KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s crown prince of Johor on Sunday (Jan 26) criticised the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, saying that what he had warned Malaysian voters about has now come true.
Claiming that many had asked him to do something about the spread of the virus, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim pledged to do “whatever I can for you and your families because that was my oath when I was installed as the Tunku Mahkota Johor” in a post on his Facebook page late on Sunday.
Just before the general election in May 2018, he had warned voters not to change the government, saying: “Don’t change the boat if the engine is not broken, don’t even change the skipper but allow HM The Sultan of Johor and I to work with the skipper.”
Malaysia on Saturday confirmed four cases of the Wuhan virus among China nationals who travelled into the country, news of which has caused widespread anger in Malaysia.
The outbreak of the virus has become a political issue, with former premier Najib Razak taking to his Facebook account to attack Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has so far refused to stop the inflow of mainland Chinese tourists.
An online petition launched on Saturday to ban Chinese visitors from entering Malaysia garnered nearly 360,000 signatures as at 11am on Monday.
Many Malaysians were also angered on hearing the news that a two-year-old toddler from China, suspected of having the coronavirus, evaded quarantine in Johor when the parents fled from the hospital.
The three were detained at the Senai International Airport.
The prince pointed out on Sunday in his Facebook post that he had voiced his opinion on politics two years ago but had been “advised by the people not to interfere”.
“At the time, the people whom I myself defended told me to keep quiet and not to interfere in politics and governance, said the prince, who is also known as TMJ, the abbreviation for his Malay title of Tengku Mahkota Johor.
“I was willing to be insulted and cursed to defend the sovereignty of Johor and the people of this country. But I was told to keep quiet,” he wrote.
He added that in the past two years, he received daily complaints on matters relating to administration, religion, race, economy and lately, on health.
“Today, I hope you all realise that what I had predicted two years ago is already happening,” he said.
The prince and Dr Mahathir had a very public feud last year, with the prime minister calling him a “little boy” and “stupid”.
Last year, the Mahathir administration also attacked the Johor royal family, with land grab exposes and allegations of tax evasion.
The Crown Prince retorted in a series of tweets claiming “character assassination”.
“How much land has the Johor Sultan given to the public and government all this while? Millions gifted to the government? Good works are not shared,” he said.
Ties between Dr Mahathir and the Johor palace have been strained after he instituted during his first tenure as premier in the 1990s a constitutional amendment to remove the royals of their immunity from criminal prosecution.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.