KUALA LUMPUR: AS startled as Malaysians were by the news of their marriage in January, the fleeting end of their union has also been surprising.
Sultan of Kelantan Sultan Muhammad V, 50, has divorced his wife, former Russian beauty pageant contestant Rihana Oksana Voevodina, 26, after a marriage of just over a year.
They were said to have married on June 7 last year. Video clips of their wedding reception made the rounds internationally. Conspicuously, there was no official statement on their marriage from Istana Negara.
Sultan Muhammad V, who was the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong at the time, also did not issue any statement through the Kelantan palace. Was this intended to be private, only for photos and video clips to enter the public domain?
Sources confirmed the couple divorced in Singapore on June 22, and that the filing of documents was done at a Kelantan Syariah Court on July 1.
This latest development, however, is not reflected on Rihana’s official Instagram page, @rihanapetra, which has 341,000 followers. There are only 14 posts on the account, most of them centred on the couple’s relationship, her background, her son and the details of their wedding.
Claims that their marriage was in troubled waters and allegations of divorce emerged as early as January, although it was vehemently denied by Rihana’s father, Andrei Ivanovich Gorbatenko, an orthopaedic surgeon who was quoted as saying: “It’s nonsense. I do not read the Internet, but I would have been the first to know.”
At the same time, Sultan Muhammad V was undergoing the process of stepping down as Agong, following a meeting by the Conference of Rulers on Jan 2. Sultan Muhammad resumed his duties as Kelantan ruler on Jan 6.
The cause of the couple’s divorce remains the subject of speculation, although a copy of the divorce certificate that was circulating online — confirmed by a source to be genuine — seems to hint at a serious matter because it was a “talak tiga” divorce.
Also known as talaq baayin, or the irrevocable divorce, it is the most severe divorce in Islam. The couple cannot remarry unless the woman marries another man, and this man, of his own free will, divorces her or dies.
The Kelantan palace yesterday issued a statement to rebuke the practice of referring to certain individuals as “Permaisuri of Kelantan”, “Raja Perempuan Kelantan”, “Sultanah Kelantan” or “Queen of Kelantan” without an official conferment from the palace.
The statement was widely speculated to be targeted at reports and social media posts that referred to Rihana as a “queen” or other royal titles.
“Yang Teramat Mulia Dr Tengku Muhammad Faiz Petra Ibni Sultan Ismail Petra is the Tengku Mahkota of Kelantan, and His Highness Sultan Muhammad V’s mother, Yang Maha Mulia Tengku Anis Almarhum Tengku Abdul Hamid is titled Raja Perempuan Tengku Anis,” Kelantan Royal Household Comptroller Datuk Nik Mohd Shafriman Nik Hassan said in the statement.
Sources said the Kelantan royal family was also disturbed by an Instagram posting by Rihana in which she expressed hope that her son would one day become the state’s crown prince and the “future king of Malaysia”.
“Such unrefined understanding of royal customs is very unbecoming. You need to be a royal in order to be Raja Perempuan Kelantan,” said another source close to the royal circles.
Rihana’s latest Instagram post was made six days ago, in which she detailed her background, claiming to hold a master’s degree in management, specialising in international marketing.
Rihana also said she opened a beauty salon in Moscow in 2016 and moved to Kuala Lumpur the following year.
The Kelantan palace has remained quiet.
“He will be back soon,” said a source, without furnishing details of the ruler’s whereabouts.
As at press time, Rihana has not responded to messages for comment.