GOSSIP SURROUNDING MALAYSIA’S KINGS, SULTANS AND ROYAL FAMILIES

SUCCESSION FEUD IN KELANTAN

In September 2010, a prince in the northern Malaysian state of Kelantan took the throne there allegedly against the wishes of his bedridden father who wanted the prince’s brother to succeed him. Associated Press reportedL Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra was proclaimed the new sultan of northern Kelantan state following a decision by the Council of Succession, which determines who ascends to the throne, palace official Abdul Halim Hamad said. Faris has been embroiled in a public dispute with his brother, Tengku Muhammad Fakhry, since their father, Tengku Ismail Petra, fell ill more than a year ago. The feud has embarrassed one of the country's most prominent royal households by exposing their previously little-known rivalries. [Source: Associated Press. September 13, 2010]

Faris' ascension to the throne is unlikely to end the power struggle. Ismail's lawyer Rashid Zulkifli said in a statement issued Sunday that the father would challenge Faris' installation as being unlawful. Ismail has been ill with heart problems since mid-2009. Last September, Faris removed Fakhry, his brother, from the state's powerful Council of Succession. Earlier this year, assailants shot a palace guard under mysterious circumstances. He later died.

Politics of Royal Wedding between a Malaysian Prince and Thai Princess

In December 2004, Michael Vatikiotis wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “Despite all the efforts made by the royal family of the Malaysian state of Kelantan to keep the wedding of the 35-year-old Crown Prince Muhammad Faris Petra to his Thai bride a private affair, the lavish wedding feast laid in the state capital of Kota Baharu last month turned into an event of some political significance. This was a union of two old Malay royal houses — Kelantan and Pattani. Kelantan, on the east coast of Malaysia, abuts the Thai province of Pattani, whose population is also Malay and Muslim. In the past two years there has been a resurgence of violence in Thailand's three Muslim-majority provinces, which comprise most of the old Pattani kingdom on the Thai side of the border. [Source: Michael Vatikiotis, International Herald Tribune, December 14, 2004 ^*^]

“The wedding was therefore a golden (literally) opportunity to mend fences between the Buddhist Thai and the Muslim Malay communities that straddle the border. Among the guests was Thailand's popular Queen Sirikhit. Officially, she was there in a personal capacity, as a friend of the Kelantan royal family. But the queen has also spent the past two months at a royal palace in the south hoping to repair the breach there, and she has issued an unprecedented public appeal for peace. ^*^

“Queen Sirikhit came with a large retinue of officials and courtiers — including Thailand's foreign minister, Surakiart Sathirathai. Personal capacity or not, there was plenty of opportunity for Thai and Malaysian officials and representatives of the military and police to meet and discuss the problems in southern Thailand. This was especially important because Thai authorities are pointing fingers at the Malaysian Islamic party which governs Kelantan State as a source of support for Muslim separatists in southern Thailand. Kelantan officials deny there's any involvement. ^*^

“As the guests assembled for dinner in the gilded banquet hall of the Sultan of Kelantan's grand palace — Malay men dressed in their formal black silk shirts and black velvet caps; women in their finest long silk gowns and delicate head scarves — it was obvious why this is a thorny issue. Culturally, it's difficult to discern any border at all. While the Thais from Bangkok wore formal Western suits and ladies-in-waiting from the Thai court were in the finest silk haute couture and jewels, it was nearly impossible to tell whether the Malays came from Malaysia or Thailand. The conversation switched effortlessly from Thai to Malay and back to Thai. The father of the bride is a former member of Thai Parliament for the ruling Thai Rak Thai party — and a member of the old Pattani royal line. He has a Thai name and a Malay name. Disentangling these links is like trying to separate the flavors in a spicy Thai tom yam soup. ^*^

“Historically, it's true that Kelantan has a long history of support for the Pattani struggle to be free of Thai rule. It's also true that the Malaysian Islamic Party is popular across the border in Pattani — a sizable number of Thai citizens are registered voters in Kelantan and vote for the Islamic Party. But so far, no one on the Thai side has been able to identify any separatist organization with provable roots in Malaysia. ^*^

“All the same, a Thai businessman from the southern Thai city of Haad Yai who attended the dinner worried about the effect the violence is having on business both sides of the border. Yet as he surveyed the vast banquet hall with its expensive crystal chandeliers and dozens of uniformed butlers, he smiled and said, "This is good for confidence." At the head table, Queen Sirikhit seemed to wear more than an official smile as she chatted with the Sultana of Kelantan. They obviously seemed to be friends and walked out of the hall arm in arm. But then half of the Sultana's family comes from Pattani. ^*^

Royal Row in Kelantan over a $500,000 Bentley

In June 2010, Bernama reported: “A royal dispute over possession of a RM1.6 million Bentley Brooklands has been amicably settled after Kelantan prince Tengku Muhammad Fakhry Sultan Ismail Petra today withdrew a suit against his elder brother and Regent of Kelantan, Tengku Muhammad Faris. Judicial Commissioner Datin Zahariah Yusof, who heard the matter in chambers, struck out the suit and ordered Tengku Muhammad Fakhry to pay RM5,000 costs to Tengku Muhammad Faris. [Source: Bernama, June 9, 2010 /*\]

“The High Court was to have heard today the application by Tengku Muhammad Faris to strike out the suit. Tengku Muhammad Faris was represented by lawyer Tan Sri Cecil Abraham and Sunil Abraham while Datuk Mohd Haaziq Pillay and P. Vadivu appeared for Tengku Muhammad Fakhry. Mohd Haaziq said he was instructed by Tengku Muhammad Fakhry late yesterday to withdraw the suit as the car, which had been at the Istana Telipot in Kota Baru, the regent’s official residence, had been returned to the Istana Mahkota in Kubang Kerian, Kota Baru. /*\

“Tengku Muhammad Fakhry filed an originating summons on Sept 9 last year, naming the regent as the defendant and seeking, among others, a declaration that the blue car bearing registration number DBG 1, which was purchased for him or for his or his father’s disposal, was his. He also sought a declaration that he had absolute entitlement to the car and that the detention of the car by Tengku Muhammad Faris was unlawful. In a supporting affidavit, Tengku Muhammad Fakhry said all transactions pertaining to the sale and purchase of the car in September 2008 were made between him and the car dealer, Malayan Motors. /*\

“He said the car was delivered to the Sultan of Kelantan on Sept 24, 2008, and registered under the Sultan’s name, and that since its arrival in Kelantan, the car had at all times been in his exclusive possession for his use at Istana Mahkota and also at his residence at Dua Residency, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur. He said that on July 18, 2009, while he was abroad, Tengku Muhammad Faris, through his agent or workers and without his knowledge and permission, had taken the car away from his residence at Dua Residency to Istana Mahkota. Tengku Muhammad Fakhry said he found out that the car was at Istana Telipot, in Kota Baru.”

Rape, Torture and Abuse at the Hands of a Malaysian Prince

In May 2009, a teenage US-Indonesian model escaped from Malaysia the help of Singapore police, returning to her family in Indonesia with allegations of abuse, rape and torture at the hands of a Malaysian prince. AFP reported: Manohara Odelia Pinot, 17, told reporters she was treated like a sex slave after her marriage to Tengku Temenggong Mohammad Fakhry, the prince of Malaysia's Kelantan state in 2008. [Source: Presi Mandari, AFP, June 1, 2009 ==]

“Her mother, Daisy Fajarina, said she would press charges against the 31-year-old prince, and blamed the Malaysian and Indonesian governments for trying to cover up the alleged abuse. "The things I've been afraid of were revealed to be true. Manohara has suffered physical abuse. She's got several razor cuts on her chest," Fajarina told AFP. "No parent could be silent if their child was treated in such a barbaric way." The Malaysian government had ignored her pleas for access to her daughter and had blocked her from entering the country, she said, while the Indonesian embassy had said that Manohara was fine with her new husband. ==

“The young woman -- a well-known socialite in Jakarta -- said her life at the royal palace involved a "daily routine" of rape, abuse, torture and occasional drug injections that made her vomit blood. She said she was usually held under guard in her bedroom at the palace and was injected with tranquilisers whenever she complained. "I am still traumatised by all that happened and it has left an impact on me," she told reporters in Jakarta after escaping the royal family during a trip to Singapore over the weekend. ==

"Sexual abuse and sexual harassment were like a daily routine for me, and he did that every time I did not want to have sexual intercourse," she was quoted as saying in The Jakarta Globe. "I could never think a normal man could do such things," she said, adding: "Some parts of my body were cut by a razor." The teenager whose fairy-tale wedding to a prince captured the imagination of Indonesia said she would be tortured if she did not appear to be happy when she attended social functions with Fakhry. "Every time I went for events they forced me to smile and would torture me if I did not do what they said," she told the press conference. ==

Manohara was once voted as being among Indonesia's "100 Precious Women". In Indonesia she is known by her first name, which means "thief of hearts" in Sanskrit. John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Manohara is viewed here as a tragic heroine mistreated by an obsessed suitor who became outraged when she would not yield to his demands. "Imagine someone doing something like that to you and you are unable to move, -- you can't do anything about it," she says softly, her eyes tearing. "It was torture, mentally and physically." [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010]

Escape by Indonesian Model from Malaysian Prince

AFP reported: Manohara “said she secretly called Singaporean police and pleaded for help after the royal family took her to the city state when they accompanied Fakhry's father, Sultan Ismail Petra Shah II, for medical treatment. "The police told Fakhry that he would be held in jail if he did not let me go. No one could force me against my will in Singapore and I knew I had a chance to escape," she said. [Source: Presi Mandari, AFP, June 1, 2009 ==]

“The model said she escaped her guards by pushing the Singapore hotel elevator's emergency button. They were reluctant to chase her because they knew the scene would be captured on security cameras. She blasted the Indonesian embassy in Malaysia, saying: "They made it worse by telling lies, saying that I was fine while I was suffering in Kelantan."==

John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The beautiful young socialite slipped” businessman Dato Kadar Shah “ a note scrawled in eyeliner on a crumpled napkin. "Help me," it pleaded.... In May 2009, Fakhry and Manohara traveled to Singapore, where Shah was finally able to meet her. At a restaurant, Manohara slipped him the note. As soon as he left the restaurant, Shah said, he called Fajarina, urging her to rush to Singapore. She arrived just before her daughter outwitted Fakhry and his phalanx of bodyguards and escaped, according to media reports. [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010 >>>]

“The teenager pressed the emergency alarm in a Singapore hotel elevator, summoning security guards, who allowed Manohara to run into the waiting arms of her mother. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Singapore said that Manohara's mother had contacted officials there before the escape and that they had assisted the teen but did not offer details.

Lawsuit by Malaysian Prince Against the Indonesian Model

In March 2010, Manohara was sued by her husband for defamation, with a Malaysian civil court awarding him a $1.8-million judgment. John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “In Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, she's dismissed as a lying gold-digger under the control of a vindictive mother. Fakhry did not respond to interview requests. But he sued his wife and her mother, Daisy Fajarina, for defamation last summer, and in March, a Malaysian civil court awarded Fakhry a $1.8-million judgment. [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010 >>>]

“Haaziq Pillay, Fakhry's lawyer, says the prince disputed every one of Manohara's claims and questions why she avoided the Malaysian court proceedings. "From rape to cutting her with a razor to injecting her -- these are only things a monster would do, a psychopath," Pillay says. "My client wants the truth to come out. "She said she was afraid of the security, but this isn't a cowboy society," he says. "People don't get abducted in the streets here." Pillay dismissed the claims. "If you are cut on the breast, the marks are supposed to be there. Where are the scars?" >>>

“Manohara insists that she will never pay the prince a penny and challenges him to file a second civil lawsuit in Jakarta, where she says he'd receive a less positive reception. She's also filed a police report, for alleged domestic violence, and warns that Fakhry will be arrested the moment he sets foot in Indonesia. >>>

“The prince is still suffering, Pillay says. "There's an element of sadness because he truly loves Manohara," he says. "If I was in his position, I wouldn't love her anymore. But perhaps the prince thinks she is too young and was brainwashed by her mother." Shah says the 32-year-old prince, a thin man with deeply set dark eyes, wants his wife back and is pursuing the case against his family's wishes. He is convinced that once he has Manohara back, he can persuade her to silence her criticism and resume their marriage, the businessman said. "I have never seen a man so obsessed with a woman," says Dato Kadar Shah, who was asked by government officials to help solve the matter. "The people in his province also love her. They view her like Princess Diana. He needs her back for his credibility." >>>

Fairy Tale Romance Between Malaysian Prince and the Indonesian Model Goes Bad

John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Manohara was just 14 when she met her prince. Fakhry, the son of the monarch of one of Malaysia's nine regional sultanates, approached the girl at a party in Jakarta as she sat with her older sister. Within days, Manohara says now, she didn't even recall him. But Fakhry remembered her. "You have two lovely daughters," Fajarina recalled him telling her. "I would like to keep in touch with them." [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010 >>>]

“For years, the prince met with Manohara, with Fajarina always by her side. But on one cruise, Manohara alleged in a story in the Jakarta Globe, Fakhry raped her while her mother was in an adjoining cabin. In his successful defamation lawsuit, the prince denied the charges. Then 16, Manohara didn't tell her mother what happened. "I was in denial," she says. "I knew if I changed my behavior, my mom would find out. I was embarrassed." Her mother says she was blind to the prince's obsession. "I didn't see the signs," she says. "I thought he was charming." >>>

“ Manohara soon returned to Jakarta to pursue her modeling career. But she says Fakhry called to say he felt terrible about the circumstances of the marriage and wanted to apologize. They agreed to meet in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for prayer and pilgrimage. Fajarina accompanied her daughter, but when it came time to fly home, Manohara says, she was spirited into a private jet. "They left me on the tarmac," Fajarina recalled. "She was running after me," Manohara says. "I could see her from the window." >>>

“For the next nine months, she alleges, she was injected with tranquilizers and threatened if she did not appear happy when attending functions with the prince. She claims the prince also cut her chest several times with a razor. Manohara says she was able to keep hidden her BlackBerry and charger. She sent e-mails to her mother, who went to the Indonesian press about her daughter's allegations. In a news conference last June, she showed photos of the alleged razor wounds taken at the time with a cellphone camera. The wounds are now gone, she said.” >>>

Media Brouhaha Over the Saga of the Malaysian Prince and the Indonesian Model

John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Capitalizing on a saga that has obsessed Indonesians much like Tiger Woods' fall from grace in the United States, Manohara stars in a popular TV show about a young wife abused by her philandering husband, and she demands high fees for speaking engagements. Many viewers simply cannot keep their eyes off the young model, born to an American father and Indonesian mother, who has become a cat-eyed Paris Hilton of Indonesia. A full half-hour documentary on her alleged travails has aired repeatedly on Jakarta television, "at times almost a continuous loop," according to the Asia Sentinel newspaper. [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010 >>>]

“The tabloid press ran with the story. "Fairy Tale of a Prince and His Bride Turns to Nightmare," one headline screamed. "Manohara says she was held as sex slave by her prince," read another. A Jakarta Post headline trumpeted: "Manohara: I Was Drugged and Abused." Many Indonesians took to the streets, demanding Manohara's return. A protest outside the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta turned violent. Malaysian government officials believe that Indonesians have been stirred up by sensationalist media. >>>

“But not everyone is captivated. "This is a freak show in a freak-loving country full of two-headed goats and Islamic hard-liners," said Wimar Witoelar, who hosts his own TV talk show. "It just shows how people with cheap tastes get titillated by cheap stories. That's Manohara." >>>

A year after news of the scandal broke, Indonesians were still hungry for news on Manohara. "It's a universal fairy tale, a love story gone wrong. Young, poor girl meets prince. Prince turns into frog in her eyes," said TV news anchor Dalton Tanonaka. "The truth lies somewhere in the middle, but the story remains great for gossip programs and rumor mills." >>> “For the princess, the ratings for her soap opera remain high, and she's starting a new cosmetic line. As for love and marriage, Manohara plans to take a time out to heal. She needs to purge the prince from her life, she says. "People want to know about my life," she says. "They ask, 'Who is Manohara dating?' The answer is no one. I've got lots of time for that." >>>

Government Reactions to the Malaysian Prince- Indonesian Model Scandal

AFP reported: “A spokesman for the Indonesian foreign ministry insisted the embassy had done everything it could to help Manohara and said the government would assist her if she wanted to file charges against her husband. Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the government would not investigate the claims. "I think this is more of a personal matter. To date we have not been dragged into it, so we want to leave it as it is," he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. [Source: Presi Mandari, AFP, June 1, 2009 ==]

Malaysia's royal rulers used to enjoy immunity from criminal and civil charges but the privilege was removed in 1993. There has been no comment from the Kelantan royal family. Manohara's lawyer, Yuri Darmas, said she would have a medical examination to back up her allegations of abuse. "We need one to two days to gather evidence before we file a lawsuit to the Malaysian police," he said, adding that he intended to pursue both criminal and civil lawsuits against the prince. Manohara has already filed for divorce, her mother said.

"Both governments have taken a stand and said this is a personal matter between husband and wife," said Eldeen Hussaini, deputy director of relations between the two nations for the Malaysian Foreign Ministry. But businessman Shah says he was quietly asked to intervene in 2008 by government officials on both sides. He asked to meet with Manohara privately, but Fakhry declined. "I told him I just wanted to ask about the allegations," he says. "If the girl said she was happy, I was willing to let things be." [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010 >>>]

Murders Involving Malaysian Royals

In March 2002, a member of the royal family of Malaysia’s northern state of Kedah has been beaten to death in a brawl outside a pub. Bernama reported: “Hazlin Hamid, 24, was stabbed, beaten and kicked by 10 people in Kuala Lumpur, following a misunderstanding. Police were seeking one of the attackers who apparently was known to Hazlin, Bernama reported. Hazlin, a member of the Kedah family, was not in the line of direct succession. [Source: New Agencies, March 7, 2002]

In October 2002, the first wife of a sultan (raja) was questioning but not charged in the death of his second wife. Associated Press reported: “When the young and beautiful second wife of a raja who is second in line to the throne of Perak state was found dead and bound at the foot of a waterfall, the case had a whiff of royal intrigue. The mystery erupted into full-blown royal scandal after police detained the royal's older first wife, Raja Nor Mahani, for questioning about the slaying this month. Malaysian newspapers splashed photographs of Raja Nor being led from court by police after being remanded into custody. About the same time she was detained, five suspects in another court were charged with murder or assisting in murder in the death of Hazliza Ishak. [Source: Associated Press, October 26, 2002]

Hazliza, a 26-year-old former model and aspiring actress, married Raja Jaafar Raja Muda Musa in January in southern Thailand, becoming the Perak royal's second wife after Raja Nor, 60, a former schoolteacher. Raja Jaafar, 62, is second in line to become Perak's sultan under Malaysia's complicated ascension process. Nine of Malaysia's 13 states have a sultan, a position that carries no lawmaking power but great wealth and reverence.

Hazliza's body was found, with hands and feet tied. Police said they believed she had been strangled before being thrown from a bridge. Charged with murder were Mat Saad Mat Isa, a farmer; Sabarudin Non, a carpenter, and fisherman J. Manimaran. An employee at Raja Jaafar's palace, Aristonsjah Tengku Mohamad Ansany, and Rahim Ismail, who is unemployed, were charged with abetting murder. The suspects face the death penalty if convicted.

Malaysian Blogger Held over Alleged Royalty Insult

In June 2012, AFP reported: “Malaysian authorities have detained a blogger for allegedly insulting one of the country's royals, police said. Syed Abdullah Syed Hussein Al-Attas was detained late Wednesday at a toll station in central Negeri Sembilan state after police reports were filed against him for allegedly insulting the sultan of southern Johor state in his postings. Malaysia's royals, though their role is mostly ceremonial, are widely revered especially among the Muslim Malay majority, and it is a crime to insult them. [Source: AFP, June 7, 2012]

“Johor police said in a statement that Syed Abdullah, who was detained together with a 26-year-old woman, was being investigated under the Official Secrets Act for revealing secret information. Police have obtained a court order to hold him until Sunday and may seek to extend the detention, an official said Friday, without elaborating. The offence carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

Syed Abdullah, 46, blogs under the name "Uncle Seekers" and is reportedly a paranormal practitioner. Rights group Reporters Without Borders has condemned Syed Abdullah's arrest, saying it was "very disturbed" by it. "Syed Abdullah's arrest is unacceptable," the Paris-based group said in a statement. "Government officials should not, under any circumstances, be able to use state secrets as a pretext for putting themselves above the law and flouting the fundamental right to information," it added.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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