Malaysia’s King Displays Sense of Humor amid Political, Racial Tensions

Ray Sherman and Hadi Azmi
Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia’s King, Sultan Muhammad V, broke a tense mood Tuesday as he smiled and kicked off his speech by telling lawmakers not to run.

The 48-year-old monarch demonstrated his humor at the opening of the nation’s first Parliament session since the opposition bloc stunned the world with an electoral earthquake two months ago.

Muslim-majority Malaysia’s government is led by Pakatan Harapan (PH), which defeated the coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) in the May 9 general election, demolishing the solidly entrenched dominant political power for the first time since the country gained independence from British rule in 1957.

“You may all be seated and don’t run away,” Sultan Muhammad V told the 222 parliamentarians in Malay, apparently making the joke in reference to a dramatic walkout by BN lawmakers.

Opposition lawmakers staged a walkout Monday after raising their objections to the appointment of Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof as parliamentary speaker.

As a smile wrinkled his face, the king quickly turned serious, appealing for calm and unity amid perceptions of growing racial tensions in the multi-ethnic nation.

“Negative elements and actions that disrupt unity and harmony should be eliminated,” the king said. “Stop raising sensitive issues between races.”

About 61 percent of the country’s 32 million people are Muslims, but the nation has a large population of Chinese and Indians.

The king, who welcomed the new administration’s approach in “upholding transparency” in government, appealed for unity.

“The people have made their decision,” he said. “Hence, all parties should accept with open hearts, not emotion, not clouded by slander and blind sentiments.”

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