THE passing of Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah at 86 was rather unexpected. While growing up in Batu Gajah, he was greatly influenced by the call of justice.
He was the most illustrious among his siblings and a star among Malaysian royalty upon getting his Bachelor of Laws in 1953. He was called to the English Bar by the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn a year later.
This was just the beginning.
Although Raja Azlan was fourth in line to the Raja Muda of Perak, it was God's will that he, despite being the youngest son of the late Sultan Yussuf Izzuddin Shah, was destined to become the sultan of Perak.
For Sultan Azlan, love superseded everything under the sun and moon.
To all the commoners' imagination, in particular, the women, he was the representation of a true love story, akin to the Cinderella fairy tale.
He married a commoner from Penang, teacher Bainun Mohd Ali. When he became the ninth Yang di-Pertuan Agong (April 26, 1989 to April 25, 1994), she became the first commoner to become the Raja Permaisuri Agong.
He had, indeed, transformed the idea of true love for the people.
The 1950s was a difficult period and known as the "Age of Austerity" in the United Kingdom.
The Treasury, led by then chancellor of the Exchequer Hugh Dalton, was almost bankrupt. The UK was surviving on benevolent loans from the United States.
London was not what it used to be after Adolf Hitler. It was labouring under total reconstruction from the ashes of War World 2.
For Raja Azlan, however, it was the "age of enlightenment". He was taken in by its gravitational force, even before he was bestowed with the distinguished Bachelor of Laws.
Upon his return, Raja Azlan became Perak's youngest assistant state secretary. But, it did not deter him in the ranks of so-called senior "secretary-dom". It was a period when everything was possible, he observed.
In 1945, the UK's Labour Party won a surprise major victory over the Conservatives and all law students there were enamoured with new prime minister Clement Attlee's promises of all good things, including equality for all Britons.
Raja Azlan had only one mission: to dedicate his life to the service of God and justice for the rakyat.
He was greatly influenced by the manifesto of equality in social justice.
Upon his return to Malaysia, he kept reminding himself that he was not an economist seeking to implement similar changes under the mesmerising sway of Liberal economist John Maynard Keynes.
But, he was certain he could do something, armed with his law degree.
He was a faithful follower of the global justice movement.
The world was then bracing for a new world order. Africa was being decolonised, the Iron Curtain and Cold War had started, and the US' 22nd Amendment was passed in 1951, limiting the president to only two terms in office.
The best way to make changes is to transform the judiciary. Raja Azlan worked his way from being a magistrate, Sessions Court president, the youngest High Court judge in 1965 to Federal Court judge in 1973 to became the youngest lord president in 1982, perhaps, in the whole Commonwealth jurisdiction.
His judgments were well-written and became a source of reference on issues of justice, equality and rule of law.
Sultan Azlan was also a strong supporter of sports, charities, and humanitarian and environmental activism, but he was best known for his idea and concept of justice.
Justice in Malaysia today has been transformed in a most remarkable manner, not only by Lord Denning's elevated teachings, but also by Raja Azlan.
Sultan Azlan had said: "How much justice is justice? If the courts strive to maintain a fair balance between the two scales, i.e. the interest of the accused person and interest of the community, then I must say justice is just.
"The aims of justice must be balance and fairness. No tenderness for the offender can be allowed to obscure that aim.
"The concept of fairness must not be strained till it is narrowed to a filament. We must keep the balance true."
Jeong Chun-Phuoc, Shah Alam, Selangor New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 30 May 2014