Carried out with good intentions but criticised it is an “act”.
Sabah DAP said they regret the criticism against their Sandakan by-election candidate Vivian Wong after she participated in a DAP programme to clean a Muslim cemetery in Kampung Sim Sim.
A screenshot of a Facebook posting by a user named ‘Awang Aslee’ which included a picture of Vivian cleaning a Muslim cemetery has drawn flak on social media.
The posting, which had gone viral on WhatsApp, described it as an “act” to ridicule Muslims in Sandakan.
“When did Sandakan women (amoi2) join in cleaning and mourning the graves of Muslim people as shown in the picture unless it is to ask for votes?” the user sarcastically questioned.
Some called it a political gimmick, alleging that it was not genuine and an attempt to appeal to the Muslim bumiputra community.
Independent candidate and former Parti Amanah Negara leader Hamzah Abdullah, who will contest the May 11 polls, questioned Vivian’s intentions, pointing out that religious matters should not be part of an election campaign.
Vivian’s campaign manager Phoong Jin Zhe, however, defended her actions, labelling it as a normal practice and something her late father Datuk Stephen Wong, a two-term Sandakan MP, used to undertake.
“It is regretful that this was seen by the opposition and some members of the public as a political gimmick.
“In fact, this is a normal practice during (Vivian’s) late father Stephen’s time.
“I regret to see this being politicised,” said Phoong, who is also Luyang assemblyman and Sabah DAP publicity secretary.
“By cleaning the cemetery, we are continuing what our late Stephen had begun doing in order to ensure that his legacy will be continued and we hope that this Sandakan by-election can be an example of unity and harmony, which our late Stephen had exemplified through his life,” said Phoong in a statement.
Phoong said DAP did not want to respond to the viral screenshot initially but he said the opposition had gone too far in putting down this “kind gesture”.
“God knows we have been doing these since a few years back during the late Stephen’s time, all the way back in 2015.
“It is not something unusual in Sandakan and Sabah to clean our cemeteries. It has nothing to do with race or religion. We did it with good intentions and a good heart,” he said.
Phoong stressed that this had never been an issue in the past as it never garnered any publicity like the programme this morning and he regrets it was politicised during this election period.
“This clearly shows this was not done for election purposes. It is a normal practice here in Sabah as racial and religious sentiments should have no place in Sabah politics,” he said.
Meanwhile, Wong said she will be more careful on such issues in the future.
She said it was never her intention to cause any unease within the Muslim community as she was merely following the footsteps of her late father Datuk Stephen Wong who would clean up Muslim cemeteries every year.
“But I will be more careful. I didn’t know it would cause disputes among Muslims.
“It was also the wishes of my late father. He always cleaned up Muslim cemeteries each year. He also has a lot of supporters.
“So I will be more cautious (on such issues) in the future,” she told a press conference at the Sandakan DAP service centre on Monday (April 29).
Also present was Sabah Parti Amanah Negara chairman Haris Alimudin, who defended Wong’s programme, saying that Sabah is a state that rejects racial issues.
“In Sabah, we reject issues pertaining to race and hatred which do not touch on the interest of the people at all.
“We don’t want what has happened in other areas to be brought to Sabah,” he said.