Constructive criticism by journalists helped build my character, made me a better man, says Al-Sultan Abdullah

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah paid tribute to members of the press who had criticised him during his days helming sports associations, with the tribute putting many in power today to shame.

At a time when those in power shied away, banned, or even sought legal redress when criticised by the media, the Malaysian King said that it was those criticisms, over the years, that helped build his character and made him a better man.

“Those days, I have to say, all those critics, really made me into a better man,” said Al-Sultan Abdullah at the Sports Flame event, a gathering of the nation’s former elite athletes and several media personalities, at the Concorde Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

“You (journalists) moulded my character. All my years in football and hockey… you guys really built up my character. I became stronger, and more caring as well,” he added.

Al-Sultan Abdullah’s father, the late Sultan Ahmad Shah, was also a reporter’s delight and accepted constructive criticism.

Such words are timely as a growing number of politicians, ranking civil servants, including those from enforcement agencies, and corporate leaders, seem to be restricting access to members of the press to functions, and even WhatsApp groups. Some media practitioners have been ‘banned’ from functions, or from asking questions. Others have even resorted to issuing legal threats to silence media organisations.

Those who cannot stand criticism often believe they are a part of an “agenda” to bring them down, as they continue living in their self-made bubble of denial.

There is also the double standards when it comes to local and foreign media, with these ‘snowflake’ leaders giddy with excitement, like little schoolkids being handed shiny new toys, when they appear on foreign news channels like the BBC or Al-Jazeera.

This explains why they don’t have the character Al-Sultan Abdullah speaks about.

At the event, Al-Sultan Abdullah also spoke about his five years as King.

“I’ve served the people. I gave my heart and soul to the people, especially with my beloved wife, the Raja Permaisuri Agong (Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah). She has done more than me, actually, and deserves a round of applause.

“Of course, no King is  perfect. We are only human. We always try our best. I hope when we’re back in Pahang, please don’t forget us (laughs), please visit us in Pahang and we can have a (Sports Flame) gathering in Pahang someday. We will be happy to host you in Pahang.”

Al-Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah singing Kuch Kuch Hota Hai at the event.

Sports Flame is an initiative by four former sports journalists, Datuk Lazarus Rokk, Datuk George Das, Datuk Fauzi Omar, and R. Velu. They have been organising these gatherings since 2011. This year’s edition, attended by almost 200 former national athletes and journalists, was held in collaboration with Free Malaysia Today.

Among the stars of yesteryears who attended were Tan Sri M. Jegathesan, Datuk Santokh Singh, Reduan Abdullah, Stephen van Huizen, Kevin Nunis, Datuk R. Yogeswaran, Datuk Marina Chin, Datuk Zaiton Othman, G. Shanti, and Noraseela Khalid. Some of the media personalities present were Datuk Dr Johnson Fernandez, James Ritchie, Frankie D’ Cruz and Nelson Fernandez.

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