JULY 8 — I refer to news reports about Azmin being booed at a Felda event.
First of all, I must say that I am surprised by the crowd’s reaction. And as a Malay, this speaks volumes about the psyche of the community, particularly those from the rural areas like Felda settlers who attended the event.
In Malay culture, it is rude to run down a host, no matter how much disdain we have for him or her. Economics Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali was the host of the Felda Settlers’ Day event in Pahang. In fact, Azmin brought along PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to officiate the event.
Malays have a thing about observing public decorum and jaga air muka (care for another person’s face). This is especially so when it involves political leaders, given centuries of feudal mindset ingrained in the community’s psyche. Older generation of Malays tend to use indirect references or euphemisms when they want to run down somebody.
So, for the crowd on Sunday, made up of largely elderly Felda settlers to jeer at a senior Minister while he was giving a speech speaks volumes about their pent-up feelings towards Azmin, as well as the administration of Dr Mahathir, who was the VVIP at the event.
The crowd’s reaction was not coincidental. Azmin has been at the centre of a political storm following the release of a gay sex video said to feature him. He has rubbished the allegations, while his accuser, Haziq Abdullah Abdul Aziz stood his ground.
In the Malay community, gay sex is a major no-no. For better or worse, the Malays can stomach a corrupt leader or one grossly incompetent, but not someone who is into gay sex, where Islamic law condemns offenders to be stoned to death.
While Azmin is innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law, the court of opinion is another matter. There’s growing suspicion among the Malay chattering class on why Azmin still refuses to take the Muslim oath of sumpah laknat to clear his name amid snowballing pressure for him to do so.
Meanwhile, Azmin loyalist Afif Bahardin’s attempts to defend the Economics Affairs Minister over the jeering was at best, lame. Afif blamed the location of Pahang as “enemy territory”, which explained the negative reaction towards Azmin.
That explanation was downright silly because it was the Ministry, which Felda fell under, which chose the location. And Azmin and Pakatan Harapan was supposed to have been the saviour for the Felda settlers after years of mismanagement under the previous BN rule. Azmin was not meant to be the whipping boy.
Going by the Felda’s crowd reaction, it appears that Azmin and his team do not have their hands on the pulse of this community. Such negative reaction can well be the reflection of the larger rural Malay sentiment.
This, coupled with the mounting pressure on Azmin following the gay sex video, may see a realignment of political forces in the run-up to Dr Mahathir’s eventual departure from politics. As it stands, Azmin is staring at his own Waterloo.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.