'The rulers too must respect the law', writes Mahathir in cryptic blog post

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Sulaiman Daud | January 04, 2019, 07:04 PM

Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia, is a man of many talents.

In addition to running the country at 93 years old, he also writes on his personal blog, Chedet.

On Jan. 2, he uploaded a post that left his followers trying to read between the lines.

At first, he says that one of the most important objectives of his Pakatan Harapan coalition was to "restore the Rule of Law".

He added that his predecessor Najib Razak had ignored the law when it suited him.

Monarchies in Malaysia

But Mahathir went a little further than perhaps most Malaysians would have.

He specifically named the royal families of Malaysia in his post, saying:

"The Rule of Law applies to everyone from the Rulers to the Prime Minister and Ministers, to the civil servants and ordinary citizens.

There is no provision which exempts anyone from the Rule of Law. For the Rulers there is a special court but the laws are the same as the laws applicable to ordinary citizens. The Rulers too must respect the laws.

It is disturbing to see blatant breaches of the law being perpetrated in the mistaken belief that immunity has somehow been accorded."

Seditious act

Mahathir did not give a specific example of the "blatant breaches" of the law he was referring to.

He added that it was not illegal for citizens to voice out or make police reports if they have complaints about breaches of the law, and said that this would not be considered as seditious acts.

Malaysia has nine royal houses, whose monarchs take turns to assume the role of head of state or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The authorities have previously used sedition laws to arrest people for mocking the monarchy.

In 2014, student activist Ali Abd Jalil was arrested for mocking the Johor sultanate and calling for the state monarchy to be abolished.

Mahathir and the monarchs

Mahathir has a long history of bumping heads with Malaysia's royals.

In 1992, when Mahathir was prime minister, a Bill was passed to curb the privileges and powers of Malaysia’s royal families, following the controversial Douglas Gomez incident.

Gomez, a hockey coach, was allegedly assaulted by then-Sultan of Johor, Mahmood Iskander Ismail and some of his men.

Previously, Malaysian royals were immune to prosecution and any critics of the royals could be charged with sedition.

But that changed following the Bill’s passage into law in March 1993.

It also introduced limits on the royals’ ability to issue pardons, and commoners could freely criticise the royals, except for questioning their legitimacy.

Recent tussle

Mahathir and Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim recently traded verbal jabs.

On Jan. 2, the same day as Mahathir's blog post was uploaded, the Crown Prince posted his own thoughts on Facebook.

He said that he wanted the current Pakatan Harapan government to "stop fighting" and "politicising every issue", and said he just wanted the best for the people.

On Jan. 4, Mahathir said during a press conference that the Crown Prince had possibly "misconstrued" the functions of the Malaysian federation, as it was formed before he was born.

According to the Malay Mail, Mahathir said, "We have a list on what is under federal jurisdiction and what is under the state’s. But nowhere is it stated that the federation cannot issue statements in response to statements made by states, and therefore we cannot comment. This is not in the federation."

He added that the Crown Prince does not "hold any position", when asked what he thought of the Crown Prince's views on the Pakatan Harapan government.

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Top image from Mahathir's Facebook page.