Malaysia’s king Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin has been dragged into last weekend rioting by 500 opposition party supporters that injured seven people when police broke up an illegal rally in his oil-rich northeastern Terengganu state.
The Star newspaper today quoted Johari Baharum, the Internal Security Deputy Minister, as saying that police had disallowed the rally calling for free and fair elections because it “was being held near the Sultan’s palace and government quarters.”
Opposition parties must get police approval to hold public meetings and Johari said the Saturday night riot would not have happened had the meeting organised by Bersih, a political pressure group seeking electoral reforms, been “held in a building where the organiser could control the crowd.”
Sultan Mizan and eight other hereditary Malay rulers have been at odds with prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi over their power to influence administrative decisions.
Abdullah says the king and the rulers, who elect one among themselves to the throne every five years, have only a ceremonial role. The rulers say the Malaysian constitution gives them the right to act as a “healthy check and balance” of the government.
Reuters news agency reported that Kamarudin Jaffar, a leader of the Islamist party Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), blamed the police for the attack on civilians.