Remarks by Malaysian politician over a Good Friday billboard in Sabah draws flak

Former Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia women's chief Anina Saadudin had questioned the use of billboards to convey well-wishes to Christians in Sabah.
Former Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia women's chief Anina Saadudin had questioned the use of billboards to convey well-wishes to Christians in Sabah.PHOTO: ANINA SAADUDIN/FACEBOOK

KOTA KINABALU - Remarks by a prominent woman politician from Peninsula Malaysia over a Good Friday greeting in Sabah has drawn public ire, after she questioned the use of the large advertising board, The Star online news reported on Saturday (April 20).

In a Facebook posting on Thursday (April 18), Ms Anina Saadudin wrote: "Before this, it was just banners and buntings. Now they have power, they can upgrade to billboards. Can use cranes if not high enough.

"If not big enough, can double the size by adding pillars. Next year can advertise it in the TV. Equality, they say."

Ms Anina was referring to a concern among a section of the Malay Muslim community over the sidelining of Islamic sensitivities with the rise of Pakatan Harapan as the ruling government after the May general election last year.

She was a former Umno local leader in Langkawi, before joining a then-new party led by Tun Mahathir Mohamad, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, as its women's chief.

She was later sacked from PPBM and her current politicial affiliation is unknown, But the main picture gracing her Facebook account showed ex-premier Najib Razak and she has been putting up statements and remarks by Najib.

Ms Anina's Facebook post saw more than 5,500 shares and elicited more than 12,000 comments.

The posting was accompanied by a photo of a billboard in Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah state, which had a special message for the Christian community in conjunction with Good Friday (April 19).

In her response to Ms Anina's post, Facebook user Maznah Hisyam said the billboard was a non-issue in Sabah where such things were normal.

"I'm a Muslim with lots of non-Muslim family members. We live in peace and harmony together. So please stop harassing us Sabahans," she wrote, as reported by The Star.

Muhd Zhafran commented: "Christianity teaches its followers to love everyone, and Islam teaches us to respect and tolerate our friends from other religions. Stop fighting, and find common grounds."

"To my Christian friends, have a blessed Good Friday especially those living in Borneo! The racial unity in Sabah and Sarawak should be emulated by peninsular Malaysia."

Facebook user Samantha Sam said it was "funny" that religious sentiments were still being used by some people to "stoke all kinds of flames".

"Most of us Sabahans are proud to be Sabahan, and we Sabahans will not let things like this cause us to fight among each other.

"To you sister, may you do many good deeds and acts of worship in the upcoming fasting month," she wrote in response to Anina's posting.

Said Society for Equality, Respect And Trust for All co-founder Robert Nicholas Hii: "Statements like those issued by Anina Saadudin risk inciting hatred out of ignorance and intolerance, as well as close people's minds to others that exist within our shared culture.

"We believe that the key to racial unity is tied up with our mutual understanding and respect of one another."