17th Agung’s Inaugural Royal Address to Parliament on Monday, February 26, 2024 was a refreshing departure from the norm. In tone and style, as well as demeanor and substance, it was low-key, far from the usual embellished royal speeches. Yet there was no mistaking the gravity of his message to the nation’s leaders and lawmakers. And through them, Malaysians.


            First, a necessary note of caution. There are significant differences between the official transcript as posted on Parliament’s website versus the live speech. Those changes go beyond the necessary editorial changes needed to make oral presentations readable.


            What struck me with this Royal Address was His Majesty’s very first sentence after his obligatory and very brief traditional Islamic salutation. The uncustomary and much-welcomed brevity of his religious greetings aside, what surprised and impressed me was the ending of his very first sentence. “. . . [S]audara saudari yang Saya hormati sekalian.” (lit. Ladies and gentlemen whom I respect; fig. Respected ladies and gentlemen!)


            He used the uncustomary “Saya” first person pronoun, not the traditional feudal “Beta!” The capitalized “S” of “Saya” was in the official transcript but in his speech it sounded as but a simple modest “saya.” He used “saya” many more times. In tandem he referred to Members of Parliament (MPs) as plain “Saudari saudari.” In the transcript however, they are “Ahli-ahli Yang Berhormat sekalian” (Honorable Members all).


            There are more and very substantive differences between the speech and transcript. Third-way into his address, the Agung let go his first shot. He wants MPs to be decorous and treat each other with civility, avoiding rude language and uncouth behavior. That they have to be reminded of this elementary courtesy reveals much. Noting what had transpired in the House during the past few years, His Majesty admitted that he felt embarrassed to enter Parliament. That drew loud applause. The camera angle did not permit me to see the response from the Opposition side. 


            The Agung added that he had given the “Green Light” to the Speaker to suspend any uncouth MP for two weeks. Again, loud applause, and again this segment together with his preceding remarks on rude MPs were also absent from the transcript.


            From the MPs’ past behavior it would be appropriate to call them Monkeys of Parliament, all jockeying to reach the top branches to get the juiciest fruits, never mind how much damage they inflict on the branches and ultimately the tree.


            The Agung went further. Again, this critical segment was missing from the official transcript. His Majesty asked MPs to respect the current Unity Government, and added, “If MPs want to play politics, wait till the next election.” Again, great applause. I would have loved to have seen the faces of the likes of Muhyiddin Yassin, Azmin Ali, Hishamuddin Hussein, and Hamzah Zainuddin at that very moment. These are characters associated with the Sheraton and Dubai Moves infamy. As for the other leading culprit, Leader of the Opposition Islamic Party PAS, Hadi Awang, he was absent from Parliament.


            Towards the end of the address His Majesty urged the Anti Corruption Commission to be more aggressive in pursuing the corrupt, and for the court system to expedite its processes. Yes, this portion of the speech too was missing from the transcript.


            Seeing His Majesty reading his speech, the parts that were missing in the transcripts did not appear to have been adlibbed. He was diligently reading the document in front of him.


            I had intimations earlier that Sultan Ibrahim is cut from a very different cloth literally and figuratively. He came in not dressed in the traditional Malay sultan attire of embroidered songket and samping complete with a towering tanjak. Instead he opted for the ceremonial white military garb complete with a green beret. His was a commanding officer moving his quarters to the front of the war zone, not in the comfort of the protected rear.


            In tone and content this Agung means business. He is precisely the King Malaysia needs today. Perhaps being in Johore and seeing how they do it so crisp and well across the causeway, Sultan Ibrahim is intolerant of what his fellow citizens had endured for the past generation or two. He wants change, radical and now. May he have great success, for with that, the success of Malaysia.


            As for the significant discrepancy between the official transcript and the actual Royal Speech, that is emblematic of the vast gulf between reality and what the government’s documents report.


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