11 Most Talked-About Political Headlines In Malaysia In 2017

From using EPF funds to improve America's infrastructure to Kim Jong Nam's mysterious assassination in KLIA, 2017 has certainly been a bumpy year for Malaysia.

Cover image via BBC/Bloomberg

A look at some of the most read political stories on SAYS for the year 2017.

11) The Taib family financial scandal: In September, a real estate company linked to Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud and his family was accused of money laundering

Sarawak Governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud

Image via EPA/The Malaysian Insight

The Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) claimed that the Taib family had funneled millions of ringgit, believed to be proceeds of corruption, into the company.

This news was not a surprise to locals, as most cited a previous undercover investigation by an international NGO which exposed how the family allegedly used dubious means to enrich themselves.

10) JASA chief's RM20,000 salary: At a time when low salaries and high cost of living were hot topics, Dr Wan Azizah revealed that the JASA director-general receives an allowance of more than RM20,000 monthly

Dr Wan Azizah (left) and Datuk Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi (right)

Image via Asyraf Hamzah/NST/Sinar Harian

That is more than the monthly salary of Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak.

JASA's duties include arranging plans, executing strategic programmes and activities, educating and persuading people on the governments's policies and current issues based on facts.

Most Malaysians asked the government to justify why Datuk Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi's monthly salary is more than what a minister earns, while the rest slammed the government for allocating such a large amount of money for a communications chief when the rakyat are struggling financially.

9) Lee Hsien Loong's public apology: In June, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was showered with praises when he issued a public apology over a family feud involving his late father's property at 38 Oxley Road

Netizens in Malaysia, in particular, prominent lawyer Azhar Harun commended PM Lee for handling the issue so well. 

"Crisp. Frank. Prompt. Unemotional. No threat. No warning. No name calling. No belittling. No stressing his jantaness or samsengness. No emotion. No overseas trip to take selfies with famous people," said Azhar in a Facebook post on 20 June. 

Here's a video of PM Lee's full statement on the family argument:

8) Starbucks boycott: Malay rights NGO, PERKASA, urged local Muslims to boycott companies like Starbucks and Microsoft in July because they are pro-LGBTQ

The NGO's Islamic affairs bureau chief Amini Amir opined that their business licenses should be revoked because they support homosexual marriages.

Malaysians were quick to point out that boycotting companies like Starbucks is impractical as there are so many other popular international companies whose products and services we use that have openly expressed their support for the LGBTQ community. 

7) Only Malays can rule Malaysia: Former Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Muhammad bin Haji Muhammad Taib courted controversy in October when he said that political power in the country must remain within the Malay community

Tan Sri Muhammad bin Haji Muhammad Taib at the press conference on 2 October.

Image via Miera Zulyana/Malay Mail Online

"I am not a racist, but we should make our choice to ensure the security of our children and their children."

Malaysians were appalled by Mat Taib's statement and stressed that a person's race does not influence his or her ability to be a good leader. 

"It's never been about race. It's about integrity and capability... And these qualities can be found in all races, whether Malay, Chinese or Indian. Only a leader who understands and champions this can lead our beloved multiracial country forward, united and strong," read one of the comments on Facebook. 

6) Hannah Yeoh accused of preaching Christianity: Muslim NGOs lodged a police report against Yeoh in September, alleging that she used her political position to spread Christianity in her autobiography, 'Becoming Hannah'

Image via Twitter/Amy Tan

Hannah stood her ground and stressed that the book is merely a recollection of her journey towards becoming a better leader and politician and how Christianity has played an important role in it.

Most local politicians and netizens agreed with Hannah and opined that it is her right as a Malaysian to practice her religion freely, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution

5) The 'Love Najib' song: UMNO's 71st anniversary celebrations in May came under scrutiny following rumours of public university students being forced to attend the event

UMNO President Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.

Image via New Straits Times

They were allegedly asked to learn the lyrics of a song titled, 'Sayangi Najib' and sing it during the event.

The matter was brought to attention by Bersatu youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman. Malaysians expressed their disappointment over the matter, with most saying that forcing university students to participate in political celebrations is inexcusable.

4) Halimah Yaacob became Singapore's first female president on 11 September

Halimah Yacob

Image via Phyllicia Wang/The New Paper

While most Malaysians congratulated their neighbours for the historic win, a large number of Singaporeans called Halimah's walkover a "sad day" for the country. 

3) Kim Jong Nam's assassination: Malaysia's diplomatic relations with North Korea came under spotlight after the death of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Nam

Image via AFP

This high-profile murder case took Malaysia by storm in February and became one of the main reasons Malaysians discovered that we shared a cordial relationship with one of the world's most reclusive countries. 

However, the mysterious events surrounding Jong Nam's death frayed the relationship between both nations.

Kim Jong Un (left) and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (right).

Image via Reuters

2) The Sultan of Johor cutting ties with JAKIM: Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar cut all ties with JAKIM after a religious speaker from the department criticised him for speaking out against a Muslim-only launderette in Muar

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar

Image via Yazit Razali/Berita Harian

"The owner has gone against the vision of a united, harmonious, moderate, and tolerant Johor.

"If he still insists on carrying on the Muslim-only practice, he can leave Johor. I suggest he set up shop in Afghanistan. His thinking is sick and goes against everything that Johor stands for," the Johor Sultan said in late September.

The Muslim-only launderette drew criticism from Malaysians, who slammed the owner for putting up the sign that could divide the local community. The Johor Sultan's fiery response to the issue was applauded by Malaysians, who welcomed his progressive, anti-racism views.

1) The EPF funds announcement: When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak revealed the government's plans to use EPF funds to invest in the US

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak with American President Donald J. Trump at the White House on 12 September.

Image via Bernama

"We have Employees Provident Fund (EPF). They've got quite a big sum of capital to be exported. They have invested close to USD7 billion, in terms of equity, in the United States. And they intend to invest three to four additional billion dollars to support your infrastructure redevelopment in the United States," explained Najib on 12 September.  

The news did not sit well with many Malaysians on social media. Opposition politicians and netizens in the country questioned the motive behind the investments, stressing that the funds could instead be used to improve local infrastructure, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.

Which political news headline or issue was the most important to you in 2017? Let us know in the comment section below!

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