Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah (right) with Premier Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at the Sibu Central Market on Sept 12, 2023. – Bernama photo

KUCHING (Sept 14): The Kembara Kenali Borneo, an epic 11-day royal road tour that sparked extraordinary phenomena, not only demonstrated the people’s love for their King but also the Ruler’s concern for the people and their lives in Sabah and Sarawak, hence manifesting the spirit of “Raja dan Rakyat Berpisah Tiada (The Ruler and the people are inseparable).

The tour has indeed created history when, for the first time, the nation witnessed the Head of State going down to the ground to meet with rural people of Sabah and Sarawak, mingling comfortably with the locals of various ethnicities, customs, and unique cultures.

The tour undertaken by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, as well as their children, not only fulfilled Their Majesties’ dream of meeting the people in the interiors of Sabah and Sarawak, but also learning about the people’s aspirations, grievances and hunger for development.

Wanting to experience the “journey of life” of the people in the Land Below the Wind and the Land of the Hornbills, Al-Sultan Abdullah willingly took the wheel of a four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle to cover a distance of more than 2,332 kilometres, exceeding the original estimate of 2,154 kilometres, along the Pan Borneo Highway, which connects Sabah, Sarawak, and Brunei, as reported by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Air Operations Commander Brig Gen Datuk Mohamed Zahari Yahya.

“His Majesty’s travelling period is 87 hours 40 minutes in total driving time (over that 11 days). That’s awesome,” he told Bernama in an exclusive interview here.

Mohamed Zahari, who is the Kembara Kenali Borneo chief operating officer, said that the primary objective of fulfilling the dream of Their Majesties was achieved when the royal couple’s desire to spend time and experience the lives and unique cultures of the people in Sabah and Sarawak was fulfilled through various programmes and events.

“From driving along the Pan Borneo Highway and getting the taste of local food and culture…I think meeting with the people was the best part for Their Majesties as they were so happy and touched by the tremendous welcome, as well as the love and support they received from the people of Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

Datuk Mohamed Zahari Yahya

The royal entourage in Sarawak also included their three sons, namely Pahang Regent Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, Tengku Panglima Raja Colonel Tengku Amir Nasser Ibrahim Shah and Tengku Ahmad Ismail Mu’adzam Shah.

In Sabah, the convoy was also participated by Their Majesties’ four other children – Tengku Arif Bendahara Tengku Muhammad Iskandar Ri’ayatuddin Shah, Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Jihan Azizah ‘Athiyatullah, Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Ilisha Ameera and Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Ilyana.

The Kembara Kenali Borneo convoy’s journey began from KM 0 in Tawau, Sabah, on Sept 3, and ended at KM 0 in Telok Melano, in southern Sarawak yesterday.

Bernama reporter who covered the tour witnessed firsthand the excitement of the people waiting and lining up by the roadsides, sometimes for hours, to welcome the royal family and cheer them on their journey.

Whether it’s day or night, rain or shine, the people were willing to wait to catch a glimpse of the King, the Queen and the royal children, while chanting “Daulat Tuanku, “We love you, Tuanku” and “Thank you, Tuanku”, hence proving their warm hospitality and sincerity.

Mohamed Zahari said most of the people were obviously excited and happy to see Al-Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah up close, as it was the first and only opportunity for the residents in the interior of Sabah and Sarawak to meet the royal couple.

Most of them agreed that it was worth the wait, he said.

Mohamed Zahari said the “sea of people” at every stop also proved that Al-Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah are the beloved icons of the entire nation because of their friendly and approachable personalities.

Furthermore, he said that all the royal family members also possess the same personalities as Their Majesties and that this should serve as an example for all Malaysians.

Mohamed Zahari, who has served as the Royal Aide-de-Camp to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for over four years, admitted that they did not anticipate such an overwhelming welcome, to the extent that some stops were not strictly followed according to the schedule or had to be skipped.

Indeed, he said it would be a sweet and unforgettable memory for the royal family and the entire Kembara Kenali Borneo delegation.

“It was really nice and very touching to see this, we didn’t even know them, but we are all Malaysians and this is the spirit of unity in Malaysia, which aligns well with the spirit of Malaysia MADANI…the warmth shown by the people can be felt by all of us,” he said.

He said the people were also fortunate to see how Al-Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah were deeply concerned about the infrastructure issues in Sabah and Sarawak and how Their Majesties were so open to hearing and personally recording the complaints and grievances of the people.

“Any complaint given by the people, the King took note of it. The Queen also recorded whatever problem raised by the people. His Majesty even said that he would take issues faced by the people of Sabah and Sarawak to the government’s attention,” Mohamed Zahari said, believing that the Kembara Kenali Borneo brought blessings to the people of Sabah and Sarawak.

Concluding the interview, Mohamed Zahari expressed his appreciation to all parties involved in the success of Kembara Kenali Borneo, especially to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, the governments of Sabah and Sarawak, various related agencies, and the Government of Brunei during the royal delegation’s stay in the country on Sept 7 and 8.

“But most importantly, we would like to thank the people of Sabah and Sarawak. The people made us more enthusiastic every day throughout Kembara Kenali Borneo,” he added. – Bernama