JOHOR BARU, May 23 — The Permaisuri of Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Idris Shah today penned a touching tribute about the late Sultan Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah, describing the former Pahang Ruler a humble royal who gave more thought to human lives and values than palace protocol.
Raja Zarith said Sultan Ahmad Shah was a Ruler who was very close to his subjects, pointing to his kind and compassionate nature.
“We will remember that it was not uncommon to see images and photos of Almarhum Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, casually-clad in a tracksuit, sitting quite at ease on the floor of a simple kampung home, chatting to an elderly man who was ill, and who needed medical help.
“Almarhum, however, was not there to offer medical advice but instead, wanted this man to know that he had his Sultan’s sympathy and attention,” she wrote on the official website of the Royal Johor family.
Raja Zarith said that Sultan Ahmad Shah was also a concerned Ruler to his subjects when it comes to natural disasters in Pahang.
“If there was a natural disaster in Pahang — most often, it was floods — it would be Sultan Ahmad Shah who would be the first to be on the scene.
“For my family in Perak, we had become so used to see photos of him in the newspapers, always with his rakyat, that we did not see his unexpected appearance at a kampung house as anything uncommon,” she said.
In her tribute, Raja Zarith recalled the many times Sultan Ahmad Shah, her cousin, touched her life — from her wedding to the death of her son third child Tunku Abdul Jalil Ibrahim.
With their royal background, she remembered her parents discussing protocol and seniority when it came to her wedding, saying they were unsure who should be first to start the “merenjis” or blessing ceremony, which took place some weeks before the actual marriage solemnisation ceremony to the current Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar when he was the then state crown prince in 1982.
“I was trying hard to understand the complexity and sensitivity of royal protocol, and who was considered more senior: my father as the Sultan of Perak and the father of the bride, or Almarhum Sultan Ahmad Shah, his nephew, but who was also at the time the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the King of Malaysia!
“And, of course, to make matters even more complex was that my husband’s father too was a Sultan.
“In the end, in the same way that Almarhum would sit on the floor with an elderly villager, he let my father — his uncle — begin the merenjis ceremony. He discarded protocol. He had made his own decision: he was the Yang DiPertuan Agong, he was our King, and should rightly supercede all other Sultans, but he chose instead to adhere to his own values of being nobler by being humbler,” said Raja Zarith.
“Protocol can be bended or done away with, but family and rakyat mattered more,” said Raja Zarith of Sultan Ahmad Shah’s unique persona as a royal.
The 59-year-old Permaisuri of Johor also shared the concern Sultan Ahmad Shah had showed her family when her late son Tunku Abdul Jalil was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2014 and was warded at Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore.
She said Sultan Ahmad Shah was one of the first and most frequent visitors to see her son and the Johor royal family.
Raja Zarith said her family did not expect Sultan Ahmad Shah to show so much concern or care for Tunku Abdul Jalil as he was someone he hardly saw or knew.
“We cannot deny he made all of us — and Jalil — feel terribly special. When Jalil lost his fight against his cancer a year later, Almarhum came to his funeral.
“The fact that his health had slowed him down, and he was not as strong as he used to be, made his presence there with our family all the more meaningful to us,” she wrote, adding that her husband had also shown gratitude and indebtedness towards Sultan Ahamd Shah for all his other acts of kindness during the critical illness his father, Sultan Iskandar Sultan Ismail in 2010.
Raja Zarith said what she remembered most about Sultan Ahmad Shah was his acknowledgement of her as his cousin.
“By acknowledging me as his cousin made me feel less insignificant as a much younger and junior royal.
“There will be many other people who will have as many special memories of Almarhum’s words and actions.
“These are, however, our own and the ones which we shall never forget,” said Raja Zarith.