The Raja Permaisuri Agong told the Chinese media here about her Chinese heritage and how she can speak certain Chinese dialects.
Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Iskandar, who is the wife of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, shared her family history with its ties going back to Guangdong, China.
“I am a Cantonese, I know how to speak a bit of Cantonese, a bit of Hokkien,” she said in an interview which was published by Sin Chew Daily today.
“If I go to China to search for my roots, maybe I can even find the ancestral house, may also find the fourth-generation descendants, no matter it is Ong or Wong, I confirm that I am a Raja Permaisuri Agong with Chinese lineage,” she added.
The Raja Permaisuri Agong is from the Johor royal family, where Sultan Abu Bakar had in 1885 married a rich Chinese merchant’s daughter named Wong Ah Gew who then became Sultanah Fatimah.
“She was from a very rich merchant family, it was said they were the rich ones in Singapore, just like that movie Crazy Rich Asians, very rich,” she was also quoted saying.
She said Sultanah Fatimah gave birth to two daughters and had no sons, but ensured Chinese heritage remained within the Johor royal family after arranging for her two sisters to be married to members of the royalty.
In the same interview, Tunku Azizah spoke of her late father Sultan Iskandar’s joke during her childhood of having purportedly picked her up from China.
“When I was young, I had a cross-eye issue, when wearing the sharp-angled spectacles like what Lydia Shum wore, I really looked like a Chinese,” she said, referring to the famous Hong Kong actress.
“There was once, because the birth certificate was lost, my father told me ‘We picked you up from a rubbish bin in China, now you lost your birth certificate, we have to chop you up piece by piece, to cook as curry and eat, for you to be reborn,” she said, adding that she kept on crying then as was afraid she would really be cooked in a curry.
Her family also gave her a Chinese nickname as she looked like singer Jenny Tseng when she wore spectacles.
She shared that her stern father liked to crack jokes and that she is talkative, while her husband would listen to her talk.
According to Sin Chew Daily, Tunku Azizah was just like any other child during her school days, where she would get punished by her teacher for forgetting to do her homework during primary school but not tell her parents for fear of being caned by her father.
She also said she hated mathematics and science subjects in her secondary school days and spoke of her fear whenever she failed these two subjects.
“Afraid of being caned by father, I would secretly sign the report card, when father asked, I would say ‘You already signed it, you just forgot,” she said.
Tunku Azizah is well-known in Kuantan for being down to earth as shown by her friendship with a handphone shop assistant named Keat when she was still the consort of the Pahang crown prince (who is now the Agong).
She had purchased her mobile phone from Keat, who kept calling her “Kakak” or elder sister in Malay without knowing her status.
Relating an incident where she was strolling in Plaza Kuantan with a friend, she said Keat had from afar shouted “Kakak” as he ran towards her; her friend was mortified.
When her friend asked if Keat knew her identity, Keat said he only knew she was his customer who had purchased a phone from him.
“We laughed, I told Keat, never mind, I like you shouting ‘Kakak’ to call me, next time call me like this,” she was quoted saying by Sin Chew Daily, adding that Keat said ‘Kakak’ treated him well unlike another famous customer with poor attitude who requested delivery for a small purchase and even changed the delivery location.
When asked how she would like Malaysians to call her, she said: “Just call me Kakak, if want to call me nenek, popo, nana, also can, everyone also calls me like that, no problem.”
She said Keat has since moved to Australia and only found out that she is now the Raja Permaisuri Agong after reading the papers when he returned.
“He called to congratulate me, said he must gift me a present…on the phone, he still called me Kakak,” she said.
Young Robert Kuok borrowed 3,000 dollars from Johor royalty to start his business
When he was a young man, Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok borrowed 3,000 dollars from the Johor royal family to start his business, the Raja Permaisuri Agong said.
Tunku Azizah said Kuok’s parents at that time supplied daily necessities to the military, adding that the Johor royal family was naturally in close contact with him.
She remembered that it was after World War II when the young Kuok asked for the loan. “One day, Robert Kuok came to find us, requesting to borrow 3,000 dollars, to let him start an enterprise.
“I don’t really recall the details, but I know my grandmother took my father’s – Sultan Iskandar – savings to lend to Robert Kuok to let him start his business.
“I believe he has already returned the money…at that time, 3,000 dollars is a very large sum! My father at that time was only a child, to be able to have 3,000 dollars in savings was quite remarkable!” she was quoted saying by Sin Chew Daily.
(The currency used at that time in Malaya was referred to as dollars.)
She said she mentioned the incident to Kuok when she met him in Hong Kong years later when he was already successful.
“He still remembered, but he candidly told me he really did not know it was Sultan Iskandar’s savings…really did not know.
“This is what I want the ethnic Chinese to know, it’s a pity that he did not write about this past incident in his autobiography,” she was quoted saying, referring to Kuok’s book.
She said her late father Sultan Iskandar had, as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, voluntarily offered to grant Kuok the honorary title of “Tan Sri”, but the latter had turned down the offer and insisted on not being given the honour.
“I really respect Robert Kuok, and also want to invite him to attend the installation ceremony, really hope he can attend last time when I met him he was already 89. You know he shows filial piety to his mother, that time when he started out in business, no matter what business decision, he would consult his mother, his mother’s residence was in Johor!” she said in the interview.
Tunku Azizah is the daughter of the late Johor ruler Sultan Iskandar and the sister of current Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim.
She is the wife of Pahang ruler Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, who will be installed as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on July 30. – MMO