Can Johor Really Secede From Malaysia, As Claimed By TMJ?
In an interview with 'Fourth Official', a sports publication, Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim has claimed the southern state has a right to withdraw from Malaysia if it finds a breach to the terms agreed upon its membership of the Federation of Malaya.
Wait, what did the Crown Prince say exactly?
Acknowledging that while his views may be seen as instigating state-based sentiments, his main concern, as the future Sultan of Johor, was the people of Johor and his responsibilities will always go to the state first before the country. "Malaysia is important to me, but Johor and JDT will always come first," he was quoted as saying.
"People deserve to know, that the mess we have in the country right now, should in no way be associated to the Johor royal family. Over the years, we've always been strong and independent as well as resourceful."
"In fact, we only joined the Federation of Malaya, upon both parties agreeing to several basic terms. And if any one of those terms are breached, we have every right to secede from this country," said the Crown Prince to 'Fourth Official'.
And what are those terms of agreement he is referring to?
Johor agreed to join the Federation of Malaya on 3 conditions.
1. Making Islam the religion of the state
2. Johor's absolute right over water and land issues, and
3. The state Royal house to have its own armed forces.
However, this is not the first time that claims of Johor's secession from Malaysia has been made. A similar call was made in June this year by Tunku Ismail's younger brother, where he cautioned on Instagram that the southern state may secede from the country.
According to The Malay Mail Online, Tunku Idris Sultan Ibrahim had issued a reminder that the state had joined the Malay federation in 1946 on several conditions and if "any of these conditions are violated, then Johor will secede from Malaysia".
More recently, the call for Johor's secession from Malaysia has been picking up steam on the Internet. According to The Rakyat Post, social media posts depicting images of fake Johor currencies, followed by comments of people supporting possibility of a TMJ-led state government have been doing the rounds.
Coming to the point, so can Johor really secede from Malaysia?
You see, over the years, secession is something people of Sabah and Sarawak have often talked about, and been arrested for. Recently, four people from Sabah were charged with sedition for allegedly urging Sabah and Sarawak to leave Malaysia.
While the Federal Government withdrew an example of its definition of seditious tendencies regarding secession in its latest revision to its proposed changes to the Sedition Act 1948, the removal of that example, however, does not mean that encouraging others to seek for a state's secession is no longer considered seditious because such a demand is already seditious in the existing Sedition Act 1948.
What was the line in the original draft for the New Improved Sedition act that was used as a specific example of a Seditious Act?
On the other hand, according to Constitutional expert Dr. Abdul Aziz Bari, those who speak about secession from Malaysia should be investigated under the Sedition Act 1948, regardless of who they're
In an interview with Malaysiakini regarding Tunku Ismail's younger brother's post on Instagram, Dr. Abdul Aziz Bari had said the Attorney General and police should make a stand if the prince, Tunku Idris Sultan Ibrahim, had violated any law, in particular, the Sedition Act for his Instagram post.
"Only 9 Sultans enjoy legal impunity. The Johor prince does not have this privilege."
In addition to that, according to a lawyer named Kamal Hisham Jaafar, there is nothing in the Agreement made in 1885 and 1948 to state that Johor could break away from the Federation of Malaya
In short, there's no provision in the Federation Agreement allowing Johor to break away. Kamal claimed that the 1885 Agreement has long been overtaken by the 1948 Agreement and cannot be read together with the later accord.
"What's pertinent here is that the Sultan of Johor betrayed the people by becoming the first Sultan to surrender all powers to the British under the Malayan Union of 1946. The Johor Sultanate had nothing left after that. The Court even ruled that Sir Sultan Ibrahim was not a sovereign ruler and Johor was not a sovereign state," he said, adding that it was fortunate that there were some Malay leaders who fought the British to save Johor.
Furthermore, the Johor state's agreement with the Federation of Tanah Melayu, which touches on its right to secede from Malaysia, has actually became null and void after 31 August 1957 (Merdeka)
Universiti Malaysia Perlis’s Raja Malaysia Institutional Research Centre director Prof Datuk Dr Ramlah Adam said all agreements inked during the British colonial period are considered void automatically after Aug 31, 1957.
"These issues are over. The powers of the Malay royalty are now included in the Federal Constitution. However, the Federal government must respect the Johor state laws and should not intervene. The royalty still holds power," she said when contacted.
So can Johor secede or not?
There is still a little ambiguity on the whole "Johor can secede from Malaysia" thing, and while the experts claim that Johor cannot leave Malaysia, it is not entirely impossible.
Well, similar to the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, the Sultanate of Johor may simply ask the people of Johor what they really want in a Johorean Independence Referendum. However, there is no formal word on it from the Johor government.