Obituaries

Malaysia's king dies; once Clinic patient


11/22/01

From staff and wire reports

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

- King Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, who was elected under Malaysia's unusual royal rotation system, died yesterday after weeks of complications following heart surgery. He was 75. Salahuddin was hospitalized in early October for heart surgery.
He had had a heart bypass operation at the Cleveland Clinic in 1997, when he was sultan of Selangor state in Malaysia.
He also had heart surgery at the Orlando Medical Centre in Florida in 1994, after suffering a heart attack while holidaying in Florida with his consort.
The king in Malaysia holds mostly ceremonial powers, and Salahuddin's death does not affect the functioning of the government.
Salahuddin assumed the throne in 1999 under a rotation system that chooses the constitutional monarch by secret ballot among the sultans of Malaysia's nine states. Salahuddin remained sultan of Selangor.
Each sultan takes a five-year turn as monarch of this Southeast Asian nation.
If a monarch dies in office, the deputy king steps in until the sultans meet to choose a new monarch.
In three previous cases where the king has died in office, including Salahuddin's father in 1960, the No. 2 has been elected as the new king.
Terengganu state's sultan, Mizan Zainal Abidin, has been acting king since Salahuddin was hospitalized in early October.
The king had a pacemaker fitted at Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital, but he suffered kidney failure and his health deteriorated afterward, said Malaysia's Health Minister Chua Jui Meng.
When the king's breathing failed on Nov. 17, he was placed on a ventilator and returned to Malaysia.
In a nationally televised address, Mahathir declared today a national holiday. A seven-day mourning period was declared and Malaysians were urged to fly their flags at half-staff.
"I'm very much saddened because he has been a good friend, and we were very close," Mahathir told reporters after the announcement.
Salahuddin's body will lie in state at the national mosque, state palaces and other locations today before he is interred at Malaysia's royal mausoleum with other former monarchs.
Malaysia inherited the constitutional monarchy system from Britain, which ruled as the colonial power until independence was granted in 1957.
The king is head of state, but the power to govern resides with the federal Parliament and the prime minister.
Salahuddin is survived by his wife, Tuanka Siti Aishar, 29, whom he married in 1990, and 10 sons and four daughters from a total of four marriages.