Malaysia's 13th king formally installed in tradition-steeped ceremony

Malaysia's 13th king formally ascended the throne Thursday, pledging to reign wisely and safeguard the sanctity of Islam in a ceremony marked by traditional Malay rites and imperial pageantry.

Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, garbed in a regal black jacket embroidered in gold thread and a belt buckle decorated with rubies, was installed as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong - the Malay title for the king - at the National Palace.

Malaysia's system allows each of its hereditary state rulers to take turns reigning as the country's constitutional monarch for five years each.

Government leaders and diplomats watched as Mizan, 45, solemnly unsheathed an ivory-studded "Royal Long Dagger" - his symbol of power and authority - and proclaimed that he would "rule Malaysia in a fair manner" and "uphold at all times the religion of Islam."

The hourlong ceremony - celebrated with a national holiday for government offices and banks - was punctuated by the blare of trumpets, a 21-gun salute and shouts of "Daulat Tuanku!" - or "Long Live the King!" that echoed through the throne room.

The role of Mizan - the sultan of Malaysia's oil-and-gas rich northeastern Terengganu state whose royal lineage dates back to the early 18th century - is largely ceremonial, and the power to govern resides with Parliament and the prime minister.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stressed that Mizan's installation nevertheless was an assurance of continuity for the country's ethnic Malay Muslim majority, who regard the king as the supreme upholder of Malay tradition and symbolic head of Islam.

"From this day, time and glorious moment, His Majesty ascends the throne and stands as the pillar of the country of Malaysia," Abdullah said.

Nearly 60 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people are Muslims, with significant Buddhist, Christian and Hindu minorities.

Malaysia's royalty command public respect, but unlike their much-revered counterparts in neighboring Thailand, the Malaysian monarchy in recent decades has become more of a benign presence that many ordinary Malaysians pay little attention to.

Mizan took his oath of office in December, but his investiture was held several months later as is customary.

Currently the youngest of Malaysia's nine state rulers, Mizan succeeded Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail, the ruler of Perlis state, under the rotation system that was introduced toward the end of British colonial rule in the 1950s.

Mizan received his early education in Terengganu and furthered his studies in Australia and the U.S. International University-Europe in London, where he obtained a degree in international relations. He also attended Britain's Sandhurst Royal Military Academy.

A keen sportsman whose passion for horse riding, golf, tennis and scuba diving is famous, Mizan was crowned Terengganu's sultan in 1998. He and Queen Nur Zahirah have four children.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova