Construction site for the new Istana Negara (© Rachel Leow)
IF you drive down Jalan Duta in Kuala Lumpur today, along the road that runs from the Sri Hartamas housing estate to the foot of the majestic Masjid Kuala Lumpur, most of the journey will be flanked on your right by a large temporary wall. That wall girds the borders of the new Istana Negara construction site, slated for completion in 2009 or 2010.
This new Istana will house each of our nine Malaysian sultans during their five-year stints as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Something about the interminable length of the drive past that long white wall made me ask myself: Why do we need a new Istana? Let alone one that sits on 96.52 hectares of land, and, in these severe financial times, one that is reportedly costing the rakyat RM1.1 billion?
The current Istana Negara along Jalan Syed Putra (public domain / Wiki Commons)
To give you some idea of what 96.52 hectares of land is, here are some real-world expressions of the size of the new palace. One Jalan Duta Royal Istana is equivalent to 2.3 MidValley Cities, 4.9 KLCC parks, 209 Khir Toyo mansions, and 3,472 average semi-D houses (at 3,000 sq ft each). Our present Istana Negara, on Jalan Istana, is a historic building dating back to 1928, and it sits on 11 hectares of land. Our new Istana therefore represents a nine-fold increase in the amount of land that has been set aside for our Malaysian royalty.
Let’s not forget, we live in a constitutional monarchy. That means that our monarchs are accountable to us. Accountability is what I want to talk about in this article, and I want to do this by taking a short detour to modern day Britain.
Criticising the monarchy
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan
Zainal Abidin (© Presiden Republik
Indonesia / Wiki Commons)
Some time ago, I was struck by an article in the Guardian that reported on a series of parliamentary discussions over the state of the British royal family’s finances. The royal family, uniquely among all British public sector institutions, was deemed exempt from all public spending cuts necessitated by the financial crisis. In fact, they even appeared to be seeking a raise on their yearly allowance, which at present stands at around £7.9 million per annum. Despite their present £21 million surplus in royal reserves, Buckingham Palace officials claimed, in an annual report on royal finances in June, that without a raise, they would be £40 million in the red by 2019.
To put the debate in context, it is worth noting that there have been a recent slew of drastic cuts in public spending in the UK. This includes a one-year pay freeze for five million public sector workers, and a withdrawing of middle-class tax benefits. In view of all this, the royal exemption has been perceived by many Members of Parliament (MPs) as gratuitous mollycoddling. As Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said, “When we are looking at potentially painful cuts in public services, the royal family should not be feather-bedded in this way. I am talking about the taxpayer paying for Prince Andrew’s flights to take part in golf matches.”
Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom
(public domain / Wiki Commons)There are two points I wish to make about this Guardian article. Firstly, I was struck by the liveliness of the comments section, expressing an extraordinary range of opinions on the British monarchy. These range from the critical to the defensive; from the reasoned to the illogical; from the constructive to the banal. “Welfare bums,” one commentator wrote, “they should get a real job.” Another declared: “The Queen, defender of the Faith — worth every penny!” Yet another scoffed: “Parasites at worst, anachronisms at best.” One voice among the yowling anti-royals said staunchly: “I support the royal family one hundred percent. Firstly, they do bring in money via tourists… But more importantly, they support many charities and sports organisations [and they] represent our country’s heritage and tradition, and an age lost in the last fifty or so years. I would be deeply saddened to see that gone.”
For better or worse, I ask you: Where in Malaysia can we have such an open, fearless debate on our monarchical institutions? In the UK, open public debate has not resulted in anarchy and the monarchy’s dissolution. Rather, it has resulted in a monarchy that has incentive to remain relevant to the people over whom it constitutionally governs, and also continues to be, on the whole, well loved by the majority of British.
That begs the question: Are our royals afraid of what the people think of them that they need to be protected from public opinion?
Side view of Istana Melawati, another royal residence for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong,
in Putrajaya (© Gryffindor / Wiki Commons)
My second point concerns the relative transparency of the state of British royal finances. It is possible for any British citizen to access information about royal expenditure. It is possible, in other words, for the public to have some sense of how much of their tax dollars are being used to finance the royal family, and indeed, for some people to complain about it. Accountability is at the heart of all attacks and defences of the British monarchy. Its naysayers claim there is not enough of it; its defenders retort that they are more financially accountable than many heads of states would be in a republic. Royal accountants state, a bit defensively, that the British monarchy supposedly cost each British taxpayer only 69p in the 2008 to 2009 fiscal year.
In Malaysia, I, for one, have no idea how much the rakyat spends on our constitutional monarchs. And I am quite sure that there have been no studies or inquiry commissions into this. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, asking for monarchical accountability of their expenses will probably be construed as derhaka, or hasutan against our royal institution.
There are not even, so far as I am aware, any polls of enquiry regarding the general popularity of the various monarchs and their families, let alone published accounts of royal expenditure.
Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, all royal projects are obliged to be conducted by open tender, but as PAS’s Mahfuz Omar has pointed out, Projek Istana Negara was not, and the project’s costs have suffered as a result. Initially slated to cost around RM400 million, our new Istana Negara is about to cost the nation RM1.1 billion instead.
Are the royal families not, according to the precepts of constitutional monarchy, legally bound to the Malaysian constitution, and thus at least financially accountable to the people? Should we, the people, not have some say in how we ourselves are financing our Supreme Heads of State?
Rachel Leow is a PhD student in history at Cambridge University. She would like the lines between sedition and responsible citizenship to remain reasonable. Some of her writings can be found at http://www.idlethink.com/
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Agreed, but then again it’s probably because I’m a republican (which I’ve had to explain to plenty of friends that it has nothing to do with the Republican party in the US)
I find it hard to declare openly that I’m a republican; I’ve seen plenty of both BN and PR supporters using the royals as a masthead to support whatever cause they use, and as seen in the Perak crisis, plenty of BN supporters accused the PR government of the time of betraying the royalty, and cloaked it in an emotional language that made me take a step back and stop declaring my belief in public.
Actually I’m not too sure if the PR supporters would be much better in that respect; I’ve seen plenty of them repeating the slogan “Daulat Tuanku” during the Perak crisis, and I’ve seen quite a few people try to redefine the special position of the Malays in the context of Peninsular Malaysia to be acceptance of the Malay sultanate.
It’ll probably be a long time before we get to question anything about royalty at all.
Since WE, the rakyat, are the BOSS, as we pay their salary, shouldn’t they ask the rakyat before going ahead with any huge spending of our hard earned money? Then what does “rakyat didahulukan” mean?
Just feel my yearly tax goes into a black hole, called IRB.
First of all, we must stop politicising the monarchy in M’sia. Start a debate or even discussion on the monarch, and you will find a few Umno bigots protesting at your doorstep. Chances are, they would not even know the content of your debate or discussion. The royalty themselves must learn not to become a subject of politicking by the political parties too. Ultimately, the key lies with educating the rakyat, like what this great writing is doing – provoking thoughts, instiling sensibility and rationality to the rakyat. With that, well done!
Excellent piece! Thank you for writing this. Simple but with very clear points. It’s better [said] now before we go on to bankruptcy.
Of course between the Thai lese majeste laws, Japanese semi-divinity status and the British accountable monarchs, the Malaysian monarchy’s relations to [its] subjects is less decided (partly probably because we don’t really talk much about it). Plus we have nine Sultans – who in their own states are monarchs – and a Supreme Monarch. I would be surprised that no one has enquired into their expenses in Parliament. I suspect that would be the place to go.
Also, I wonder if the monarchs are the ones who would resist transparency. In fact a pro-active move on their part to be seen as actively engaging with changing times would indeed demonstrate leadership by example.
My only query about the Jalan Duta Palace is location. Should a palace be located in such a high density area? It sits next to several condominiums and close to a shopping complex! If the people are paying for his stature as head of state do we really want the palace for our King to be (1) surrounded by buildings that stand taller than the palace (the apartments will all sit above the palace – where’s the privacy?) (2) squeezed between two roads, and (3) down the road from a shopping complex? I wonder if all these are dignified or even practical for a Head of State? If you compare it to the former PM’s domicile, Sri Perdana, or the current one in Putrajaya there is a sense of dignity through location, topography and not just architecture.
But you are right, our monarchs should be seen more, but not because they are paid by taxpayers. Personally I feel there are functions and roles the monarchy have played from the time of independence and continue to play that are far more subtle yet significant and meaningful to a budding democracy like ours and it would be difficult if not pointless to compare their role to the British, Japanese or Thai Monarch. They can and do encourage the arts, get involve in sports and are Chancellors of our public universities. And recently some have started talking about leadership. As such, as they get more involved in public life, naturally more will be said of them either in their defense or against them. That is the nature of debate, all good in keeping up with changing times.
But yes, you are right, we need to be able to talk more about them to debate their contributions if for nothing else as part of recognising their functions as beyond the expressionless figures at parade marches or National Day services. But having said that, Malaysian royal families have had quite an engaging history with the country and I could be wrong, but isn’t the fear of derhaka for questioning the cost-of-living of our Kings more a recent product of our political environment than our relation to the monarchy in post-colonial Malaysia? Has any Malaysian since independence suffered from derhaka as a result of questioning how much the government pays the King? Plus with all that is happening in Malaysia, what purpose would making transparent the institution of Monarchy have?
Nice teaser and I must congratulate you for the courage to publish it. Open discussion on any topic is a central feature of any democratic society where the separation of powers of the three organs of state is institutionalised. There is no big brother watching us, and even if there is one, we can tell him to shove it. And should the Executive decide to take me to court via the Public Prosecutor, I can safely fall back on a generally independent judiciary to protect my fundamental liberties. This will never happen in Malaysia, not at least until we see a change in government.
We know what the game is all about. All these palatial fancies – are deemed necessary when Umno needs to call upon our royals for “National Service” – we saw that clearly in Perak. A RM1.1b Istana? What’s the big deal when we have political control at stake? After all, we still have the Petronas ATM.
I will use it to teach my children and share it with people around me.
We must teah / train our children to question authorities especially if it involves their [parents’] hard-earned money.
Thank you Rachel.
Merah Silu says
I share the view that there should be budget allocations for king and sultans. In fact I think the figures could be available, otherwise how could Parliment and DUNs approve their annual budget.
I also agree that the Agong and Sultans should be financially accountable, which I think they are. However, the issues related to king and sultans should be treated with care and respect although we are no longer practising the concept of absolute monarchy. Before the British came, they were the rulers of states in Peninsular Malaysia. To the decendents of immigrants, they are looking forward to abolish the monarchy which for Malay [Malaysians] is the history and the symbol of ketuanan Melayu as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
In [China and India], they overthrew and even killed their maharajas and emperors. For Malay [Malaysians], they love their sultans and in many cases, the sultans reciprocate by performing their duties responsibly. As Peninsular Malaysia is Tanah Melayu, our rulers should be given their due respect according to the traditional culture of the people of this country.
Frank Burlington says
I live in the US and Americans find royalties a kind of circus. They enjoy looking at the parades of royalty akin to a visit to Washington Zoo.
What were the Malaysian royalties’ ancestors is the question to ask Malaysians if they wish to prostrate in front of them.
Millions spent and not accountable? A life was lost for merely “suspected corruption” and the authorities were twisting their words from day one of the inquest!
I support the royalty if they are genuine and people friendly in terms of spending and not giving away titles at the drop of a pen.
How come a sate governor can give away titles when they are not the country’s head of state like the PM or King?
Malaysia has many unanswered questions which will be kept that way.
Keep up your good work Rachel! You are a God-send to the majority (98.89%) of Malaysians.
We do not have the rights to question and ask.
I wonder who is the main contractor. RM1.1 billion? Could have easily made RM700 million clean profits.
We do not deny the power of Agung, because we know this is a adat of Malay [Malaysians]. But whats’s up with all this nonsense? Is it important for the rakyat, spending millions on building a “symbol”?
Malaysia is a democratic country. Of course we respect the sultans, but we should not make them Maharajas. This is neither Thailand nor Japan – it is a constitutional monarchy which should be like the UK. But it is rather difficult because we have nine sultans.
What derhaka? Is questioning the powers of the Agong considered derhaka? What about the other nine monarchical states?
I must congratulate you for writing a ‘threshold’ article, putting to words what many Malaysians have been thinking for a long time. Of course, you are not talking only about a huge palace [but] a public expenditure of RM1.1 billion. What can result from your writing is more open discussion about the royalty and royal institutions.
We need to be mindful and concerned for their wellbeing in order to uphold the dignity of the institution. Because, according to the late Tun Ghafar, half of the world’s royal households are in Malaysia.
Also apparently under construction, a RM40million mansion for the ex-Premier as “ihsan” from 1Malaysia govt. Hopefully this will not balloon to RM100million. But then again, it’s only rakyat’s money.
I still can’t understand why have another istana in Jalan Duta. We already have two istanas, in Jalan Putra and in Putrajaya. Why the need to have three istanas in Selangor state, while travelling time takes less than an hour with those outriders and escorts.
Somebody, please enlighten all tax-payers.
They built a palace at a commercial area and next to the government departments so that there will be massive jams and also probably the PM’s [people] can keep an eye on the King through their telecopes from the Duta office. You don’t see the White House or Buckingham Palace shifting. […]
GM Nicky says
God bless you! For being the heroine to voice out what is unbecoming of our government in governing our nation today. Wastage has been piling up everyday, even as I am writing. But our government has no eyes to see that or propbably haven’t awakened yet to the dawn of their end days. It is a sad thing as the monies can be put to good use for the benefit of the poor and needy.
Grim Reaper says
Death is the greatest equalizer. The Grim Reaper spares no one. Royals and commoners, princes and paupers will surely meet their end.
But who goes to hell and who to heaven? Surely the rakyat in this country have overpaid their dues many times. Dare we hope for a role reversal in the afterlife? God is fair, is He not?
Let us also address the other ‘question’.
What’s to become of the ‘old istana’ along Jalan Syed Putra?
Will it be demolished for the sake of an urban renewal project similar to the fate of ‘Bok House’ or maintained as a heritage site?
Malaysia must have its historical artifacts kept intact for future generations to understand our unique past despite its diversity which I consider as priceless.
Otherwise, erasing the memory of one dream fulfilled negates the purpose of building another.
The rulers would not have asked for the palace. There are “better” things that they would rather prefer.
There are a lot of people trying to show their “loyalty” to the Sultan when in fact all they want is the contract. You can bet that somebody has got their fingers in that big pie. They know anybody who dares to question will be knocked down by “derhaka” accusations. Perhaps you should investigate – follow the money!
The other issue about the rulers that has been troubling a lot of people but never spoken about in public is the role of the Sultans and the royal families during the Japanese Occupation. We read in the British history books and we can infer what MacMichael and British Foreign Office people thought of the rulers role during the occupation. But, perhaps foreshadowing what is now upon us – Malay [Malaysians] jumped to defend “their” rulers despite the fact that they may have a lot to account for to the same people who are now defending them.
You can scour the history books – why this big black hole on the royal houses during the Japanese Occupation!
The rationale is quite simple; with the state bodies gobbling up huge chunk of prime land, the private sector will have to pay dearly for what is left!
Just look at those stately buildings in KL and you will realise that most are government or GLC buildings!
About the location of the new palace being less than dignified – I would like to know who proposed that location in the first place. The political dialectic of Malaysia would not be out of character if certain members of the executive branch of government were responsible for this choice – in the interest of choking the royalty. Perhaps the monarchs need to hire better risk managers.
Actually, do the rakyat have any say on the aforesaid matter? If ever they do, will anyone UP THERE listen?
Johnny Wong says
Great article and to a lesser mind it would be too difficult to fathom the idea of accountability what more by their “King” and/or monarchy? [Malay culture] is so [preoccupied with] “losing face”. If you would have read Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs, you would have a very good idea of these insecurities. So much so that [there are] all kinds of antics and tactics to maintain a “good” breed.
There’s a story going around (it’s making a few rounds from a few years ago) that Hang Tuah and his gang were Chinese from China and because of the shock to their ego, they had wipe out this part in our history books and lessons.
I think any intellectual discourse with any meaningful outcome will not happen any time soon on whatever subject matter between the many races in Malaysia. The rot of corruption has started many years ago with the cumulation in the present state of chaos our beloved country is in now. What’s your say on this?
Shouting ‘daulat tuanku’ by itself doesn’t mean that is a conclusive sign of an unquestionable support. Anyway, perhaps you haven’t seen footage of PR supporters lying on the roads and obstructing the sultan’s car in Perak to protest? At least they had the [guts] to do that. I’m not a die hard PR fan either, but that is one example of Malaysians outwardly questioning the royals here. The crisis in Perak was an event that made many Malaysians question the role of the sultan.
The right to information in regards to our royalty is one such example on why we need freedom of information and transparency in all aspects of public spending.
soul survivor says
There was an instance when Imam Nawawi was ordered by the sultan to give a fatwa to increase tax upon the people to finance the purchase of military arms for the state. And the imam’s famous response was, the sultan must sell all the gold and silver in the palace and those belonging to the ministers, only then if it was still insufficient (in that case it was in fact very much sufficient), the rest could be collected from the people! The sultan bowed to the ruling! All the present day sultans are a disgrace to their forefathers of the likes of Sultan Muzaffar Syah, Sultan Muhammad Syah, Sultan Mansor Syah and even ministers of the like of Tun Perak! They were all monarchs but humble and pious. They were true servants of the rakyat. Their descendants now have the duty to stop the present Umno establishment raping this country of its blessed wealth and resources. […]
Timely and beautifully written article from Rachel Leow. Personally, I wouldn’t make a big fuss about maintaining nine royal houses at public expense if the monarchs were scrupulous about: (i) maintaining political neutrality; (ii) religiously abstained from getting involved in business; (iii) setting a good example by not overly indulging in conspicuous consumption; and (iv) behaving in a less aloof, more accessible and human manner.
Mek Jar says
Well written article! I am also, like fellow commentor Anon, a republican. But I do say it quite openly, although it makes me a double derhaka, being a Malay Malaysian, to many. […]
Hafiz Noor Shams says
Technically, Malaysia has only seven sultans. The other two are a Raja (Perlis) and a Yamtuan Besar (NS).
pay and pay says
So what’s going to happen to the existing istana? And how many istanas are there in the whole of Malaysia (including Khor Toyo’s)?
Well, should all of us be equally treated on this earth? That’s the ultimate solution. It sounds so hard to achieve, but never to say it’s impossible.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
Nicholas Aw says
In Malaysia, a lot of things are deemed sensitive. But I think that most of these sensitivities usually come from a small sector of the population and that too of one particular race. Please correct me if I’m wrong as I stand corrected.
I watch with caution to see what kind of comments and remarks would come up from Rachael’s article. Perhaps sensitivities and blind loyalty are in-grained as can be traced back to the days of Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat. History tells us that Hang Tuah despite being ordered by the Sultan to be disposed of was still blindly loyal to the latter to the extent of a fight to the death against his blood-brother, Hang Jebat.
I sincerely hope this article and comments made by readers would not be construed as unpatriotic as open respectful discussion should be the norm of democratic Malaysia.
If this were to be the case, I say starting from next year we don’t pay any more income tax.
These royalties don’t do anything except spend, spend, spend, and we the taxpayers are the ones conned.
In Bolehland, everything is possible. I pray for the day where Malaysians are equal, and the people always come first.
Ban Yew says
Dear Rachel / Editor,
I read this article of yours with great interest. I think first of all, I would like to rebuff the fact that yes, 1.1 billion ringgit is indeed quite a lot of money but it is in financial times like these that the government needs to spend to keep the market afloat. I feel that your intentions are noble but the questions are not exactly spot on. I feel the right question to ask would be who is benefiting the most from a project of this magnitude. If the answer is one single Umno crony then, yes, this project is an absolute waste of money but if a group of local contractors and traders are benefiting from it, then I don’t see why we should not do it.
We should not blame the ‘Royals’ because we do not know whether it was their idea or their explicit requests for all the istanas being built. They do not control government expenditure. They follow instructions. That is why they are called figureheads.
I’m glad that most of the posts here are “civilized” to the manner that we all here agree that the new palace is one big question mark. In my opinion there really should be just one national palace in the country for the king. Wouldn’t it play a more beneficial role if one single palace houses our King? Wouldn’t it make more sense for history to continue in the existing palace? I feel that that way a sense of royal pride and heritage could actually continue. Moving the king from one palace to another seems really un-kingly and what about the stigma that the king/royals now carry with them? The rakyat on some level as it is have very little to say about the royals and this new palace is certainly going to epitomise what our royals are and have ultimately become. Personally what I am seeing is that our King is potentially going to move into a home that was constructed using our money and probably awarded to some crony in Umno to build it. How can our head of state associate himself with money politics and all its machinery? Very sad.
That absolutely amazing website called The Malaysian Insider has more facts and figures on this topic 😉
concern malaysian says
Enough is enough….
Only time will tell and can tell.
The people can cast their vote and decide during the next general election.
goh hung chung says
The bigger the white elephant, the more money will be needed to feed it. Expect maintenence costs to run into millions.
The only way to put a stop to this disguised corruption is to support the opposition and vote out the present government.
Thank you, Rachel, for this insightful and well-written article. Respecting the royalty is important, but shouldn’t their actions inspire that respect?
Cedric Ang says
We, of course, can question the money that they spend on the royalty. [But beware] the fine print: the ISA knocking on [our doors] the next morning.
Shamim Imran says
In my view, with regards to the present “still in use” Istana Negara on Jalan Syed Putra, I believe that the land will be redeveloped into prime property, with land prices in that area promising to fetch a higher premium as the government seeks more development within KL. Kampung Baru is probably slated for this growth too, as well as the area where Carcosa Seri Negara is located.
I’m quite certain it wasn’t the doing of the Royal Families of the nine states in asking for this new castle, as almost all have their own Istana Hinggap within the capital. It seems absurd in this day and age of scrutiny towards their role, importance, etc, for them to demand such things. Definitely this is the working of the ruling federal government of the Barisan Nasional, in making a few more Malay, Chinese and Indian [Malaysian] friends richer and richer. An unneccessary expense.
With regards to the position of the royal families, in relevance to what the author wrote about the British Royals, my view is that the ones asking the questions in Britain are the [Caucasians] themselves. Since they are the majority race in that country and are Christians, suffice to say pressure from the majority will force the government there to yield.
However, I do not see that happening in Malaysia. Do you honestly think the Malays would question their own allegiance to the royal families as a symbol, despite the cost of maintaining it? Remember that though you live in KL and other big cities where the population density heavily favours the Chinese in most areas, the nation’s demographics is still 60% Malay. Perhaps a few Malays, probably urban ones, are questioning the good or cost of having the royal families, but could you imagine the rural Malays taking such position too? A push for transparency as practised in Britain can only happen if the Malays themselves demand it, not any other race in this country.
This is quite a sensitive issue for many Malay [Malaysians]. With the non-Malays heavily dominating the economy, the final bastion of ownership the Malays have of this country is through political power and the monarchy. With the electorate also heavily in the Malay swing, change is unlikely to me, even if Keadilan, the DAP or any other non-Malay party comes to power.
Do not underestimate the fight the Malays will put up in defending their turf … Still a good article, but simply too idealistic for the present conditions in our country.
siew eng says
Ban Yew, how about spending all that money on this instead:
… while making sure that many, many, many local contractors and traders also benefit from the project?
Your article is just like any other anti-establishment article we can find thousands of on the internet. As a PhD student, you should be able to intelligently appreciate the “value” of Malaysia’s monarchy and not simply criticise every thing. Why don’t you dissect the position of the monarchy, which was already in existence long before your goodself was born, the “ownership and governance” of Tanah Melayu by the monarchy bringing Malaysia to where it is now! You see, Malaysia would not have progressed so much if the monarchy and the government did not do something “right”. RM1 billion is just a small sum of appreciation. So stop criticising everything. It is very easy for people like you to criticise and not give any positive feedback.
Half-truth again, good propaganda…telling the world we have nine sultans… […] what an abuse of soon- to-be “PhD” title.
My class teacher in Standard Four (a Malay lady, if that’s relevant to you) put it bluntly: “Agong berak pun tak bau wangi.” (Even the king’s crap doesn’t smell nice.) The first part is that we acknowledge royalty. The second part is that we acknowledge that they’re also human beings and citizens. I like the perspective of the British commenter who said that their royal family, since the Queen does not run the country any more, contributes to the country by being cultural ambassadors and patrons of sports and arts. Over here we don’t often see reports of the royals engaging with ordinary Malaysians or visitors in any substantial way.
Cool, questioning something in the constitution, why not bring out a topic like “Questioning the vernacular school”? Probably we all can turn Malaysia into chaos, isn’t this what the author is propagating sub-consciously? Perhaps she does not realise it?
Yes, we are blessed with half of [the world’s] functioning royal households in this country. So, we have the highest density of royalty per sq km. It’s a record of some sort.
It could also be the highest [royalty] per head of population.