KOTA KINABALU: A PPBM member in Sandakan today defended DAP’s by-election candidate Vivian Wong who came under fire on social media over a recent clean-up session at a Muslim cemetery in the constituency.
Zamri Othman said the reaction to the issue had been blown out of proportion, adding that Vivan’s father, the late Stephen Wong, had also participated in a gotong-royong session at the cemetery.
Vivian was criticised for the act by some on Facebook who claimed she had done so as part of an act to fish for votes.
However, she said she had not intended to trigger any tension through the clean-up at the Kampung Sim-Sim cemetery.
“My father always wanted to ensure that the cemetery is clean, and our Muslim friends also prioritise cleanliness. I just wanted to continue this,” she said, adding that such activities are a norm.
“But on this issue, I will be more careful next time. I didn’t know this could trigger quarrels among the community.”
Zamri, who has resided in Sim-Sim for more than 40 years, said he was touched when he saw Vivian cleaning up the graves.
“Our family has no problem with her doing this,” he said, adding that his parents are buried in the same cemetery.
“Why do you need to viral a good thing? Don’t make this an issue because Stephen also came last year. We consider Vivian as our youngest sibling.
“These is no issue with the cleaning up of the Muslim cemetery here. The DAP leadership did this too in previous gotong-royongs,” he told reporters in Sandakan today.
Sabah Amanah chief Haris Alimudin also backed Vivian, saying Sabahans reject issues that could lead to racial and religious tension.
“We urge the candidates not to touch on racial issues because we do not want what’s happening in other places to come to Sabah,” he added.
PBS candidate Linda Tsen declined to comment on the issue, saying only that she would not resort to personal attacks against Vivian.
“This is not my style or that of PBS,” she said when met at a walkabout in Sandakan today. “Honestly, I wish her all the best.”
Sabah DAP also defended Vivian, with its media liaison officer Ginger Phoong labelling the backlash as a political gimmick.
“It was never an issue in the past as it never garnered any publicity, like the one this morning,” he said in a statement yesterday.
“We did it humbly and with good intentions. I regret to see that it was politicised during this election period.
“This clearly shows it was not done for election purposes. It is a normal practice here in Sabah as racial and religious sentiments should have no place in Sabah politics,” he added.