Baginda Al Mutawakkil Alallah Sultan Iskandar Al Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Ismail, who has died aged 77, was the eighth Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or king of Malaysia, for five years from 1984 to 1989. Although the tributes poured in after his death, he was not quite the model royal he might have been. His extra-curricular interests certainly befitted his status: he played polo, and bought helicopters and a ship for cruising the shores of Johor, the state of which he was sultan.
He liked fast cars, race boats and hunting, and if his youthful passion for boxing and go-karts waned with age, his appetite for life's luxuries did not. Nor did his enjoyment of the immunity enjoyed by the monarchy in Malaysia. In 1992, Iskandar attacked Douglas Gomez, a state hockey coach. Incensed at his son's exclusion from the Johor side, he had decided consequently to withdraw the entire team from the tournament. Gomez's criticism of this decision was intolerable to the sultan, and the coach suffered for his audacity. It was not the first time that Iskandar had shown his temper. In 1987, while serving as Agong, he was accused of attacking a golf caddie at the Cameron Highlands golf club and, in some reports, was said to have killed him. Away from the greens, Iskandar patrolled the roads of Johor in a Rolls-Royce with a red light and siren - and a shotgun strapped to the dashboard. If any driver dared pass his car, he would mete out justice, either by imposing exorbitant fines for speeding, or requiring them to perform squat jumps. Rumours of assaults in Kuala Lumpur's nightclubs and gambling debts tried the loyalty of the Malay people.
After an early education in Johor, Iskandar studied at Trinity Grammar School in Australia and later in Britain, before joining the state civil service as a cadet officer. He received basic military training with the Johor Military Forces, founded by his great-grandfather in 1885. As his father's eldest son, he was named Tunku Mahmood Iskandar. However, as all other sultans of Johor who bore the name "Mahmood" had met with unfortunate luck, he dropped it on succeeding to the title. It was perhaps already a little too late. In 1961 - a mere two years after he had been appointed Tunku Mahkota, or Crown Prince of Johor - his father dismissed him after an incident in which Iskandar reportedly chained two policemen in a dog kennel for a day after they had displeased him. Notwithstanding, in 1981 on the death of his father, he assumed the role of sultan.
In 1984, he became King of Malaysia. With his prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Iskandar maintained friendly relations until Mahathir led a campaign in parliament to remove legal immunity from royal members. Iskandar took the slight badly. Iskandar was born on April 8, 1932, and died on January 22. He is survived by his second wife, Tengku Zanariah binti Tengku Panglima Raja Ahmad, two sons and eight daughters.
* The National