Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor has, once again, sparked controversy online with his latest remarks that have been dubbed insensitive by everyday Malaysians and politicians alike
The Kedah MB was speaking during a press conference yesterday, 6 August, when he remarked about having enough freezer containers to hold the corpses of those who have died from COVID-19.
"There are enough funeral containers, whoever wants to go inside, can just give your names," he said jokingly, before going on to say that it's not like the state government wants people to die.
Someone is also heard laughing at the PAS politician's joke.
Sanusi, however, reminded that the bed capacity in hospitals including the intensive care unit wards is full and as such people must adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The clip of the Kedah MB's remarks has since gone viral, with netizens lambasting him for his lack of respect for the COVID-19 victims
More than 10,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Malaysia since the start of the pandemic.
Of which, Kedah has seen a total of 512 deaths as of Friday, 6 August.
In fact, the COVID-19 death toll is rising at an alarming rate in the country. Just in the first six days of this month alone, a total of 1,153 people have died from the virus.
Animah Kosai, a Malaysian-British who is behind the Speak Up Collective, expressed frustration.
"Enough with the clueless Malaysian leader who lacks empathy or even a sense of gravity about Malaysians who have died from COVID-19," she tweeted last night.
Anyone who thinks it's ok to joke about deaths should be removed immediately."
One of the many who slammed Sanusi for his remarks is lawyer Syahredzan Johan, who pointed out that 160 people died in a day
"160 people have died today, and he can still 'joke' about it?" tweeted Syahredzan.
Bridget Welsh, an expert on Southeast Asian politics, at the University of Nottingham Malaysia, tweeted that Sanusi's "crass insensitive comments" shows poor leadership in handling the pandemic
"Kedah recorded 7,721 [COVID-19] cases [and] 95 deaths in last week," she said.
"PAS MB Sanusi's crass insensitive comments that disrespect the dead [and] belittle trauma of [COVID-19] speak to poor state leadership in handling [the] pandemic. Only 24% vaccination rate and among highest cases need serious attention," she added in her tweet, which has gone viral.
Meanwhile, infectious disease expert Christopher Lee said he is "shocked" that an MB can say this when hundreds are dying each day
"Shocked that a Menteri Besar could say this when hundreds are dying each day. I've been doing clinical work for more than 35 years but three days ago, I still had difficulty telling a husband that his 31-year-old wife had died of COVID-19," the former health deputy director-general tweeted.
"To comfort and to provide empathy are the traits of a leader, yes?"
Batu Kawan member of Parliament (MP) Kasthuri Patto also took him to task, saying she isn't "surprised" by Sanusi cracking jokes at the expense of others, while also criticising the person who laughed
Similarly, Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman criticised Sanusi, who, he said, can't seem to stop speaking without manners
Additionally, Bersatu Supreme Council member Datuk Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff called the Kedah MB's joke "distasteful"
While quote tweeting Syed Saddiq, Dr Rais said that while people are constantly asking leaders to be kind and to have empathy, the Kedah MB is joking about "Kontena Jenazah" (funeral containers).
"So distasteful! And he says he is from a party based on Islam! That party is anything but Islam! Merchant traders of Islam really!" the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation chairman added.
Amidst the controversy, Sanusi's senior special assistant Nurul Amin Hamid, who is also head of Kedah PAS Youth, came to his defence
In a now-deleted tweet, Nurul Amin said that the Kedah MB always jokes with journalists and had no intention of linking the joke with COVID-19 patients or dying as a result of the virus.
He deleted the tweet after it was ratioed by netizens.