KUALA LUMPUR, Apr 22 – The installation of Sultan Muhammad V as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong which is set to take place in a ceremony steeped in Royal Malay customs on April 24 will take the institution of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to a higher level, and at the same time, reflect the stature of Constitutional Monarchy practised in the country.
After taking the oath as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Dec 13, Sultan Muhammad V will, in a resplendent ceremony filled with tradition be installed as the head of state on April 24, coinciding with an important day in the Islamic calendar, the Isra’ and Mi’raj.
The following is an exclusive Bernama interview with Penolong Datuk Paduka Maharaja Lela, Customs Division, at the Istana Negara, Azuan Effendy Zairakithnaini (pix) who sheds light on the importance of the installation ceremony to the country, and its preparation.
Question: In conjunction with the installation of the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on 24 April, to what extent have preparations been made by the Istana Negara?
Azuan Effendy: For the ceremony this time, we have been preparing for the past five or six months and to this day, it is still ongoing. It’s not just in terms of logistics, but also in terms of organising the ceremony and works to beautify the Istana Negara where we have done a bit of modification. We also do some spring cleaning including changing the curtains and carpets.
The installation ceremony for me is one of the major events in the country where we practice (monarchy) on a rotational basis, once every five years. Just like we celebrate festivals such as Hari Raya, where we will buy new clothes, change the curtains and carpets and clean the house. So in terms of the (preparation for the) installation, it is not too different from the Hari Raya celebration. Only, in this, we see it in a different context, in the context of the state.
Hari Raya is a great day in Islam and the preparations are done at home among our family members, (likewise) the installation is a big day for the country, and of course the preparations will be done at the government and state level, and a lot of meticulous preparation is requried.
I always advise my colleagues at the Istana Negara and other officers involved, that whoever we are and whatever our job is, we are important people during each installation ceremony. Even if our task is to paint the walls of the Istana Negara, we also play an important role, because if it is not painted, it will spoil the view for guests attending the ceremony.
Question: What are the procedures of the installation ceremony? What difference is there between the installation ceremony and the taking of oath ceremony held last December. Is it contained within the Constitution, or is there any statute by the Council of Rulers on how it should be held?
Azuan Effendy: The installation ceremony of His Highness the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong had been chosen to be held on April 24, 2017, by His Highness himself and was agreed to by the government. His Highness chose the date after receiving advice from the ulamas and muftis. Many may not know that the date also coincides with a big celebration in Islam, the Isra’ and Mi’raj (Night Journey and Ascension of Prophet Muhammad).
It gives a statement that the date is important not only for His Highness, but also the country. Regarding the difference between both ceremonies, the taking of oath ceremony and signing of the oath held on Dec 13, 2016, was held to meet the requirement under Article 32 (1) of the Federal Constitution which states that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the Supreme Head of the Federation and takes precedence over all other persons in the Federation.
This article is also strengthened and gave legitimacy to the position of the Agong as head of state. Article 37 of the Federal Constitution states that ‘Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall before exercising his functions take and subscribe the oath of office set out in Part I of the Fourth Schedule (of the Constitution).
We refer to Part 1 of Schedule 4, attached there is the oath of office to be taken by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in which every King must utter the words ‘Wallahi, Wabillahi, Watallahi’, and the oath contains four core points. Firstly, being the Yang di-Pertuan Agong he shall adhere to existing and future laws. Secondly, he must uphold the rule of law. Thirdly, he must govern with justice and honesty, and the fourth, he should uphold the religion of Islam.
This is what is included in the oath of office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The installation ceremony to be held on April 24, meanwhile, will further strengthen the position of His Highness in a coronation ceremony full of splendour, carried out according to the traditions of the Malay sultanate.
The installation ceremony is also to announce to the world that we have a new Agong and that the world knows we practice a system of Constitutional Monarchy and the king is the head of state, and for the next five years, Sultan Muhammad V will be the leader of our country. That’s why we hold the installation ceremony.
Question: What is the difference and uniqueness of the installation ceremony to be held this time compared to the ones in the past?
Azuan Effendy: One thing that is important whenever we hold an installation ceremony is to preserve the customs of the Malay sultanate. Although we have reached modern times, there are things that are the backbone of our state and nation, those traditions should not be abandoned.
So for me, the installation ceremony should retain core elements of the order which has been practised since the coronation of the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Rahman until the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong. So the important elements in the crowning ceremony include how the Yang di-Pertuan Agong will enter the Balairong Seri (Throne Room), accompanied by bearers of the royal regalia, this is an essential element which states the Agong is head of state and his position is glorified, a position higher than that of the common people.
This will be followed by the blowing of the trumpets, His Highness will head out wearing Royal attire called the ‘Muskat’, Royal headdress, Royal buckle, all these are important elements which have been in practice from the very first of the installation until now.
During the installation ceremony, the Datuk Paduka Maharajalela will present the Quran to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. I believe we should keep this (practice) as it gives a clear symbol that besides being the head of state, the King also has a variety of other functions.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is also the head of Islam in the federal territories and states which do not have a ruler, and supreme commander of the Armed Forces, and the Agong is also the head of state who needs to ensure that our country remains peaceful and secure. His position is also impartial. It is often said that ‘the King is like the country’s umbrella where people seek shelter’. So the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is positioned above, and people seek shelter under him.
We always focus on executive power, but we need to remember that the supreme power is that of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the highest in the country. These elements of tradition, elements of heritage will be maintained and will continue to be implemented in the installation ceremony.
There is a difference in the installation ceremony this time as has been assented to by the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V – where normally we have a ‘Nobat’ (Royal Musical Ensemble) involved in the installation, but this time, the group allowed to do the honours are called the ‘Pasukan Gendang Besar Diraja Kelantan’.
It is not too different from the Nobat, however this traditional musical instrument team is involved in official ceremonies held at the Kelantan palace. We have brought them to Kuala Lumpur and they will be directly involved in the installation ceremony held on April 24. The team comprises descendents of royal instrument players where maybe their fathers or grandmothers or grandfathers may have played the instruments.
There are some taboos in handling the drums, as it can only be played upon the consent of the King, secondly, it can only be played for certain ceremonies, and one should be dressed modestly when playing the instruments. This is an important element that will enhance the status and ‘daulat’ (sovereignty) of the King as head of state when the installation ceremony is held.
Question: Are there certain moments to look forward to during the ceremony?
Azuan Effendy: Another interesting thing during the installation ceremony, which can be said to be the climax is when Datuk Paduka Maharaja Lela presents the Royal Long Keris to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, which is also called the Government Keris. The keris is a symbol of power, and after it is presented to the King, he will take it out of its sheath and then kiss it or hold it up to his forehead.
It symbolises the fact that the King is willing to assume his role as head of state, called the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The keris actually has a unique feature, that both its hilt and sheath are covered with gold, crosspiece of the keris is engraved with the Emblem of Malaysia and that of the eleven Peninsular Malaysia states. Its blade was forged from steel taken from eleven keris from the eleven states to become the Long Government Keris.
I do not look at it from a magical or mystical point of view. But I see when the steel from the blades of the 11 states are fused together, it shows the centralisation of power given to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as head of state. The steel describes the elements which come from the states in Peninsular Malaysia, melted in a mould in one form as the Royal Long Keris as a symbol of power for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. It had been used since the installation of the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Rahman.
Question: A wide variety of ceremonial dresses and royal regalia will be used during the installation ceremony which symbolises the high level of the institution of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. What are these royal regalia?
Azuan Effendy: These royal regalia are mostly passed down from one Yang di-Pertuan Agong to the next after their term in rule. This is something interesting which describes the unity of the rulers in a system that is so unique, and has never been practised by any country in the world, we call it ‘the rotating monarchy’ – a system of electing a King in rotation.
Not only in terms of ascending the throne as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, but also in terms of inheriting the royal regalia, such as the Royal Long Keris, Royal Short Keris, Buckle, Cogan Alam (Scepture of the Universe) and Cokmar (War Clubs) – everything is looked after and preserved by the institution of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at Istana Negara and will be handed over to the new Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
There are a number of royal regalia and ceremonial dresses. First of all, is the ‘Muskat’, it’s a royal attire worn by His Highness during certain cermonies, for example the coronation, his birthday, the opening session of Parliament and official visits abroad. The Muskat was not worn by the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong, but began to be used by the third Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Putra Al-Haj Syed Hassan Jamalullail.
This outfit was the brainchild of the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj. It is named Muskat because the art patterns were inspired by traditional clothing worn by people in Oman. The capital of Oman is Muscat, so the name ‘Muskat’ was taken from there.
Although it was inspired by the traditional costume of the people of Oman, the Muskat was not merely designed according to what is worn there, but we also followed the ‘Malay traditional attire’ from Kedah, we meshed the shirt patterns from Muskat with those from Kedah.
Apart from that, another ceremonial attire is the royal headdress. The headdress will be made according to the size of the King’s head. The folding style, or ‘solek’ is named ‘Dendam Tak Sudah’ originating from Negri Sembilan. Affixed at the front of the headwear is a crescent-shaped ornament and a 14-pointed star made of white gold, and at the centre of the star is the crest of the Malaysian Government.
The Pending consists a belt made from songket cloth, where in the middle lies the royal buckle. It is passed on from one Agong to the next and is made of gold and decorated with 11 rubies, which reflect the 11 states in Peninsular Malaysia. (Engraved) in the centrepiece is the Federation Crest.
His Highness also has the Royal Short Keris which is placed at the Pending. The Cogan is a long shaft with a spherical orb mounted on it, held by four tigers. This depicts the strength of a tiger in defending the country. There is a crescent and star on it, symbolising Islam as the core religion of the country.
That is why although I say we honour the position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, but we honour him based on his attachment with Islam, because if we look at the Throne at Istana Negara, on the back there is a verse from the Quran that is very important, from Surah al-Imran, verse 26 and 27, which means ‘Allah grants power to whomsoever he wills, and Allah takes away power from whomsoever he wills, the power lies with Allah, and He gives it to the person who He wishes to’.
So even though we say the Agong’s position is supreme, but it must be in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah. So the Agong’s position is based on its attachment to the strength of Islam, and the Agong as the head of Islam.
Question: How does the installation ceremony raise the stature of the Royal institution and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, besides portraying the monarchy practised in this country?
Azuan Effendy: The ceremony is important to strengthen our loyalty to the system which has long been practised, namely constitutional monarchy. It shows how people look up to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as head of state. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong should also be seen as a leader who is responsible for the unity of the people, responsible for the greatness of the nation and the sovereignty of the state.
The position of the King and the people is like a tree, where the King is the tree and the people are the roots, the tree will not be able to live without roots and tree roots need to strengthen the tree’s position. So this is a symbiotic relationship in which the King needs the people and the people need the King as a place for shelter.
This is what the younger generation should understand, that the institution of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the institution of the Malay Rulers have to be maintained, as since independence, we have been in the mould of this institution, we feel comfortable with this system. People can live in peace with this system without any chaos or commotion because we believe that we have a supreme ruler of our country called the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
The installation ceremony is not only practised in our country, other countries with monarchies also adopt it. Of course, the installation ceremony is held to strengthen the position of the king in the system practised in their country, the same goes for our country. So then we understand, that when we see the installation ceremony, the Agong’s position is honoured and looked upon highly by the people.
Question: Since the installation ceremony is a big national event held once in five years, aren’t those involved considered lucky to be part of it?
Azuan Effendy: That’s right. This is why I always remind staff at the Istana Negara that not many people have the opportunity to be directly involved, as the installation ceremony is held every five years, and it’s held at the Istana Negara where not everyone can come in and get involved.
So whoever is involved should make the best of the opportunity, because all those involved, including journalists, are a part of history, an experience which they can then relate to their children and grandchildren someday. This is what I tell the staff at the Istana Negara.
We have to remember that our task in the installation ceremony is a significant role in a historic ceremony of the country and we become part of this history which has thus only occurred 14 times, and this will be the 15th. We do not know if we will have the opportunity to be involved in the next ceremony, so we will use this golden opportunity to perform our duties as well as possible.
Question: Various events will be held in conjunction with the installation of the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong. What are these events and what is their significance?
Azuan Effendy: The first event was held on April 20, which is a Thursday where there was the Yassin Recital Ceremony, Solat Hajat and prayers in conjunction with the coronation of the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The event was held at the Putra Mosque in Putrajaya.
Usually, the event is held at the National Mosque, but this year it could not be done there because the mosque is undergoing renovation. So the event was held at the Putra Mosque. The event began with the Maghrib prayers, and then the Yassin recital, followed by Solat Hajat and Isyak prayers. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong was also present and met the people at the event.
The main event will be on the day of the coronation held in the morning of April 24 at the Istana Negara. This ceremony of course, is not open to public, and is by invitation only. But I believe people can be a part of history as the Government has declared April 24 a public holiday, so people can be on the roadside waving to the sultans or rulers as well as governors of states heading towards Istana Negara.
Let us celebrate this event and make it a big event for the country. We ourselves need to be involved to support the institution of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. On the night of April 24, a Royal Banquet will be held, and this will also be limited to invited guests and it will at the Banquet Hall of Istana Negara. At this event, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong will arrive in a ‘mess kit’ with medals of honour.
The rulers including the governors and invited guests will also wear mess dresses with medals of honour. This banquet is very high-level. On May 2, the ‘Raja Kita’ exhibition will be held at the Royal Museum or Old Istana Negara. On May 2, entry to the event will be by invitation only, but from May 3 onwards, people can come to see the exhibition and I understand the National Museum will have it on display for four months.
A large of the collection of the artifacts of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong will be on display there in the addition to information about the institution of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and this is a very good opportunity to strengthen our understanding of the institution.
Question: Who will be invited to attend the installation ceremony?
Azuan Effendy: Apart from the officials and dignitaries of the country, we have sent a delegation and with an official invitation to the Sultan of Brunei to attend the coronation ceremony. It has been our tradition to invite the Sultan of Brunei as he is a Malay sultan. Apart from that, foreign representatives and the ambassadors who are in the country will also be invited to witness for themselves the highly esteemed installation ceremony.
Question: What are the expectations in terms of the Istana Negara staff for the ceremony this time?
Azuan Effendy: I hope the Istana Negara staff can ensure a perfect and smooth running installation ceremony. Of course we want it to be perfect because we have made fairly thorough preparations, not only in the palace but also the other agencies involved.
In addition, I hope this ceremony can become a catalyst for the people’s understanding on the robustness of the institution of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, because we have to understand that in this modern era, there are many foreign elements that we receive through many channels, such as the Internet.
We can receive these foreign elements through only a click on the internet and although we are in the modern era, but the traditional elements, the robustness of our culture which is the catalyst of the institution of our country, namely the institution of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, we must protect and affirm. I hope, through this installation ceremony, the people will understand the importance of preserving this institution and maintaining it in the system of our country. — Bernama