Malaysia MP remark that obesity a sign of prosperity slammed as 'ridiculous'

People buying fish at a wet market in Malaysia's Johor Bahru.
People buying fish at a wet market in Malaysia's Johor Bahru.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A Malaysian lawmaker's statement on Wednesday (March 7) that the high rate of obesity in the country is a sign of prosperity has been slammed as "simply ridiculous" by an opposition party member.

Datuk Bung Moktar Radin, an MP from ruling party Umno, had said in Parliament that the people were prosperous and the nation was so abundant with food, most Malaysians overeat, leading to high rates of obesity.

He was responding to a claim by Opposition leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail that people were suffering from a lack of work opportunities and poor diet. 

In a Facebook post on Thursday former analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan described Mr Bung's statement as "simply ridiculous and typical of how detached Umno has become from the hardship faced by common people like you and me”. 

Mr Wan Saiful, who is Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia's deputy chairman of strategy and policy suggested the Kinabatangan MP spend time "walking in the shoes of the rakyat (people)"  rather than making statements that have no basis in fact. 

He noted that research shows people from lower-income households were less likely to be able to gain access to nutritious and healthy food. “This issue is well documented in more developed economies like the United States where the risk of obesity and lack of nutrition is higher in low-income groups, so it is not surprising that in a country like Malaysia similar issues are occurring,” he said.

Mr Bung Mokhtar had on Wednesday offered to take Opposition lawmakers on trips to countries where food was scarce and its people are forced to scavenge for food. He had also joked about obesity, saying: "Many die from overeating while many are also obese and contract diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases because they eat meat everyday." 

Mr Wan Saiful pointed out that obesity is an epidemic in Malaysia, giving rise to health problems and forming a strain on the country’s resources.

"As a Member of Parliament YB Bung Mokhtar needs to ask himself why this is happening, instead of making ridiculous statements like this. MPs need to show some class and intellect,” he said.