KUANTAN: Pahang’s Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who was proclaimed as the state’s ruler on Tuesday (Jan 15), has a reputation for being well-versed in state affairs, as well as a humble and gracious figure.
After it was announced at the weekend that he will be appointed Pahang’s ruler, paving the way for him to be elected as Malaysia’s king, the sultan said he "felt mindful and humbled".
“There (is) a sad feeling, a feeling of gratitude for the trust of my father and siblings and the people of Pahang,” he said.
“This is also a big responsibility for me to the people and I will try to do my best for the people of Pahang no matter what."
The proposal to appoint Sultan Abdullah as the new ruler was made because his father Sultan Ahmad Shah, 88, is “gravely ill”.
The sultan, 59, studied Foreign Affairs and Diplomacy at Queen Elizabeth College, Oxford University. He was also trained at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.
He is well-versed in Pahang’s state affairs, having been appointed crown prince since July 1976, when he was just 16 years old.
At the age of 20, he took over the duties of his father for the first time, when former sultan Ahmad Shah served as Malaysian king between 1979 and 1984.
He was appointed Pahang’s regent again in December 2016 - when the health of his father was said to be on the wane – and has been handling state matters since.
In July last year, he urged the federal government to continue implementing 300 projects costing some RM2.2 billion (US$536 million) that had earlier been approved for Pahang under the 11th Malaysian Plan.
“I want projects involving the state and federal governments to be continued with strong cooperation, despite political differences,” he was reported as saying by the New Straits Times after the May general election that saw Pahang become an opposition state.
In November, he proposed that abandoned mining sites in the state should be rehabilitated into agriculture or tourism facilities.
“There are many mining sites that are just left abandoned. These areas can pose danger to the residents in the vicinity,” he was reported as saying by the Star.
Pahang residents and the sultan’s childhood friends know him as a humble and gracious person.
Badaruddin Adnan, 60, a long-time friend of the sultan said: "Our childhood was like what many other good friends enjoy(ed). He was shy, but that didn't stop (the then) Tuanku from having a good time with boys his age, especially at the Mangga Tunggal palace where we played every evening.
“Not one to act like a prince, he had a common touch even then, often coming to my house in his chauffer-driven Holden Kingswood to invite me to play at the palace, and what's more, I got to ride in his car!”
Pekan resident Azahani Mahmud, 49, said: “He was never awkward around the commoners each time there was a calamity such as a floods, storms or drowning incidents”.
He added: “His Highness had always been generous in giving out donations to people who are in need.”
The ruler also has a practice of giving money to children after Friday prayers.
The operator of an eatery in Kuantan frequented by the sultan also described him as a humble person, preferring to be casual rather than to adhere to protocol.
“He is also very generous, because, every time he stops by here, it means good news for other patrons as well,” she said.
“Sultan Abdullah will pay the bill for all the patrons, including those who are buying takeaway food.”
PASSION FOR SPORTS
The sultan is also a popular figure in the sports scene and is currently president of the Asian Hockey Federation and a council member of football's world governing body, FIFA.
Abdul Razak Mohd Kirir, 60, a football team-mate of the sultan said he was focused and had a systematic approach when playing the game as a youth.
“With so much passion for the sport, we, his friends, saw him as best person to head the FAM (Football Association of Malaysia),” he said.
The sultan was FAM president from 2013 to 2017.
Following Sultan Muhammad V's move to step down as Malaysia's king after just two years on the throne, the country now needs to elect a new monarch.
The abdication, a first for Malaysia in modern times, followed reports that the Kelantan sultan married an ex-beauty queen in Russia in November during a purported two-month medical leave.
Under Malaysia's constitutional monarchy system, the election for the king is held on a rotational basis every five years. The Sultan of Pahang would be next in line, followed by the Sultan of Johor.
It was earlier announced that a new king and deputy will be elected on Jan 24.