KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 — Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s recent jibe against Chinese traders was nowhere as bad as the atrocities committed by Islamic State (IS) militants, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said today as he sought to play down the furore surrounding his colleague’s comments.
Hishammuddin said Malaysia’s moderation agenda would not be defined by the incident, which he claimed had been “blown out of proportion”.
“If you want to talk about moderation, I think the IS’ burning of the Jordanian pilot is far worse that this case involving Ismail Sabri,” he said at a news conference here.
On Monday, Ismail Sabri sparked a firestorm after a Facebook post in which he urged Malay consumers to boycott allegedly profiteering Chinese businesses, singling out the Old Town White Coffee franchise as an example of an “anti-Islamic” business and claiming it was linked to Perak DAP Chairman Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham.
The agriculture and agro-based industries minister also claimed that the high price of goods, despite the dip in fuel costs, was a form of sabotage aimed at stirring public dissent against the government.
Ismail Sabri has since deleted the Facebook post, and Putrajaya issued a statement to “clarify” that the minister was referring to all unscrupulous traders and not only the Chinese.
Hishammuddin today said he was sure that his colleague’s statement was not meant to be racial, repeating the Cabinet’s position that it was simply about bringing down the price of goods.
“There is a lesson from this incident, in that it reminds all of us to be vigilant and keep a close eye on the price of goods,” he said.
Hishammuddin also shrugged off demands by MCA’s youth wing for Ismail Sabri to apologise and resign as a minister, claiming that the issue had been given sufficient airing.
“MCA, MIC and Gerakan are all in the Cabinet. They attended the meeting and they discussed it,” he said, referring to Putrajaya’s clarification of Ismail Sabri’s statement.
Yesterday, MCA president and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said they respect Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s decision to issue the clarification of Ismail Sabri’s statement, but stressed that the public would have “its own perception on this issue”.
Liow stood by his youth chief Chong Sin Woon — who has been heavily criticised by Umno warlords for demanding for Ismail Sabri’s resignation — but was careful not to criticise his Cabinet colleague.
“We have to ensure that Ismail Sabri analyses this issue, goes to the roots of the problem, and responds accordingly,” Liow told reporters after launching a Chinese New Year programme at Central Market here.
“He should know what to do,” the transport minister said, referring to Ismail Sabri.