KUALA LUMPUR: Many Malaysians will remember the late Sultan of Kedah, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah as the only sultan to have served as Yang Di-Pertuan Agong twice.
This writer remembers the crucial role he played in complementing the government’s efforts to enhance bilateral relations with other nations
Not many people may be aware of the fact that the sultan always shared a close bond with Japan’s monarchy.
In fact, he forged his friendship with Emperor Akihito way back in 1970 when the sultan was Deputy Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and the latter was still the Crown Prince.
A friendship that remained strong
Despite their busy schedules in their respective nations, the two royals kept their friendship strong.
The first time they met was in 1970 when Emperor Akihito visited Malaysia. They met again in 1991 and 2006 when the emperor and his consort Empress Michiko visited Malaysia.
In 2012, Tuanku Abdul Halim and Emperor Akihito met again, this time in London during Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The interesting thing is that after Tuanku Abdul Halim was proclaimed Yang Di-Pertuan Agong a second time in 2011, Emperor Akihito wasted no time in sending him a royal invitation to visit the Land of the Rising Sun.
The sultan and the Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah set off for Japan in October 2012.
The Malaysian royal couple were accorded a state welcome and also attended a royal banquet in their honour at the palace.
Interestingly, in 2015 the two royals were listed by British daily “The Guardian” as among the world’s 10 longest-reigning monarchs.
In view of his close ties with Japan, it did not come as a surprise that Tuanku Abdul Halim was a firm supporter of Malaysia’s Look East policy.
In one of the speeches he had made, he called on youths in Malaysia and Japan to get to know each other better in order to perpetuate the friendly and harmonious relations the two countries currently share.
The sultan also reminded Malaysians residing in Japan to safeguard the nation’s good image during their stay there and to respect the culture and customs of the locals.
Diplomatic relations with China
Tuanku Abdul Halim had also contributed to pioneering diplomatic relations between Malaysia and China.
Why, it was during his reign as Yang Di-Pertuan Agong that Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak made the historic visit to China in 1974, thus paving the way for the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two nations.
As a visionary with a global and open mindset, Tuanku Abdul Halim had supported Tun Abdul Razak’s decision to meet Chinese Communist Revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Malaysia in October 2013, he also paid a courtesy call on Tuanku Abdul Halim, who was then the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong.
The following year, his majesty and his consort visited China where they were received by Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan.
It was rumoured that Xi had warmed up to Tuanku Abdul Halim so much that during a meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak later on, he (Xi) enquired, “How is my friend, Halim?”
LBJ and Obama
Tuanku Abdul Halim was Deputy Yang Di-Pertuan Agong when US President Lyndon B Johnson (LBJ) visited Malaysia in 1966. And, in 2014 when President Barrack Obama paid an official visit to Malaysia, he was serving as Yang Di-Pertuan Agong.
In his speech whilst paying a courtesy call on the King, Obama said he was impressed with the can-do spirit displayed by Malaysians.
At the same function, Tuanku Abdul Halim expressed his gratitude to Obama for his country’s assistance in efforts to locate the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 aircraft and added that it was a testament of the strong relations between the two countries.
He also stated that Malaysia would continue to foster strong ties with the United States as it is the foundation for the stability and prosperity of the world.
Contributions will always be remembered
During his reign as Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, his majesty helped Malaysia to fortify ties with nations such as the United Kingdom, Indonesia, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Thailand, Brunei, the Philippines, Swaziland, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic and Bahrain.
His official visits to Brunei, Myanmar, Vietnam and Singapore helped to cement Malaysia’s friendly relations with its Southeast Asian neighbours.
Backed by his clear vision, vast experience and competence, Tuanku Abdul Halim had succeeded in upholding the relevance of the institution of monarchy in tandem with the nation’s development.
Tuanku Abdul Halim’s contributions will always be remembered and he will be missed by all Malaysians. – Bernama