Asia Sentinel Correspondent Accused of Insulting Malay Sultans

Jed Yoong, a Malaysia-based correspondent for the Asia Sentinel, was accused in a police complaint Friday morning of insulting the Malay royalty in her blog, primarily for a translation of a Malay-language document about the royalty that was written by a fellow blogger and member of the fundamentalist Islamic Parti Islam se-Malaysia.

The charge against Yoong was filed in the state of Johor by an individual named Irrawan Kamaruddin. In the complaint, Irrawan charged that Yoong's posting "has malicious intent to insult and bring down the prestige of the Malay Rajas" as well as delivering what he called "veiled insults towards Islam."

The allegedly insulting passages, which appeared in jedyoong.com, did not appear in Asia Sentinel.

Yoong is the second Asia Sentinel correspondent to be charged with insulting royalty. Last month, Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a political science professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, who published several articles criticizing the Thai royalty in Asia Sentinel. was charged with lese majeste for insulting the Thai royalty in passages of his 2006 book, "A Coup for the Rich." Ungpakorn, a dual Thai-British citizen, has since fled to the United Kingdom, charging he would be unable to get a fair trial in Thailand. Lese majeste in Thailand is punishable by a sentence of three to 15 years in prison. In addition, Thai authorities Friday also apparently blocked Asia Sentinel from readers in Thailand as well.

The document objected to by Irrawan actually was written in the Malay language by a blogger under the pseudonym Tulang Besi, translated as "bones of steel."

In his blog, Malay Waves, Tulang Besi wrote that Pas had been "cheated alive" twice by the Malay rajas who in the past denied them the chief ministership of the states of Kelantan and Kedah despite the fact that they held majorities in both states. It also accused the Kedah sultan of being a "parasite" on the state government and bearing responsibility for the fact that many Perak citizens are still poor.

The Malay sultans, the blogger wrote, are among other things a "legacy of colonialists and anti-Islam" whose predecessors ascended to the thrown due to British intervention and "were all slaves to the British at one time or another." The Pahang sultans, the article said, forced the resignation of the former Pahang chief minister because he refused to settle the palace's gambling debts in Las Vegas, the US gambling capital.

"It's funny that they targeted me because I translated a piece in Malay written by a Malay," Yoong said in an email. "I think they want to start some racial tension. She acknowledged, however, that her own written comments about the Tulang Besi piece included less-than-complimentary references to the lifestyles of several of the sultans, who she said are resented by rank-and-file Malays.

She also posted part of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad's 1993 speech to the Dewan Rakyat, or parliament, in which he tabled a motion to remove the sultans' immunity from criminal prosecution. In the speech, Mahathir delivered a scathing denunciation of the royalty, saying they had agreed to hand over Malay states to British colonialists after WWII, giving up Singapore, Penang and Malacca.

Malaysia has been the scene of rising tension in the past 10 days with the fall of the opposition-led Perak state government, which was pushed out of a power in a coup by the Barisan Nasional, or ruling national coalition after several members of the Pakatan Rakyat quit. Sultan Raja Aslan Shah almost immediately declared that the Pakatan government no longer had a mandate to rule and appointed a member of the United Malays National Organisation as chief minister.

That led to a squabble in which the ousted chief minister, Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin, refused to vacate his office and said he would defy the sultan to his dying breath, although ultimately the UMNO faction took charge of the state.

Karpal Singh, the chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party, said he would file suit against the sultan's decision, which spurred scores of UMNO members to file similar charges against him for insulting the royalty.