Malaysia recently reverberated with the royal transition ceremony. On Wednesday (Jan. 31), Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar of the Sultanate of Johor was officially installed as the new Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, succeeding Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah of Pahang. The coronation ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, members of the Cabinet, and nine members of the Malaysian Royal Family.
Every five years, Malaysia changes leadership as part of its routine governance. This tradition has continued since Malaysia gained independence from Great Britain in 1957. Nine sultans from the Malay sultanates have alternated in the position of head of state, with each sultan serving for five years.
Fun fact about Malaysia's new king
1. One of the richest people in Malaysia
Sultan Ibrahim is one of the richest individuals in Malaysia. According to Bloomberg calculations, Sultan Ibrahim and his family are estimated to be worth at least US$5.7 billion (approximately Rp 89 trillion). This wealth includes land holdings in Singapore and investments in various businesses such as palm oil, real estate, and telecommunications.
In addition, Sultan Ibrahim also holds significant investments in companies, including shares in Forest City. This project involves offshore development in Johor and is valued at US$100 billion.
In addition to his business interests, Sultan Ibrahim also owns about 200 cars, private jets, motorcycles, and houses abroad. According to a Business Insider report, one of the hundreds of cars he owns is believed to be a gift from Adolf Hitler.
2. Mixed heritage
Born in 1958, Sultan Ibrahim is of mixed Malay-English heritage. His father, Sultan Iskandar Ismail, ruled Johor from 1981 until he died in 2010.
In 1956, Sultan Iskandar ibni Sultan Ismail met Josephine Ruby Trevorrow while both were studying in England. After marrying Sultan Iskandar, Josephine converted to Islam and changed her name to Kalsom binti Abdullah. The couple had four children, with Sultan Ibrahim being the third child.
3. Straightforward leader
Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar is known for being outspoken and decisive. He does not hesitate to express his views on government policies and the political situation in his country. In an interview with The Straits Times in November 2023, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar emphasized that one of his priorities as king is to fight corruption. He even suggested that the anti-corruption agency report its findings directly to the king.
He also wants to restart the high-speed rail project between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which was halted in 2021. Malaysia is currently considering new private-sect proposals for the project. Meanwhile, Singapore has expressed its willingness to discuss the new proposal "from scratch".
On another occasion, he suggested that the appointment of judges should be independent, separate from the executive. He also said that the state oil company, Petronas, should report directly to the king.
4. Extensive military tour
It is interesting to note that the Johor family is the only one in Malaysia to have a private army, established in 1885 as part of the Anglo-Johor Agreement. This also means that Sultan Ibrahim is the only ruler to have a private army.
In addition to being from a royal family, he has an extensive military background. His education includes military schools in the United States, and his experience includes officer roles in various branches, both land, sea, and air. According to the Johor government website, he is actively involved in military activities, management, and administration, following in the footsteps of previous sultanates.
Sultan Ibrahim is also known as an accomplished military figure. During his training at the Army Combat Training Center (Pulada) in Ulu Tiram, Johor, he was selected as a platoon commander. He also excelled in various training programs at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina in the United States, including special courses conducted by the US Special Forces and the US Army Pathfinder Course.
While there, he completed 19 parachute jumps, including eight in darkness. Sultan Ibrahim also received prestigious wing awards and was promoted to Commander in recognition of his achievements.
Sultan Ibrahim also participated in the US Navy SEAL Team and was made an honorary member of the Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) after completing a parachute jump in Bandung, Indonesia. He also trained as a helicopter pilot with the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and participated in a three-month training program with the Royal Malaysian Navy in Lumut, Perak.
5. Pioneering Kembara Mahkota Johor
In 2001, when he was the Crown Prince of Johor (Tunku Mahkota Johor), Sultan Ibrahim founded the Royal Journey of Johor or Kembara Mahkota Johor (KMJ). This initiative, driven by the encouragement of his father, Sultan Iskandar, aims to explore every region in Johor and strengthen ties with the local community.
Since then, KMJ has become an annual activity in the state of Johor. Every year, Sultan Ibrahim travels by motorbike to meet the people of his state. In this annual journey, Sultan Ibrahim takes the lead in leading a group of motorcyclists on an epic journey through 10 districts in Johor, covering hundreds of kilometers.