IT was an evening like no other, widely anticipated by Malaysians in the United Kingdom, for a rare and special opportunity to meet and dine in the presence of their king and queen.
Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, who were on a special visit to the UK, certainly did not disappoint, as Their Majesties went out of their way to meet as many as possible among the 300 Malaysians who attended the dinner at the Royal Lancaster Hotel here on Tuesday.
They were accompanied by Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Jihan Azizah ‘Athiyatullah and Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Afzan Aminah Hafizatullah.
It was the first special visit of the royal couple to the UK since His Majesty ascended the throne earlier this year as the 16th king. In his speech, he expressed hope that bilateral relations between Malaysia and the UK would continue to expand.
“Both countries have long-established relations, and both practise the system of constitutional monarchy,” said His Majesty.
In his speech, Al-Sultan Abdullah reminded Malaysians working, studying and living here to be good citizens of Malaysia and remain loyal to the country.
“I believe all Malaysians are happy living here in England. (There are) those coming here for holiday.
“Some 16,000 Malaysians are studying here. I have contributed five and they have turned out to be good children,” he said, followed by laughter from the audience.
Watching attentively while her husband delivered the speech with a table microphone in his hand, the queen took charge and tried to detach the mic from the stand for easier delivery, much to the amusement of the king.
All this was not lost on those present, and these gestures endeared the royal couple to the guests in a formal, albeit relaxed atmosphere.
During a walkabout after the starters and before the main meal, Their Majesties, accompanied by Malaysian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Datuk Mohamad Sadik Kethergany and his wife, Datin Jakkiah Basran, were introduced to the guests comprising professionals and students alike.
The queen, during her walkabout, was visibly surprised to meet Dr Amalina Bakri whose social media tweets she had been following.
Her Majesty, when introduced to the group of volunteer doctors who had helped Malaysians who fell ill in London and repatriated them back, expressed delight at meeting up with one of them again. Dr Fahja Ismail, an anaesthetist in London said Her Majesty remembered the times she attended tahlil sessions and Hari Raya celebrations at her house.
The dinner with the Malaysian diaspora was the first royal engagement together on their eight-day visit to the UK.
Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah, well-known for her interest in developing Malaysia’s heritage of traditional crafts and arts, had earlier visited The Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court Palace, which is the international centre of excellence for the art of hand embroidery.
During this trip, the king is scheduled to visit the British
Library to look at old Malay manuscripts. Both Their Majesties are also scheduled to have a luncheon hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Thursday, as well as attend the passing-out parade of their son, Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah ibni Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, in Sandhurst on Friday.