What we do know is that Sultan Ibrahim strongly believes in multiculturalism. He has made it clear many times in Johor, that he treats all his subjects as Bangsa Johor – an inclusive Johorean identity – and that he does not like the racial polarisation of Malaysian politics.
In one famous incident in 2017, he reprimanded a Johor laundry operator for a signboard limiting its services to only Muslims, warning business owners with blatant discriminatory practices that their licences may be revoked. “Don’t mess around with your narrow-minded religious prejudices,” he said at the time.
The new Queen, Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah, is someone who shares her husband’s belief in Bangsa Johor and multicultural Malaysia. Many may not know that she graduated from Oxford University with a major in Chinese Studies.
SAGE ADVICE AND WISE COUNSEL
Although Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, the sultans are powerful in their own right. As Johor ruler, Sultan Ibrahim is already part of the constitutional body called the Conference of Rulers which is the final arbiter of anything to do with Islam and Malay adat (customs and traditions), including federal laws.
A new role he will take on is to provide the prime minister with advice and counsel. As a tradition inherited from the British, the prime minister regularly meets with the Agong when Cabinet is in session to brief him on all government policies.
The Agong will provide his views on government policy – widely seen to be a non-partisan and non-political view – which will be taken into account by the prime minister. Retired British prime ministers have said that the advice given by the late Queen Elizabeth II was very important in how they made their decisions. There is no reason to think it will be different in Malaysia’s case.