Two Malaysian artists raise rare, uncomfortable questions about government moves

Malaysia's diva Sheila Majid (left) and popular actress Nur Fathia Latiff have raised uncomfortable questions against the government in recent days. PHOTOS: ST FILE, BHM

KUALA LUMPUR - Two Malaysian artists have raised uncomfortable questions against the government in recent days, a rare move as local performers critical of the government often fear they would be sidelined from television appearances and from government functions.

Malaysia's diva Sheila Majid on Monday (Dec 4) sent out a tweet criticising the government over cost of living issues.

This came three days after popular actress Nur Fathia Latiff on Friday (Dec 1) hit out at a government-backed inquiry that implicated ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad in huge central bank trading losses in the 1990s.

Sheila Majid, 52, who has 214,000 Twitter followers, on Monday tweeted in English: "Food is expensive, ringgit is weak,cost of living is high & jobs are scarce.

"Msians are becoming tired & angry for being squeezed over debts we did not create.

"Stop making excuses & looking for faults. Focus on the job of getting our country back on track! Disappointing!!"

Nur Fathia, tweeted last Friday, soon after the Royal Commission of inquiry's findings on the central bank losses implicating Dr Mahathir was published: "Action taken only after 30 years? After decades of Tun's service? Is this 'smart'?

"When a person does nine good things, no one sees it. One 'mistake' and is that all you see?" wrote the actress.

The popular actress, 30, has 197,000 Twitter followers and three million followers on Instagram.

She added in the tweet: "You want to dig up old stories right? Okay. Let's talk about a sum of money that was deposited to someone's personal account.

"Investigations should be made accordingly and the result is to be disclosed to the public since there are questions that have not been fully answered. Agreed?"

Nur Fathia did not mention any names, but was likely referring to the scandal involving Prime Minister Najib Razak, who had been defending himself against reports that some US$700 million (S$943 million) were purportedly deposited into his personal bank accounts.

He has denied any wrongdoing, and the Malaysian attorney-general has cleared him of any wrongdoing.

The funds were purportedly from state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

The United States on Monday called the 1MDB scandal "kleptocracy at its worst".

US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions said in Washington on Monday (Dec 4) that the Department of Justice "is working to provide justice to the victims of this alleged scheme".

The attacks by the two artistes came at a particularly sensitive time as Malaysia's biggest party Umno, led by Mr Najib, on Tuesday (Dec 5) started its five-day annual meeting.

Meanwhile, on Monday, popular TV host Aznil Nawawi asked PM Najib on Instagram why the country should continue to have the unpopular goods and services tax (GST) and how come the ringgit is very weak.

But his questions appeared to be priming his 1.2 million Instagram followers for an upcoming interview with the Premier at the Umno assembly.

The questions posed by Datuk Aznil, 55, were: "No need to have GST, DS (Datuk Seri).

"The exchange rate (of the ringgit) makes it tough for us Datuk Seri, how?

"Can you really help us properly on building affordable homes?

"Cost of living keeps rising. Is the government aware of our unhappiness?"

He concluded in his post that these were among questions he will ask when he meets Mr Najib.

Responding to these social media postings, Dr Mahathir on Tuesday (Dec 5) heaped praise on them.

Retweeting singer Sheila's comments on Twitter, Dr Mahathir said: "One by one, Malaysians icons speak up for the future of the country.

"From Nur Fathia Abdul Latiff, Aznil Nawawi and now Sheila Majid.

"The youths, in particular, must have the courage to step up. The future is in your hands. If not us, who else?" he wrote on Twitter.

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