Professor Mark R. Gillen
Faculty of Law University of Victoria Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
(Occasional Paper #6 1994 )
III. The Constitutional Amendments and the Events Leading up to the Amendments
A. The Gomez Incident
There were allegedly several incidents over the course of at least the previous twenty years in which Rulers and members of the royal families had abused their privileges.
However, the catalyst that brought these allegations into the open and was the linch-pin for the constitutional amendments was the Douglas Gomez incident.
Douglas Gomez was the coach of the Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar field hockey team. The team had made it to the semi-finals of the Malaysian Hockey Federation Milo Champion Schools Tournament.
Its semi-final match was to be held on Wednesday, November 25th, 1992. A few hours before the match Douglas Gomez was instructed to cause the team to withdraw from the match on an order from the Johor Education Department director.
This was just one of several withdrawals of Johor hockey teams from tournaments over several months prior to November 25th. Afterwards Douglas Gomez called for the resignation of all Johor Hockey Association principal office bearers and criticized the leadership for "destroying" hockey in the state.
This seemed to have little to do with any of the Malay Rulers.
However, Douglas Gomez was summoned to the Istana (or palace) Bukit Serene in Johor Baru on Monday, November 30th. He was there for four hours.
During the first hour he was briefed on palace etiquette and on how to ask for forgiveness if he made a mistake in his actions or communications with the Sultan.
The Sultan of Johor arrived and, according to Gomez, was surrounded by six men in jeans and T-shirts and 10-12 Johor Military Force personnel.
On Tuesday, December 1st, after his visit to the palace, Gomez sought treatment at a local private clinic for bruises to his face and stomach.
On Sunday, December 6th, he made a report to the police in which he alleged that he had been the victim of an assault while at the palace and that, although there were several people in the palace at the time, the only person responsible for his injuries was the Sultan himself.
The apparent connection between the Sultan of Johor, Douglas Gomez and field hockey was an event which occurred in July of 1993.
The Sultan's son, Tengku Abdul Majid Idris was alleged to have assaulted the Perak goalkeeper after a championship final game which Perak won on a penalty stroke.
The Malaysian Hockey Federation concluded that there was sufficient evidence that the assault had occurred and banned Tengku Majid from play for a period of five years. It was after this decision by the Malaysian Hockey Federation that the spate of withdrawals by Johor hockey teams from national tournaments began to occur.
B. Response to the Gomez Incident
The Gomez incident was followed by several days of news coverage in which outrage was expressed at the Gomez incident.
Reports in the following weeks contained allegations of other abuses by the Sultan of Johor and the Johor Royal family.
There were also allegations of abuses of privilege by other Rulers. For instance, the Pahang Royalty was alleged to be putting pressure on the Pahang Government and its forestry officials for more timber concessions in spite of substantial concessions that had been made over the previous four years.
There were other general allegations of excessive timber and land concessions being demanded by Royal families.
There were complaints that some Rulers refused to pay debts and otherwise refused to comply with contractual obligations relying on their immunity from civil actions.
There were allegations that the privilege of allowing Rulers to import luxury cars free of duty had been abused by obtaining import approval permits for cars for other members of the royal families and for friends of the royal families.
Concerns were also expressed with respect to alleged interference by Rulers in government affairs.
Caution regarding provisions of the Sedition Act, which deemed discussion of the issue of the Rulers' privileges to be an act of sedition, had apparently been thrown to the wind.
Reports of sedition were made against various persons including opposition MP Karpal Singh and even against the Prime Minister himself.
(Continue in PART 5)
- Part I: The Malay Rulers' Loss of Immunity - Historical Background
- Part 2: The Malay Rulers' Loss of Immunity - Historical Background (Contd)
- Part 3: The Malay Rulers' Loss of Immunity - Historical Background (Contd)
- Part 5: The Malay Rulers' Loss of Immunity - UMNO Makes the Move Against the Malay Rulers