When it comes to monarchy, what we know is mostly based on the European royalty. Their positions are hereditary, meaning that it gets passed on from generation to generation from father to son, and sometimes, from mother to daughter.
In Malaysia, their king is called a Yang di-Pertuan Agong. But unlike that of the European monarchy, Malaysia’s king is elected. This is a constitutional provision that was introduced in 1957, when the British rule was coming to an end. Malaysia has fourteen states, nine of which have a hereditary ruler. These nine leaders make up the Conference of Rulers, who then vote for the next Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The elected leader will then hold the position for the next five years. He also appoints a regent who will act as the head of state for the one which he rules as he will be absent from these duties during his term as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
While in many ways the role of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is ceremonial, he still holds certain power in the government. He has the power to appoint the Prime Minister following strict and clear guidelines. However, many of his functions need the advice of several people, including the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Conference of Rulers.
The 14th Yang di-Pertuan Agong
The current Yang di-Pertuan Agong is Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah. Elected last December 2011, he holds the distinction of being voted into position twice (he was king from 1970 to 1975). He is also the oldest sultan elected into position, at the age of 83.
The King’s Birthday
The celebration of the King’s Birthday is constitutionally fixed on the first Saturday of June each year. This means the date varies each year, but it is an occasion that is looked forward to by the Malaysians. But expect no less than pomp and grandeur when this day rolls in, as it is an important holiday for all of Malaysia.
In 2013, Malaysia will celebrate this national public holiday on June 1 (Saturday).
A big to-do is held at the Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur. The Trooping the Colour, a very British tradition that was adapted by the Malaysians for their own celebrations, is done in honor of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He takes these honors and inspects the troops alongside the commanders of Malaysia’s three services: The Malaysian Armed Forces, the Joint Forces Command and the Malaysian Armed Forces Council. Instead of walking or riding a horse, the inspection is done with the king riding on an open-top Land Rover. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong wears dress uniforms, as does the eight other state monarchs. While it may seem like a simple celebration, it’s actually quite elaborate and unique and can last for more than an hour.
The Trooping the Colour is open to the general public. However, only special and invited guests are allowed within the parade grounds and past security. Radio Televisyen Malaysia broadcasts the ceremonies live to the whole country. Along with these rites, awards and medals are also given to notable Malaysians in conjunction with the King’s Birthday. Often, cultural shows and exhibitions are held all over the country in honor of the event.
Photo by Omar.salahudin