Former Indonesian model Manohara Odelia Pinot, who made international headlines in 2009 for escaping in Singapore from her Malaysian prince-husband for alleged physical abuse, is running as a legislative candidate in Indonesia’s April election.
She was only 16 in 2008 when she married Tengku Muhammad Fakhry Petra, the younger brother of Sultan Muhammad V, the Kelantan monarch who unexpectedly abdicated on Jan 6 after just two years as Malaysia’s king.
The palace has not said why the constitutional monarch, 49, had stepped down, but it came after weeks of speculation that he had married former Miss Moscow 2015, Ms Oksana Voevodina.
It is not unusual for commoners to marry Malaysian royalty, but life in the palace remains closely guarded.
Ms Manohara, in a telephone interview with The Straits Times last Tuesday, declined to comment on her life in the Kelantan palace or Sultan Muhammad V’s abdication.
She would only say: “Kings are like ordinary people, some are good, some are bad… Just because I had a bad experience with one does not mean all are like that.”
Ms Manohara, now 27, was referring to her ex-husband, Tengku Fakhry, whom she claimed had held her captive and abused her at the palace in Kubang Kerian, in the Kelantan capital of Kota Baru.
She made her dramatic escape from a hotel in Singapore in June 2009 while accompanying her then father-in-law and Kelantan sultan Ismail Petra Shah II for medical treatment.
Ms Manohara and Tengku Fakhry first met at a Malaysian tourism event in Jakarta in 2006.
People keep getting the wrong idea, thinking that I despise Malaysia, that I hate Malaysia. It’s not about Malaysia, it’s about that one specific individual. It had nothing to do with the whole country.
MS MANOHARA ODELIA PINOT, on bearing no grudges against the country and its people.
Tengku Fakhry filed a defamation suit against Ms Manohara and her mother, Ms Daisy Fajarina, over the allegations of abuse and was awarded RM6 million (around S$2 million) in damages from the Kuala Lumpur High Court in 2010.
Ms Manohara told The Straits Times she wants to leave the dark chapter of her life behind.
She said: “It happened. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that has shaped me to be who I am today.”
Ms Manohara, whose father is American and mother an Indonesian, said she is now stronger and more empathetic.
She said: “When I see people needing help, and having been in a position where I desperately needed help, as much as I can, I will (help).”
A decade on, she has set up a publishing company, Tiga Meja Kreasi, focusing on corporate magazines. She is active in humanitarian relief work as well as animal conservation and wildlife protection.
She joined NasDem party last year in the hope of making a difference in a country where “concern for animals and the environment is very much lacking”.
NasDem is a member of the ruling coalition backing the current administration and re-election of President Joko Widodo in the upcoming election.
She is expected to run as a legislative candidate in the electoral districts of Surabaya and Sidoarjo. She said she was inspired by the stellar performance of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, more popularly known as Ahok.
She said: “I had no interest in politics until Ahok came along. We got an example of how things could be done right.”
She said she has a boyfriend now, but “marriage is not something in the near future yet”.
She has not returned to Malaysia and has no plans to do so, but stressed that she bears no grudge against the country and its people.
“It’s not about Malaysia, it’s about that one specific individual. It had nothing to do with the whole country,” she said.