MAMMOTH GATHERING: Over 30,000, including the young and old, express their full support for Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar
JOHOR BARU: UNDER the hot sun, amidst the chants of "Daulat Tuanku" (Long Live the Sultan), Johoreans of all walks of life made their way to the palace to pledge their loyalty to the Sultan of Johor under the "Perhimpunan Ikrar Taat Setia" gathering.
They came in busloads, and also private vehicles. Some had come all the way from Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
The crowd started gathering as early as 9am on Sunday at Sangkar Kristal, Pasir Pelangi Driving Range cum restaurant, which was opposite the Istana Pasir Pelangi.
Istana Pasir pelangi is the official residence of the Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.
At the restaurant compound, the crowd that included the young and old, signed on canvases the size of billboard, pledging their undivided loyalty to the sultan.
With over 30,000 signatures penned, they then made their way to Istana Pasir Pelangi at 2pm.
They had folded the 10 pieces of canvases and presented them to the Sultan.
The "Loyalty Pledge" gathering was to protest against former Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin who tweeted remarks against the Sultan of Johor's successful RM520,000 bid for a vehicle registration number WWW 1.
Traffic on both directions along Jalan Pasir Pelangi was brought to a standstill and had to be redirected when the crowd made its way to the palace.
Sultan Ibrahim, who wore a batik shirt, was accompanied by his wife Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah and their sons -- the Tengku Mahkota of Johor Tunku Ismail, Tunku Idris, Tunku Abdul Jalil and Tunku Abdul Rahman.
The Sultan was choked with emotion when he saw the huge number of people who came to pledge their support.
"I will never forget this very historic day," the Sultan said addressing his subjects.
Upon seeing the Sultan wiping away his tears with a handkerchief, the crowd responded with shouts of "Daulat Tuanku".
"Without the people, there is no ruler. The ruler and the people do not part," the Sultan said, adding that the people of Johor should remain united regardless of race and religion.
"Unity is strength," the Sultan added.
He went on to say that a ruler is a ruler only if he has the support and love of his people and the people's voice matters to him.
When the Sultan said he loved his subjects and that the latter always came first, the crowd started to get emotional and many were seen crying.
Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar later walked among the crowd and spent about 40 minutes shaking hands with his subjects under the blazing sun.
Earlier, the monarch accepted a pledge of loyalty from a representative of the alliance, Ahmad Tarmizi Yusof.
The treasurer-general of the alliance, Zaini Atan, said they were happy to have been able to attract over 30,000 people of all races and religions who were members of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in the state.
He said 315 Malay NGOs, 62 Chinese NGOs and 30 Indian NGOs took part in the gathering. There were also last-minute participants from the Johorean Associations in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, who came in eight buses and 20 cars
Among those who made their way to the gathering was 62-year-old Zainab Tomiran from Batu Pahat.
She said that she loved the Sultan.
"His subjects, especially those in Batu Pahat, hold him very close to their hearts.
Zainab had turned up as early as 7am to pledge her loyalty.
Another Johorean Albert Pang, 60, representing the Johor Baru Thoong Nyien Hakka Association, said Johor has progress and develop rapidly over the years and the Johor monarch had played a big part in the state development.
"Nobody should show any kind of disrespect to our beloved Sultan," he said.
R. Rajasegaram, who is the adviser to the Malaysian Indian Youth Council of Johor, led a group of 40 members to join the gathering.