Malaysia royals to pick new king after Muhhammad V abdication

Sultan Muhammad V’s abdication comes after he reportedly married a former Russian beauty queen in November while on medical leave. (AP)
Updated 07 January 2019
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Malaysia royals to pick new king after Muhhammad V abdication

  • Sultan Muhammad V’s resignation as Malaysia’s 15th king marks the first abdication in the nation’s history

By EILEEN NG | AP
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia’s royal families will meet on January 24 to pick a new king after Sultan Muhammad V abdicated unexpectedly after just two years on the throne, an official said Monday.
The 49-year-old ruler resigned Sunday as Malaysia’s 15th king, marking the first abdication in the nation’s history and cutting short his five-year term. No reason was given, but the move came after he reportedly married a 25-year-old former Russian beauty queen in November while on medical leave.
Keeper of the Ruler’s Seal, Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, said the Council of Rulers held a meeting Monday and set Jan. 24 to elect a new king. He said in a statement that the new king would be sworn in on January 31.
The council comprises nine hereditary state rulers who take turns as Malaysia’s king for five-year terms. Malaysia is the only country in the world to have a rotational monarchy under a unique system maintained since the country’s independence from Britain in 1957.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said earlier Monday that it was up to the Council of Rulers to pick the new king, but added that he hoped it would be done quickly.
During his first stint as prime minister for 22 years until his retirement in 2003, Mahathir pushed through constitutional amendments that stripped the sultans’ power to veto state and federal legislation, and curbed their legal immunity.
The monarch’s role is largely ceremonial, since administrative power is vested in the prime minister and parliament. But the monarch is highly regarded, particularly among the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, as the supreme upholder of Islam and Malay tradition.
Still, some sultans have in recent years become more active in business and politics. Sultan Muhammad V delayed Mahathir’s swearing-in as prime minister after a historic election victory in May last year, and also delayed giving his consent to the appointment of a non-Muslim attorney general.
Sultan Muhammad V was installed as king in December 2016. He was one of Malaysia’s youngest constitutional monarchs and has a love for extreme sports.
Reports in Russian and British media and on social media featured photos of his wedding with a former Miss Moscow that reportedly took place in Moscow. Neither the sultan, the palace nor the government had officially confirmed the wedding.
Speculation that Sultan Muhammad V would step down emerged last week, shortly after he returned from a two-month leave, but Mahathir had said Friday that he was unaware of any abdication plans.
National police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun warned the public Monday not to speculate on Sultan Muhammad V’s abdication. He was quoted as saying by local media that police had received several reports of provocative statements being made on social media and were investigating.
Next in line for the top job is Sultan Azlan Shah of central Pahang state, who was king from 1979 to 1984, but the 88-year-old is now unwell and didn’t attend Monday’s council meeting. Some observers said he can abdicate in favor of his son, who can become king.
After Pahang is the billionaire Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of southern Johor state, who is involved in business, owns a fleet of jets and loves Harley-Davidson motorcycles.


Pentagon authorizes $1 bn for Trump’s border wall

Updated 49 sec ago
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Pentagon authorizes $1 bn for Trump’s border wall

  • The wall will run for 92 kilometres of 5.5-meter fencing
  • Acting defense secretary said federal law allows the Pentagon to build infrastructure on the US border
WASHINGTON: Acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan has authorized $1 billion to build part of the wall sought by Donald Trump along the US-Mexico border, the first funds designated for the project under the president’s emergency declaration.
The Department of Homeland Security asked the Pentagon to build 92 kilometres of 5.5-meter fencing, construct and improve roads, and install lighting to support Trump’s emergency declaration.
Shanahan “authorized the commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers to begin planning and executing up to $1 billion in support to the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol,” a Pentagon statement issued late Monday read.
The acting defense secretary cited a federal law that he said gives the Pentagon broad authority to build infrastructure “across international boundaries of the United States in support of counter-narcotic activities of federal law enforcement agencies.”
The statement was released a day before Shanahan was due to testify in Congress to present and defend the Pentagon’s draft budget.
The White House has laid out an ambitious 2020 budget proposal which contains $8.6 billion in new wall funding, above the $5.7 billion Trump sought for this year.
Frustrated by Congress’s refusal to provide the budget he wanted, Trump declared a national emergency last month.
The White House has signalled it will seek to repurpose some $6 billion from military funds, without specifying which Pentagon programs would be slashed.
The move drew condemnation from both the president’s rival Democrats and fellow Republicans, who warned it was an abuse of presidential powers and created a dangerous precedent.
Trump has made border security an over-arching domestic issue and says it will remain at the centre of the agenda in his 2020 re-election bid.
Although there has been a surge in arrival of families and children at the border, overall apprehensions at the frontier are down substantially from a decade or more ago.
There have also been reported misgivings within the military, including from America’s top marine who last week warned that deployments to the US-Mexico border pose an “unacceptable risk” to the force, according to documents obtained by The Los Angeles Times.
In memos addressed to acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan and Navy secretary Richard Spencer, General Robert Neller wrote that he had been forced to cancel or reduce exercises in five countries.
Neller added the declaration meant the corps could not afford to rebuild hurricane-hit bases in North Carolina and Georgia.
“The hurricane season is only three months away... and we have Marines, Sailors, and civilians working in compromised structures,” Neller wrote.
The declaration has also been challenged by 16 states which sued the administration last month, contending the order was contrary to the constitution’s presentment and appropriations clauses, which outline legislative procedures and define Congress as the final arbiter of public funds.
The lawsuit also questioned Trump’s categorization of illegal border crossings as a national emergency, saying data issued by the administration itself refuted the notion.
Should the states prevail, the case could work its way up to the Supreme Court, setting up a precedent-setting showdown on the separation of powers.