Billboard welcoming Ismail Sabri to Yan disaster area sparks online debate

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A large billboard welcoming Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob during his visit to the flood-hit district of Yan, Kedah, yesterday has come under scrutiny on social media.

Online personalities as well as social media users have questioned not just the necessity of allocating funds for the purpose but also the allegedly ‘tone deaf’ nature of having such a billboard at a disaster site.

Comedian Harith Iskander Musa, who shared an image of the billboard on his Instagram post, said Malaysia needs to look at the culture and systems that results in this “waste of public funds” besides the lack of taste in the spirit of the display.

“It will take a whole cultural shift. And the argument that “eleh bila ada billboard gambar Adun awak tak cakap apa pun (when there was a billboard with the picture of a state assemblyman you didn’t say anything) does not hold water. Billboard itu tak dibina waktu bencana alam (the billboard was not put up during a disaster).”

Harith however noted that he was 100 percent convinced the PM did not ‘ask for it’ and that “no one in their right mind would.”

“I wonder how would I feel if I went to an area struck by a natural disaster and saw my face on a billboard that had been erected to welcome me,” he said.

Political satirist Fahmi Reza also uploaded a four-tile picture mocking the construction process of the billboard at the flood-ravaged area.

Social media users, meanwhile, levelled criticism against local authorities for placing priority on tending to the billboard instead of focusing on cleaning up the flood-damaged area.

The visit to Yan was Ismail Sabri’s first official visit as PM after being sworn in on Sunday.

Among those who accompanied him during the visit were Umno vice-president and Padang Terap MP Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, Wanita Umno chief Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad, Arau MP Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim and Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman.

Ismail had during the visit announced a RM78 million allocation for infrastructure repairs in Yan and Merbok, and delivered aid to the 1,000-odd families affected by the floods.

The flood last Wednesday was caused by a surge in the water table in the foothills of Gunung Jerai. It has so far claimed six lives. – NST