By The Way

Corny, crooned or controversial: Politicians and their Hari Raya wishes

This week, local MPs celebrated Hari Raya Puasa decked out in matching outfits or enjoying long-awaited family time. PHOTOS: RAHAYU MAHZAM/FACEBOOK, JAMUS LIM/FACEBOOK, MPARADER_/INSTAGRAM

SINGAPORE - The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series.

In this edition, we take a look at how local MPs celebrated Hari Raya Puasa decked out in matching outfits or enjoying long-awaited family time, and also delve into the controversy surrounding the festive wishes of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Look out for the latest edition of the series every Friday, and check out past ones here.

Raya is incomplete without...

Some of the People's Action Party's Malay/Muslim MPs put together a fun clip on what mattered most to them during this festive season.

With the prompt "Raya tak sah kalau tak ada..." (Raya is incomplete without...), Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Maliki Osman said his Hari Raya highlight each year is making preparations with his beloved wife, as he whipped out two finger hearts to make the point.

The gesture, crossing one's index finger and thumb to make a heart shape, gained currency from Korean pop culture.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence Zaqy Mohamad said his Raya is incomplete without bazaars, as he visited the Kampong Glam bazaar and even tried his hand at fanning the satay grill.

Other politicians in the video included Minister for Social and Family Development and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli, Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Communications and Information Rahayu Mahzam and Marine Parade GRC MP Fahmi Aliman.

During the festive break, other MPs also shared what they did during the public holiday. Ms Rahayu said she prayed at Sultan Mosque with President Halimah Yacob on Tuesday morning (May 3).

She shared several happy pictures of her with her extended family, decked in matching green and gold outfits.

Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said that apart from the joy of meeting with extended family, she was happy to drink the "best teh tarik ever at my Makuteh's house".

A festive song and dance

Workers' Party MPs for Sengkang GRC held a live stream showing off their singing and dancing chops, along with local singer Rozie Rahim.

Remote video URL

Garbed in traditional attire, Associate Professor Jamus Lim, Mr Louis Chua and Ms He Ting Ru were joined by Aljunied GRC MP Faisal Manap as they crooned festive songs like Seloka Hari Raya for their residents.

Sharing a link to the video on his Facebook page, Prof Lim said that it was wonderful to be able to witness the crowd making their way to the local mosque in the constituency on Tuesday morning.

"We also put together a little song and dance (ok, the dancing was a little lame) for residents," he said.

The social-media savvy Sengkang GRC MPs each pushed the live stream on their respective Facebook and Instagram pages, and asked residents to hashtag their Hari Raya photos and videos with #SengkangBeraya.

Storm over a strawman

Like other politicians, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong was quick to express his festive wishes to the Muslim community.

He did so on his socials on Monday evening with a picture of him and his wife posing with a scarecrow at HortPark that had been dressed in a magenta baju kurung.

Many netizens were upset with the photo, calling it "tone deaf" and "inappropriate".

One responded with an animated GIF of Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh repeatedly shaking his head and saying no, taken from Mr Singh's testimony at Parliament's Committee of Privileges' hearings last December.

Some commented that even if Mr Goh's intent had not been to be hurtful, the picture came across as insensitive.

A day later, Mr Goh made a follow-up post, accompanied by a picture of him with the scarecrow back in January, when it was dressed in a red button-down shirt and straw hat.

He said that he was "dismayed that some have misinterpreted the post as portraying Malays/Muslims as 'scarecrows' ".

He added: "This is far from my mind. I spent my political lifetime working for a harmonious multi-racial society.

"This episode reminds us that strengthening multi-racialism is always work in progress. All of us have to do our part. Scary, isn't it?"

The post has continued to draw the ire of netizens, with the top commenter calling Mr Goh's initial post "tone deaf" and urging him to do better.

"Instead of copping out with vague statements like 'all of us have to do our part' how about actually apologise, take responsibility for your actions and pledge to do better as a person?" asked netizen Sabriel Ycm.

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