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Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar of Johor and Prime Miniser Dr Mahathir Mohamad in a blue Proton Saga. (Image by The Malaysian Insight)

Mahathir and Sultan of Johor meet for the first time in 20 years

It appears Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are back on speaking terms. On Thursday (10 Jan), Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar was seen driving the Prime Minister to Johor’s Senai airport after a meeting.

Dr Mahathir said that the last time the two of them had met was more than 20 years ago when DR M left office after his first run as PM

Since Dr Mahathir came back into power after last year's historic general elections in Malaysia, tensions have been running high between the premier and Johor's ruler. In August 2018, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia would bar foreigners from buying residential units at Johor's US$100 billion Forest City project.

In December 2018, a verbal spat was sparked between Dr Mahathir and the Johor Crown Prince Tunki Ismail Sultan Ibrahim when the Prime Minister took issue with the Sultan's conversion of Pulau Kukup in southern Johor from a national park to sultanate land.

Now, Dr Mahathir said that he and the Sultan had a frank exchange of views and both agreed to keep the lines of communication open to avoid any potential misunderstandings. He added that they also agreed to communicate honestly and not hide behind issues.

“I can communicate with him. We agreed to be frank, say things directly, not keep them hidden. He gave his views and I gave mine”. The PM said that they spoke about people’s perceptions of Johor’s ruler and the Sultan appeared to accept them well.

“We agreed in future if there was any problem, I would contact Tuanku”, he told reporters after his meeting with the sultan at Istana Bukit Serene in Johor Baru

About the upcoming election of the Malaysian King, Dr Mahathir said it is for the Council of Ruler’s to decide and has nothing to do with him. He added, “we talked normally. All types of problems were discussed but I don’t have to disclose them”.

After the meeting, Sultan Ibrahim drove the PM to the airport in a first generation Proton Saga. The blue car was gifted to Sultan Ibrahim’s father Sultan Iskandar by the federal government in 1985. Sultan Iskandar was the King of Malaysia at the time while Dr Mahathir was serving his first run as Prime Minister.

The car is 34 years old and Dr Mahathir noted that it is proof that Proton had the capacity to build quality vehicles. “The car is good. I gave it to his father in Kuala Lumpur. It’s a manual and its clock still works and it drives good,” said Dr Mahathir.

He added that it’s a good endorsement for Proton, noting that the car was only priced at RM17,000 when it was new and had since clocked 22,000km.

Personally, I don’t know if that’s considered a great endorsement. 22,000km over 34 years means that car has travelled just under 2km per day on average. It has obviously barely been used and it’s being maintained by the Sultan of Johor who is undeniably better financially equipped to excellently maintain his entire fleet of vehicles. The average citizen who owns a Proton would probably disagree with Dr Mahathir’s assessment of Proton cars.