Tok Mat says ‘penumpang’ remark directed at weak ministers, not just non-Malays

Barisan Nasional candidate for the Rantau by-election, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, during a press conference at Barisan Nasional command centre in Rantau April 1, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Barisan Nasional candidate for the Rantau by-election, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, during a press conference at Barisan Nasional command centre in Rantau April 1, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — Umno acting president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan today asserted that his “penumpang” (squatter) remark was not aimed at non-Malay ministers in the Cabinet.

He said in a Malaysiakini report that he was referring to ministers in the current Cabinet who were not living up to expectations, while blaming Pakatan Harapan (PH) for intentionally smearing his name by misinterpreting his words.

“The ‘penumpang’ I meant were the non-performers in Mahathir’s Cabinet, but it was deliberately misunderstood by Harapan, who claimed I used the word against non-Malay ministers,” said Mohamad said in the news portal’s report.

“I’m sorry to see Mahathir as prime minister. He’s 93 years old, but still has to work hard, because his Cabinet does not deliver,” he added.

He had reportedly mentioned that there are too many ‘penumpang’ in Parliament during a ceramah in Bandar Bukit Mahkota while campaigning for Barisan Nasional (BN) in the Semenyih by-election last month.

His remarks were widely interpreted as a reference to the non-Malay ministers in Parliament who he said were sitting in the “big-house”, a reference to the Cabinet.

Mohamad, who is also known as Tok Mat, is BN’s candidate for the Rantau by-election set for April 13.

In the Malaysiakini report, Mohamad also alleged that Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) candidate in Rantau, Dr S. Streram,  had failed to bring his Election Commission (EC) pass in last year’s general election on purpose.

“Wearing EC passes is an election regulation, that’s why everyone had them. I used my passes, Mahathir himself used them during nomination,” he said.

“He (Dr Streram) was even given a briefing, and told that all the candidates who wish to enter the nomination room must have a security pass, along with their proposer and seconder.”

Mohamad alleged Dr Streram never went and asked for the pass from the EC’s office or the district office and said the act was done deliberately to show the world how bad the election system was in Malaysia.

Mohamad’s uncontested win in Rantau last year was declared null and void by an Election Court after it ruled in favour of Dr Streram who complained that he was prevented from entering the nomination centre last year as he did not have the EC pass.

Mohamad and Dr Streram are up against independent candidates Malar Rajaram and Mohd Nor Yasin for the Rantau state seat.