Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Johor and NS princes in a brawl at nightclub

KUALA LUMPUR: An alleged thrashing of a member of Malaysia's royal household and his friends by the grandson of the Sultan of Johor and his bodyguards last week looks set to renew debate over the indiscretions of the royalty and whether they are immune from prosecution. [The Straits Times Singapore, 31/10/08]

This piece of news probably did not get too far in the Malaysian press as the latest incident involving a bust-up between two princes had cast some serious doubts over the immunity of royalties from prosecution over acts of crime or indecency.

Tunku Nadzimuddin Tunku Mudzaffar, the son of the eldest princess of the Negeri Sembilan royalty had filed a police report, implicating that he was assaulted with the butt of a pistol by a grandson of the Sultan of Johor. The accused was identified only as Tengku Ismail, whose father is one of the Sultan's sons.

The brawl between the groups of the two royal household was said to have taken place at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur in the early hours of Saturday which left Tunku Nadzimuddin with a broken nose. His close friend, Shamshuddhuha Ishak also filed a separate police report that he was beaten by the bodyguards of the Johor royal household member at a popular nightclub in Kuala Lumpur on the same day. Shamshuddhuha told the police he had lost consciousness and a front tooth after the alleged beatings.

Sources close to the Negeri Sembilan royalty said there was intense lobbying to get Tunku Nadzimuddin and his friends to withdraw the police report. That would explain the limited if not, non-existent coverage by the local press on the matter which could embarrass both the Johor and Negeri Sembilan royal houses. Nonetheless, the Negeri Sembilan royal family remained unfazed and had called on the police to launch an investigation.

Under the Federal Constitution, Malaysia's nine Sultans who are in an unique rotation to serve as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, are above prosecution by the civil law and can only be tried by a special court. On the other hand, members of the royal family below the level of Sultan do not enjoy such protection and have legal parity with commoners; giving allowances for them to be charged in a civil court.

In the early 1990s, former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad had pushed for constitutional amendments into removing royalty immunity from prosecution by civil laws. After all, everyone is equal before the law and members of the royal family are not exempted nor do they deserve any special treatment if a crime has been committed.