Malaysian opposition politician under fire for inviting female MP to visit Langkawi without clothes
An opposition politician in Malaysia is facing criticism after he extended an invitation to a female MP to visit Langkawi without wearing anything, with politicians, rights groups and the public saying such remarks constituted sexual harassment.
During last week’s debate of budget 2024 in Parliament, Pakatan Harapan MP Teresa Kok asked Datuk Mohd Suhaimi Abdullah, the opposition representative for Langkawi, whether visitors to the resort island in northern Malaysia can wear shorts.
Her question came after Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Tiong King Sing revealed in September that several non-Muslim tourists had complained to his ministry, saying they were not allowed to wear shorts and drink alcohol in Langkawi. The duty-free island is part of the opposition-ruled Kedah state.
In response, Mr Suhaimi told Ms Kok, the MP for Seputeh in Kuala Lumpur: “I want to specifically invite Seputeh to Langkawi. It’s perfectly acceptable, even if you’re not wearing anything.
“I also forgot to mention that I am quite curious about what Seputeh will wear to Langkawi.”
A shocked Ms Kok, who is from the Democratic Action Party (DAP), responded by saying: “You are dirty-minded”.
Mr Suhaimi later clarified that he was just giving a provocative answer to her provocative question in an attempt to dispel rumours about dress code policing in Langkawi.
But Ms Kok on Sunday maintained that Mr Suhaimi’s remarks were inappropriate.
“Words come from one’s mind. Evil words come from evil minds. The way the Langkawi MP speaks in Parliament reflects what is in his mind. In short, he is a lusty man,” she was quoted as saying in The Star.
Mr Suhaimi’s remarks caused an uproar among Malaysians, who accused the Perikatan Nasional politician of disrespecting women, adding that his remarks constituted sexual harassment.
“This is simply disgusting. What the Langkawi MP said is a form of sexual harassment and is degrading to women. He should apologise to Teresa Kok,” said Malaysian United Democratic Alliance deputy president Amira Aisya Abd Aziz.
Ms Kok’s party colleague, Ms Young Syefura Othman, has put in a motion to refer Mr Suhaimi to Parliament’s rights and privileges committee, over what Ms Young described as “lewd and offensive” remarks.
Many Malaysians also panned Mr Suhaimi on social media.
“Langkawi can never attract tourists around the world like Phuket or Bali if the people have an MP like this,” wrote Zaxview on X, formerly known as Twitter, while another X user with the handle Artemis.P said people have voted in “a garbage” to represent them in Parliament.
X user Sauffie_84 said this happened because of the current electoral system. “First-past-the-post (system) has caused such people to be voted into Parliament. If there was a proportional system or mixed representation, perhaps there could have been a different outcome,” he said.
There are also calls for disciplinary action to be taken against Mr Suhaimi.
“Stringent action needs to be taken against him to send a signal that the public should not be accustomed to offensive, indecent and obscene speech to ensure that sexual harassment does not continue to escalate in this country,” said International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education president, Professor Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar.