KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 — Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin called Datuk Zulkifli Noordin a “man with calibre” today amid protests against Barisan Nasional’s (BN) decision to field the Muslim hardliner to contest the Shah Alam seat in Election 2013.
The BN deputy chairman reportedly reminded that Zulkifli, who courted controversy recently with his insults against the Hindus, has since admitted his mistakes and apologised.
“He is a seasoned politician who is outspoken but he is also a man with calibre.
“We will wait and see if the people accept him. The decision of the rakyat will be respected,” Muhyiddin was quoted saying in The Star Online.
BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak confirmed Zulkifli’s candidacy in Shah Alam when unveiling the coalition’s Selangor list on Tuesday, allowing the Kulim Bandar Baharu incumbent to run directly on a BN ticket.
The decision earned the caretaker prime minister much criticism, largely due to Zulkifli’s reputation as a Muslim hardliner, his post as the vice-president of Malay right-wing group Perkasa and the recent controversy over his insults against the Hindu community.
Leaders from federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) immediately used Zulkifli’s appointment as a campaign point in a ceramah in Ipoh, encouraging Indian voters not to support BN.
On Wednesday, MIC leader S. Vell Paari warned party president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel in a text message that BN could lose in Selangor if it insists on fielding Zulkifli in Shah Alam.
According to the text message delivered to The Malaysian Insider from a party source, Vell Paari urged Palanivel to convey his concerns to Najib and asked for “favourable action” from the BN chairman, warning of a “disastrous situation” if not action is taken.
“Dear Datuk Seri G. Palanivel, Zulkifli Noordin being a BN candidate in Shah Alam is an insult to the Hindus in Malaysia. Everywhere people are getting emotional,” he said in the message, which was also sent to all MIC central working committee members.
The son of former party chief Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu noted that there are some 15,000 Indian voters in Shah Alam, 31,000 in Kota Raja, 21,000 in Kapar and 17,000 in Subang, many among them were angered by Najib’s selection of Zulkifli, he claimed.
“We could lose nearly 50 per cent to 70 per cent of Indian votes which could result in loss for MIC candidates especially in Selangor but with Indian voters being a deciding vote, it could result in BN failing to capture Selangor,” he said, adding a warning that the sentiment is also spreading to other states.
Another excerpt of the text message sent by Vell Paari in his role as MIC strategic adviser reads: “Dato Seri we cannot be keeping silent and letting everyone to walk away with an apology after insulting our religion and community.”
In Segamat yesterday, MIC deputy president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said Najib has already been informed of the party leaders’ “views” and “feelings” over Zulkifli’s candidacy.
“That one we have already expressed our views to prime minister so I don’t want to talk about it. We have informed the prime minister of (our) feelings,” he told The Malaysian Insider at a BN event when asked to comment.
A video of Zulkifli uttering the word “Keling”, which Malaysians of Indian descent consider derogatory, went viral recently, just days after another video was released in which he questioned an Indian trader on why Hindu gods did not prevent the man’s shop from being flooded, drawing the wrath of Hindus.
Once a lawyer for Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Zulkifli had also questioned the purity of the Ganges River, also known as Ganga in India, which is considered sacred by Hindus.
Zulkifli became a BN-friendly independent MP and critical of the opposition when he was dismissed from PKR on March 6, 2010 over a police report he lodged against Shah Alam incumbent Khalid Abdul Samad of PAS.
Umno candidate Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin lost to Khalid in the 2008 general election by a 9,314-vote majority. In 2004, he had won against Khalid by a 13,410-vote majority.