Mon, Nov 19, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Malaysian sultan urges people to shun protests

AP , KUALA LUMPUR

A Malaysian state sultan has urged people to shun opposition-led street demonstrations calling for electoral reforms, saying the country's royalty still firmly supports the government, according to news reports yesterday.

Sultan Ahmad Shah, the ruler of eastern Pahang State, said protests are not part of the country's culture, adding that they are "not nice, improper and against the wishes of all Malaysians," the Star newspaper reported.

Activists rallied on Nov. 10 in what turned out to be Malaysia's biggest political protest in nearly a decade. They had hoped that royal intervention would bolster their calls for electoral reforms.

Each of Malaysia's nine hereditary state sultans take turns as the country's constitutional monarch for five-year terms under a system introduced near the end of colonial rule. The current king comes from northeastern Terengganu State.

Opposition groups that organized the recent rally in Kuala Lumpur said 30,000 people defied a government ban on the event by marching to the royal palace, where activists handed over a petition addressed to the king. Police put the number at 4,000, and said nearly 250 people were detained.

In a rare media statement, King Mizan Zainal Abidin on Friday expressed regret over the rally and dismissed claims that he had approved or supported it.

Sultan Ahmad, speaking to reporters on Saturday in Pahang, said the sultans do not want to be dragged into politics.

"As rulers, we support the government which gets its mandate from the people," Ahmad was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times newspaper. "The government needs full support from the people in order to develop the country."

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