Tunku Azizah, the ‘perfect Queen’

“Indeed, indeed, indeed.”

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah repeated the word “indeed” thrice, as his consort, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, seated right beside him in a sweet pink baju kurung, broke into a smile.

The Malaysian King was responding to Twentytwo13 managing editor Pearl Lee, who earlier said that looking at the Raja Permaisuri Agong’s initiatives throughout the past five years – through the good times, and epochal events in the nation’s history – Tunku Azizah had been the “perfect Queen”.

“She (Tunku Azizah) performed tremendously in her role as Queen, and as my wife,” Al-Sultan Abdullah, who turns 65 on July 30, added.

“I have to agree with you that she has given me a lot of semangat (spirit) to continue as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. There are many things that I discuss with the Raja Permaisuri Agong, some of which I can’t say here. And she has also advised me on certain things.”

“I make the decisions, not her,” Al-Sultan Abdullah quipped, drawing laughter from those present during an interview with selected media organisations at Istana Negara on Jan 3.

Al-Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah’s five-year reign as Malaysia’s King and Queen ends tomorrow, and they will head back to their home state of Pahang. Tunku Azizah’s brother, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar of Johor, will begin his reign as the 17th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Jan 31.

Tunku Azizah chipped in, saying she was the “suri permai” (beautiful lady) and not the Permaisuri (Queen).

“Tuanku Agong takes care of the country, I take care of the house,” she added.

But Al-Sultan Abdullah had more to say about the queen of his heart. During her time as Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Azizah was a staunch champion of Malaysian arts and crafts, promoting it locally and abroad. She was also actively involved in Girl Guides activities and shared her views on several global issues on the world stage.

Her role in promoting the Tenun Pahang DiRaja, for example, went beyond exhibitions in Malaysia. It was even featured at London Craft Week. Tunku Azizah is the driving force behind this initiative, which sees the participation of the Prisons Department of Malaysia and Kraftangan Malaysia. Under this unique programme, prisoners are taught to weave and produce Tenun Pahang DiRaja, providing them with a new, marketable skill, once they are released back into society.

Tunku Azizah is also a picture of calmness, confidence, and warmth, every time she is with Al-Sultan Abdullah.

“The role of the Queen stood out. She was close to the people and to the women folk. Closer to her heart, are the prisoners she worked with (under the Tenun Pahang DiRaja initiative).

“As a mother, as a wife … She has given me a lot of support. Alhamdulillah, I’m thankful.

“Thank you,” Al-Sultan Abdullah said as he hugged Tunku Aminah, and gave her a peck on the cheek.

Falling in love with Tenun Pahang

Tunku Aminah thanked Al-Sultan Abdullah for getting her involved in Tenun Pahang DiRaja.

“The interest (in tenun) is actually from Tuanku Agong. When I got married, and we were in the process of getting a child, which took a long time, Tuanku Agong came up to me and said ‘I think you should do something on Tenun Pahang’.

“I went to see it (the art) and fell in love with it. That’s how the journey started.”

Tunku Aminah said she couldn’t have done it without the support from the Malaysian government.

“I must thank the government, the (Tourism, Arts and Culture) ministry, Kraftangan Malaysia … they have helped, and taught me how to improve on the production of tenun and other crafts.

“I’m not alone in this (quest). The Prisons Department has been supportive as well. Tuanku Agong knows of my deep interest in the arts. I’m artistic and if I didn’t have that in me, I would not be able to go further.”

She added that one must have an interest in something.

“It’s hard work. Tuanku Agong encourages me in whatever I do. He gives me a free rein.

“But I know my limits, as he is the boss,” she said, breaking into laughter.