The Prime Minister’s Office stepped in to defend the remarks made by Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on his personal Facebook account, saying that Ismail’s call to “boycott greedy Chinese traders” was in fact a reminder to all Malaysian traders to reduce the prices of their goods, following the drop in fuel prices.
The PMO went as far as to release a statement on the matter, reiterating that there was nothing racist about the minister’s remarks.
“Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has stressed that Barisan Nasional will protect and uphold the interests of all races,” it said in a statement yesterday, as quoted by The Star Online.
“Therefore, any dispute that can lead to racial polarisation in this country should not be prolonged as it will only harm us.”
In his original Facebook post, Ismail called on Malay Malaysians to boycott Chinese traders who refused to lower the price of their goods, in order to ensure retail prices remain reasonable. That Facebook post has since been made private or has been deleted.
Ismail himself has returned to his Facebook account in an attempt to clarify his position, with two separate follow-up posts on the matter:
In the second Facebook post above, Ismail takes to task MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon, who had called for Ismail to be sacked from the Cabinet following his remarks. Ismail considered Chong’s move to remove him from office as being “out of step” with the Barisan Nasional spirit.
Defence Minister Hishamuddin Hussein also went out of his way to defend his fellow minister, vouching for Ismail’s credentials.
“I have known him for a long time and the whole issue to me is not race-based,” Hishamuddin said.
“It has been blown out of proportion by certain parties who are trying to exploit the situation politically.”