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Malaysians Bid Farewell to King

Southeast Asia: Everyday activities come to a halt for funeral.

November 23, 2001|From Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Saluted by 75 cannon shots, Malaysia's king was buried Thursday evening after a day of colorful but solemn funeral ceremonies on the streets and at plush palaces and ornate mosques.

Everyday activities halted as the Southeast Asian nation mourned Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, the figurehead monarch who died Wednesday at age 75 after never recovering from heart surgery seven weeks ago.

The day began with a ceremony at the national mosque. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and dozens of Malaysian dignitaries prayed over the king's body.

The casket, swathed in bright yellow fabric bearing the royal crest of twin tigers, was then driven to the throne room at the royal palace. A dozen Muslim clerics said prayers while thousands of people filed past the coffin for almost two hours.

"I am here to salute a good king," said Khairul Shafie, a former soldier.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Brunei's Sultan Sir Hassanal Bolkiah and Singaporean President R.S. Nathan were among the foreign dignitaries present.

At midday, sailors pulled a gun carriage bearing the royal casket at the head of a procession through downtown Kuala Lumpur, the capital. Royal guards marched alongside the coffin.

Thousands of people lined the route, paying their respects as hundreds of officials joined in the 90-minute walk to the colonial-era Merdeka Square. Hundreds of soldiers marched a last salute to the king.

The king was then driven to his home state of Selangor, where he had been sultan since 1961. He was buried at the royal mausoleum.

Under Malaysia's revolving monarchy, the country's nine state sultans take five-year turns as king, whose duties are largely ceremonial.

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