Comment | By Wong Chun Wai

Churning up political mud

THE characters in the latest, widely circula­ted sex video could have been irrelevant.

But the facts provide a different twist to the tale, especially since a federal minister and a senior political aide of a deputy minister have been implicated.

It’s no longer just another serving of pornography, especially since there’s a political plot to the script.

For most Malaysians weaned on gutter politics, this is just another reboot of a bad B-grade flick.

From a stained mattress dragged to court as evidence, to the storage of semen, and right down to the sexual prowess of politicians in “home movies”, the onslaught of filth is unending.

The only difference between then and now is that such indiscretions are now shared with a global audience because of social media.

And unfortunately for the players involved, sex sells, so all news outlets have reported heavy traffic on their portals since Muham­mad Haziq Abdul Aziz uploaded his confession on his Facebook, barely 24 hours after the explicit content singed networks.

For a while, there were attempts by an unknown group, Research Intelligence Unit, to quell the “rumour” by claiming on social media that the two men in the video were, instead, Filipino actors.

But Malaysia woke up to news of senior private secretary to Deputy Primary Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin professing he was the person in bed with the said minister.

Not long after, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali broke his silence on the allegations that he was involved in the video, calling it defamatory and an attempt to assassinate his character and destroy his political career.

Malaysians, especially from the older generation, are no longer stunned by poorly produced porn though.

In recent years, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim did time for sodomy charges, which he insisted were trumped up by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad during his first round helming the country.

Not once, but twice.

So, we had Sodomy One and its sordid sequel, Sodomy Two.

And like an unfathomable script, the two have miraculously become allies.

As a newsman, I was covering Parliament in 1992 when then Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Datuk DP Vijandran was (pardon the pun) exposed by the late DAP MP Karpal Singh for being involved in a “blue film”.

This was in the era of the bulky video cassettes, when viewing was largely via multiple generation transferred copies.

And of course, I had Vijandran pleading to me not to run the story, and Karpal Singh telling me he was looking forward to the page 1 news.

Obviously, it ended up on the cover.

That was just the beginning, and in my 30-plus years in the newsroom, similar claims have always proliferated.

I recall camping outside Anwar’s home in 1998, against the backdrop of a soggy day and reformasi street protests, all because of that initial round of sodomy allegations.

The only straight forward incident, as I recall, was former MCA president Tan Sri Dr Chua Soi Lek’s case, in which he duly pleaded guilty.

He was bold, and man enough to take it on the chin, and admitted to the Prime Minister and Malaysians that it was him.

The rest have all embraced the proverbial vow of silence, opting instead to claim that the characters may look like them, but wasn’t them.

They probably hoped that the controversies would blow over, believing they could ride through the storm, too.

But Malaysians have now taken a different approach to such tasteless tactics.

It may have worked effectively previously, but we are also tired of these shenanigans.

After all, the pursuit is for competent lea­ders, and we are not voting for a Pope, Dalai Lama or some religious leader, who demands morality of the highest order.

Without doubt, Malaysia remains a conservative country. Many would say we are increasingly religious, or to be more precise, progressively Islamic.

Adultery is still unacceptable by all faiths, what more getting caught on video, with the person in question a politician.

The line is irreversibly crossed when it involves homosexual acts.

What people do behind closed doors is really their prerogative.

Politicians, too, are human beings, and they are, likewise, entitled to privacy.

The only difference is politicians are public figures.

They demand and enjoy the limelight, and they must also live with the bad publicity that comes with the job.

The late Singapore premier Lee Kuan Yew famously said that public figures have no private lives.

In 2012, a man resembling Azmin was front-paged with a woman having oral sex in a toilet and on a sofa, in what looked like an apartment.

Azmin, who was then Selangor Opposition Leader, flatly denied it was him.

In 2015, then PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali, also denied that he was the person in a widely circulated video, which depicted sex with a woman.

It was much harder for this PAS lawyer as his Islamist party preaches morality, unlike other parties which don’t adopt the holier-than-thou approach.

There is also another significant difference – some of the politicians implicated then were not rising stars for bigger positions, if not, the highest office.

Their parties were not severely split because of their indiscretions, and they were merely careless individuals who literally got caught with their pants down.

So, if one aspires to hold the country’s highest post, then there are considerations.

The gravity of the issue is far greater for any federal minister who aspires to be a prime minister, because surely, his party would not accept this poor judgment call, and likely hinder his ascent.

Finally, the answer to the most asked question – is the sex video real?

Well, Haziq has admitted that he is the man in the video.

He must tell the police who was the man he had sex with.

He will be expected to divulge the time and place of the incident on May 11.

Was it at his or the other person’s room, presumably at Four Points Hotel in Sandakan?

Was it in the wee hours of May 11 before the said minister left the Sabah town, where many party supporters bid him farewell?

Then, of course, the police would want to get relevant CCTV footage from the hotel, as it would show the movements of these two people.

That would verify or kill Haziq’s claims.

Importantly though, does the police even need, or want, to investigate this matter?

Ultimately, this wreaks of a setup, since no one would believe that the video was taken or used without Haziq’s permission.

That’s the least of his worries, though, because he had better be able to back his claim.

Welcome to Bolehland, where a new day drags a new face through the political mud, even if looks can be deceiving.