13 September, 2010

Kelantan Regent Tengku Muhammad Faris takes over throne amid bitter feud

Kelantan Regent Tengku Muhammad Faris has been proclaimed the 29th sultan of Kelantan, amidst claims that there is an attempt by 'conspirators' to oust his father from the throne, given a rare glimpse into behind-the-scenes court intrigue.

Menteri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat made the announcement about 12.30pm today, adding that the installation will be held “soon”.

However, the date has not been fixed.

He said the Council of Succession had decided on the succession this morning.

The proclamation ceremony ended in 15 minutes, with Nik Aziz reciting verses from the Quran.

Members of the royal family and state assemblypersons had gathered at the Istana Balai Besar in Kota Bharu since 11.30am for the ceremony.

Sources confirmed that Sultan Ismail Petra Yahya Petra, his consort Raja Perempuan of Kelantan Tengku Anis Tengku Hamid and their third son Tengku Temenggong Tengku Muhammad Fakhry were not present.

However, Tengku Bendahara Tengku Muhammed Faiz Petra and the rest of the royal family, including two of the sultan's elder sisters - Tengku Rozan Petra and Tengku Salwani Petra - attended the ceremony.

Yesterday, Sultan Ismail Petra's eldest sister Tengku Merjan Sultan Yahya Petra had claimed in a statement that “conspirators” were trying to oust the incumbent ruler.

She said the state constitution declares that the sultan can only be replaced upon his death, or if he is absent without valid reason from the state for more than 12 months, or through abdication.

“Any attempt to remove a sultan by any other means would be tantamount to a coup d'etat,” she said.

Tengku Merjan did not attend the proclamation ceremony.

Faris has been embroiled in a public dispute with his brother, Tengku Muhammad Fakhry, since their father, Tengku Ismail Petra, fell ill more than a year ago. The feud has embarrassed one of the country's most prominent royal households by exposing their previously little-known rivalries.

Faris' ascension to the throne is unlikely to end the power struggle. Ismail's lawyer Rashid Zulkifli said in a statement issued Sunday that the father would challenge Faris' installation as being unlawful.

Ismail has been ill with heart problems since mid-2009. Last September, Faris removed Fakhry, his brother, from the state's powerful Council of Succession. Earlier this year, assailants shot a palace guard under mysterious circumstances. He later died.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri Aziz said the federal government considers as valid the appointment of Regent Tengku Mohamad Faris Petra as Kelantan's new ruler.

“It falls under the jurisdiction of the council of succession,” said the de facto law minister today, “And the federal government accepts whatever the decision that the council comes up with.”

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