An ailing Malaysian sultan was under tight police security at a hospital yesterday after one of his palace guards was shot under mysterious circumstances amid a rare royal power struggle.
A feud between the sons of Sultan Tengku Ismail Petra, the constitutional ruler of northern Kelantan state, has thrown one of the country’s most prominent royal families into disarray and provided an unprecedented glimpse into behind-the-scenes palace intrigue.
The sultan has not spoken in public since the middle of last year because of heart problems that kept him hospitalized in Singapore for several months. He returned to Kelantan in February, but his condition remains a subject of deep speculation.
Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra, the state’s crown prince, ordered police late on Wednesday to step up vigilance at a Kelantan hospital where the 60-year-old sultan is receiving treatment, according to a palace statement.
A palace official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of administrative protocol, said the measure was prompted by “several incidents” in the past week, including a murder attempt on a palace guard who is in intensive care for severe chest wounds after being shot four times by an unknown assailant while returning from work.
Faris’ younger brother, Tengku Muhammad Fakhry, was questioned by police after the shooting, but authorities have not said whether they believe he was connected to it.
Faris, 40, is embroiled in a feud with Fakhry. He removed Fakhry in September last year from the state’s powerful Council of Succession, which determines who ascends to the throne.
State authorities apparently loyal to Faris prevented Fakhry from having the sultan sent back to Singapore for further treatment earlier this week, local news reports said without citing sources.
Fakhry’s representatives have indicated they believe the sultan is being held against his will at the Kelantan hospital.
Sultans and rajas are the hereditary titular heads in nine of Malaysia’s 13 states.
The royalty have mainly ceremonial responsibilities but command respect among the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, and it is rare for their disputes to spill open in public.
Kelantan has been the exception since last year, when a teenage Indonesian socialite married to the 31-year-old Fakhry fled to her home country, claiming her husband had tortured her.
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