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How Malaysians choose their guests of honour

In Malaysia, we seem to have no qualms about inviting felons who have committed grand larceny to feature as guests of honour at events.

Fabian Wong
3 minute read

When choosing a guest-of-honour (GOH) to officiate an event, usually the organiser would look at the credentials of the possible candidates. Is he or she a respectable figure in the industry which the event is about? Would that person be able to share useful insights to participants?

Normally, one wouldn’t invite a suspected mass murderer to any event as the GOH, much less one who’s convicted of the crime. In fact, we do not even roll out the red carpet to those involved in petty thefts, unless it’s an online talk show on the dark web about how to be better at plying one’s unscrupulous trade.

But in Malaysia, we have no qualms about inviting a felon who has committed grand larceny to be a GOH. Not only that, we pedestalise him in ways reserved for saints and prophets.

I am referring to ex-prime minister Najib Razak being invited as the GOH at the Digital Economy Forum 2022 last week. Did the organisers not have anyone else in mind to invite?

Were they blind to the fact that this is a man labelled as a “national embarrassment” by the courts for abuse of power and corruption? Have they forgotten that he has been sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million, and that the only reason he is walking free is that he’s appealing his conviction?

What kind of message are we sending our children if we can choose to pedestalise this felon, who unashamedly uses the “Bossku” moniker, as though corruption is not just fine but something to which we should aspire?

I am shocked and deeply disappointed that Malaysians have lost their sense of morality over this. The only saving grace is that the event was linked to MCA, the timid coalition partner in Barisan Nasional, which has a track record of kowtowing to Big Brother Umno.

Alongside Najib on that day was MCA’s vice-president Ti Lian Ker, who’s also a deputy minister. The organising chairman for the event was also from the federal territories MCA.

In other words, it was an MCA event, if not overtly then indirectly. And MCA has once again shown its true colours by being a party to propping up a disgraced politician for the sake of expediency. The party, which has lost support from large chunks of the Chinese community, is just driving more nails into its political coffin come GE15 by being so detached from ground sentiment.

This is not the first time this has happened. During the recent Johor election, where the party fielded Nicole Tan as its candidate to wrest the seat from DAP, Najib was described as MCA’s “secret weapon”. I rest my case.

As a Chinese, I can say with utmost certainty that the vast majority of the community is turned off by Najib’s shennanigans. We still haven’t forgotten how the 1MDB scandal landed the country in huge debt and brought disrepute to Malaysia. These are all revelations in open court, not narratives concocted out of thin air.

If MCA wants to continue putting Najib on a pedastal, they can continue to do so. But they are not just trying to prop up an utter failure of an ex-prime minister. In doing so, MCA is only pedestalising its own hopelessness and hastening its journey towards total irrelevance.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.