- POSTED: 12 Dec 2013 21:15
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In Malaysia, the death of South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela has been politicised. Comments from some political parties comparing their party struggles to the life of Mandela have been perceived by critics as inappropriate attempts to leverage political capital.
KUALA LUMPUR: In Malaysia, the death of South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela has been politicised.
Comments from some political parties comparing their party struggles to the life of Mandela have been perceived by critics as inappropriate attempts to leverage political capital.
Such comparisons have been ridiculed and condemned by the public at large.
As the world honoured and paid tribute to a man who has been called a “giant of history”, Malaysian politicians were caught up in their own politicking.
Both the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and the opposition People's Justice Party (PKR) have been drawing parallels between their own party's struggle and that of Mandela and his ANC party.
Prime Minister Najib Razak at the closing of UMNO’s annual congress on Saturday said his party fought for the same cause as Nelson Mandela.
UMNO, he said, should emulate South Africa's ANC party in protecting and nurturing a younger generation of leaders to continue its struggle.
Mr Najib said: "We are saddened and appreciative of him as a freedom fighter, a man of peace. We must pay him tribute because UMNO struggles on the same principle."
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's party poured scorn on Mr Najib's remarks saying that they were an insult to Mandela, as UMNO was essentially a race-based party defending Malay supremacy.
And going even further, PKR claimed it was its leader Anwar Ibrahim who more closely embodied Mandela's struggle.
N Surendren, vice president of PKR, said: "It is Anwar's struggle and Keadilan's (PKR's) struggle that has got parallels to Mandela's struggle, because Anwar is the first major Malay politician of national standing who did away with racial politicking and instead said he'd help the people without bothering about their skin colour, according to their need.
“He has no interest in taking revenge or any kind of vendetta against those who fabricated charges and made him suffer for six years, but instead it's about saving Malaysia, it's about national reconciliation."
The political bickering has drawn flak from across the nation's social media platforms and many Malaysians have criticised their leaders for showing disrespect to the great man.
One Malaysian said: "Actually it's an insult to Mandela, I should think, and the ANC, because it's far better to have been honest and not jump on the bandwagon and say we are of the same stature. We are not. It's different over here."
Nelson Mandela will be fondly remembered in Malaysia as he visited the country twice after being released from prison in the 1990s.
For many Malaysians, he remains an inspiration and that is why some have even called on South African President Jacob Zuma to demand an apology from the Malaysian government for allegedly showing disrespect and trying to distort his principles.