World

Run-up to Malaysian election sees a couple of twists

M'SIAN GE: Govt, opposition leaders make U-turns

When it comes to twists, the run-up to the Malaysian election does not disappoint.

There were two yesterday.

TWIST 1

MAY 9 HOLIDAY

The Malaysian government reversed an earlier decision and announced that polling day, which falls on May 9, a Wednesday, will now be a public holiday.

Deputy home minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed had said on Tuesday that there is no need to declare the polling day a public holiday, as existing laws require employers to give their employees time off work to vote.

But this did not take into account the many people who have to fly, drive, take buses or travel by boats to return to their home states to vote in the first weekday election since 1999.

The move, along with a short campaigning period, sparked anger on social media and allegations from the opposition that the government wanted a low turnout, fearful that large voter numbers would go against them.

More than 120,000 people signed a petition on Change.org - started by a university student in Manchester - asking the Malaysia King to declare May 9 a national holiday to make it easier for Malaysians to return to their hometowns to vote.

Former prime minister and current opposition candidate Mahathir Mohamad said setting polling day on a weekday would be troublesome for those who are working abroad. He added that while village folk could cast their votes, it would be difficult for those working in Singapore and elsewhere.

"We have about 500,000 Malaysians working in Singapore. They should be voting but now they are deprived of their right," he told a press conference at the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia Gallery at Yayasan Selangor yesterday.

Dr Mahathir said during his tenure as prime minister, polling days on weekdays usually coincided with holidays, The Star reported.

He said two political parties had opposed the dates then too.

TWIST 2

DR M SAYS SORRY

Dr Mahathir also made a U-turn.

He has apologised for using a deregatory race term. He had refused to say sorry initially.

"When I was a small boy, we used to use that word but now it is considered to be derogatory so I apologise if I have caused any problems for them," he said yesterday.

The Pakatan Harapan chairman had used the word when criticising the Election Commission at an event in Johor on Saturday, The Star reported.

He was reported to have said: "I want to use a (derogatory term for Indians) word. The (derogatory term) say podah (get lost)."

On Monday, National Human Rights Society chairman Datuk S Ambiga said while the term might have been used in Kedah and not considered derogatory there, the term is unacceptable and hurtful to the Indian Malaysian community today.

DAP's Dr P. Ramasamy, who is a Penang deputy chief minister, advised Dr Mahathir to go easy on the use of cliches and terms that may be insulting to some ethnic groups, reported the Star.

Dr Mahathir also clarified that he had never said the people of Sabah and Sarawak were lazy.

WORLD