From the occasional triumphs to the many, many, failures, Coconuts has covered it all when it comes to Malaysian politics, including the most embarrassing political gaffes in the past decade.
Some were totally absurd, while others were hilarious, and a few even made it to global headlines. People aren’t joking when they say this country is the land of good food and terrible politics. Since launching in 2013, Coconuts KL has written on numerous cringe, eyebrow-raising moments in Malaysia, and the goods just keep coming.
As part of our 10th anniversary for Coconuts, we want to celebrate all that is wacky in Malaysian politics. Which Japanese character made a surprise appearance? And what does an aphrodisiac have to do with a former health minister? Scroll down through memory lane below and find out.
Japanese robo-cat Doraemon is a household name in Malaysia … and a role model for solving domestic disputes.
The cartoon character was named by the women and family development minister last year as an example of how women should speak softly to their husbands at home in order to avoid unnecessary bickering. The absurd advice triggered widespread online reactions for various reasons. First of all, Doraemon isn’t even female and secondly, the cat has a really hoarse voice. Some women tried to take a jab on the minister by pulling a Doraemon online. No surprises for how that turned out. The ministry has since apologized for their useless tips.
The local gay community didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when a former tourism minister told foreign journalists there was no such thing as gay people in Malaysia.
In a 2019 interview with the German press, former minister Mohammaddin bin Ketapi was asked whether Malaysia was safe for gay travelers to visit. His answer: ”I don’t think we have anything like that in our country.”
If he needs more proof of the fabulous LGBT community, he’d better check this out.
Adham Baba has spread more misinformation than anyone else while serving as the health minister recently. While speaking to university students some months ago, Adham named the aphrodisiac “Spanish Fly” instead of the deadly “Spanish Flu” during his speech. He said it not once, not twice, but three times before realizing his mistake, which has now been immortalized on the internet.
Kangkong water spinach became the most talked-about vegetable in Malaysia in 2014 after the scandal-tainted former prime minister Najib Razak complained about locals being ungrateful to the government when the cost of the vegetable dipped.
The remark was so bizarre that everyone picked it up online, including the BBC. The British outlet’s article had apparently been blocked in Malaysia although the then-government denied they had anything to do with it. The article is now public again for Malaysian readers.
5. Prime Minister’s Office: Ismail Sabri’s post on “boycotting greedy Chinese traders” was a reminder to all races (2015)
The race card is such a tempting option for Malaysian politicians, even for Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who called for a boycott of “greedy” Chinese traders in 2015.
Ismail, who was the minister for agriculture and agro-based industry then, later tried to rephrase his statement, emphasizing that he was only referring to the “greedy” ones instead of the whole Chinese community. The Prime Minister’s Office later doubled down by stating that it had always been protecting the “interests of all races.” Did they convince the Chinese community? We’re not positive about that.
There’s nothing to celebrate when it comes to Afghanistan’s heartbreaking takeover, but local religious politicians have other opinions.
Thousands of Afghans were forced to flee the country – some died while doing so – and the fate of women and children were left hanging as Taliban militants conquered Afghan lands as soon as American troops pulled out. For the Malaysian Islamic Party, this was a victorious moment. They even issued a congratulatory message to the bewilderment of many, even skirting social media policies against Taliban content by spelling the name in code.
Poor MCMC *pats*. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission has not returned to Twitter ever since people found out that they bought their account and its 50,000 followers from a teenager, using it without scraping off old obscene tweets. We spoke to the man who sold the account for RM1,300 ($320).
8. FT Minister gave homeless people electrical appliances for Xmas – uh, they don’t have wall sockets (2015)
He was doing so well, and then he failed. Adnan Mansor invited a group of homeless people to a Christmas high-tea while serving as the federal territories minister in 2015. He ended the event by gifting those people with electrical appliances. You know, things like coffee makers and portable stoves that are required to be plugged into sockets, aka, things you see in people’s homes, which those people don’t have.
9. Malaysian deputy PM, who is also the Women’s Minister, calls female genital mutilation ‘cultural’ (2018)
Wan Azizah Wan Ismail raised eyebrows in 2018 when she declared female genital mutilation a local cultural practice.
Her comments came amid criticism from local activist groups calling for the practice to be stopped. The World Health Organization has also confirmed that there were “no health benefits” to female genital mutilation.
“We are in discussions with the Health Ministry because so far, it is actually something that is cultural which we had since before, and this is one of the things they actually said… But we are not the same as Africa, all the mutilation. If it doesn’t give any benefits, then we should do something,” she said at the time. No concrete action has come out of those discussions.
Malaysia’s shortest-serving prime minister had a shitty moment for all to see, including punk rocker Tom Delonge. The former Blink-182 member joined Malaysians reacting to news that Muhyiddin Yassin had taken ill due to diarrhea by posting one of his classic GIFs on Twitter. It was a good laugh, and even spawned the hashtag #PMCirit.
This article, Coconuts KL rewinds to 10 WTF moments in Malaysian politics, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.