JOHOR BARU: It was a historic occasion for the Chinese community when Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar hosted a tea party for 58 of their leaders at Istana Besar here.
This was the first time in 65 years that a tea party has been held in Istana Besar’s Chinese Hall.
The last such an event had been held was in 1951, and it was hosted by the Ruler’s great-grandfather, Almarhum Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar.
The hall is adjacent to the Sultan Abu Bakar Royal Museum and is located on palace grounds. It is decorated with gold-plated plaques that were presented by Chinese community leaders to past rulers in the state over the years.
Sultan Ibrahim paid tribute to the Chinese community, who he said had remained loyal and helped develop the state for over 200 years.
He pointed out that the hall was an example of the good ties forged between the palace and the community.
“The hall was a gift from the Chinese kapitan that lived in Johor and Singapore to Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar back in 1875 as a sign of appreciation and loyalty.
“Chinese leaders at that time, Datuk Tan Hiok Nee and Seah Thye Heng were appointed as state assembly members to help administer and develop Johor’s economy,” he said in his decree during the event held on Sept 21.
Sultan Ibrahim pointed out that this clearly showed Chinese involvement in developing Johor had begun a long time ago.
“They had a good relationship with the palace.
“Sultan Abu Bakar had sailed to China to establish bilateral ties and was conferred the Order of the Double Dragon by the Chinese Emperor in 1892,” he said.
The ruler also stressed that since he had reintroduced the Bangsa Johor concept, which was begun by Almarhum Sultan Ibrahim in 1920s, he felt unity among therakyat had become stronger.
He said every community in Johor should be proud to be part of Bangsa Johor which does not differentiate race and this spirit of unity should be strengthened further.
“The Chinese in Johor have been tolerant, respected others, adhered to the rule of law and stayed loyal to the Sultan.
“I appreciate their way of life, which is to work hard,” he said.
Local Chinese community leaders described their meeting with Sultan Ibrahim as an historic event.
State Tourism, Domestic Trade and Consumerism Committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong said the event was an example of how the Bangsa Johor concept had united all races.
“We are very proud and honoured to represent our community and have the event together with Sultan Ibrahim.
“This shows that Sultan Ibrahim cares about the well-being of his rakyat whatever their race or religion,” he said.
Tiong Hua Johor Baru Association president Datuk Seri Tey Kim Thai said they helped organised the meeting between Chinese leaders and Sultan Ibrahim.
“This is not the first time that Sultan Ibrahim had attended an event with the Chinese community.
“Over the years, the Ruler has attended the Chingay parade and other festivals,” he said.
Johor Hakka Association deputy chairman Choon Khoon Quck said the Chinese community has always respected and loved the Johor royal family.
“They have always emphasised the importance of unity among the rakyat, which has helped create stability in the state.
“The event has also helped the Chinese community forge even closer ties with the palace,” he said.
National Hakka Association president Datuk Steve Chong said the Sultan stressed the importance of unity which is important to move the country forward.
“As leaders, we will make sure that the Sultan’s message about unity will reach the community,” he said.
The leaders also took an oath pledging allegiance to Sultan Ibrahim.