KUALA LUMPUR – The government of Malaysia announced on Thursday a new law to protect the monarchy from insults and attacks after the surprise abdication of King Muhammad V.
Liew Vui Keong, a minister in the Department for Legal Affairs, said some existing laws will also be reformed to protect the monarchy. Harsher punishments would be established for offenses against that institution, he added.
“Ours is a constitutional monarchy. So, the government must always ensure that our rulers are protected from unfounded slander and attacks by irresponsible people,” the minister said, according to state news agency Bernama.
Liew said the government would study the laws of other constitutional monarchies in the Commonwealth.
The reforms come after Muhammad V, Sultan of Kelantan, unexpectedly announced on Sunday his resignation as Malaysia’s head of state without providing a reason.
The abdication follows the monarch’s marriage to 25-year-old Russian beauty queen Oksana Voevodina in November at a ceremony in Moscow.
At least three people have been arrested for allegedly posting insulting comments about Muhammad V on social media, and will be charged under the sedition law, which prescribes prison sentences of five to 20 years for offenders.
According to the Malaysian constitution, the king is the Commander-in-Chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces and represents the country at official events. The monarch is elected every five years from among the nine Sultans of Malaysia on a rotational basis.
The nine Sultans met on Monday and decided to convene a special meeting on Jan. 24 to elect a new king. The next monarch is set to be announced on Jan. 31.