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Sex scandals and politicians

Lewinsky and Clinton (Source images: Public domain)

“I DID not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

We’ve all seen and heard the parodies of this line after former US President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal in 1998. But that’s not the only sex scandal to have made the headlines. Hasn’t Malaysia seen its own share of scandals worth mentioning?

Let us recall the events of January 2008, when former Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek was recorded on video having sex with a woman he called “a personal friend”.

While I have yet to see the video myself, I managed to get a narration of the proceedings recently at a comedy club. Personally, it’s not my kind of porn.

But why was this scandal so serious? I mean, if Chua wanted to engage in adultery, that’s his personal business, is it not?

Chua was embroiled in his own sex scandal
Since he was the health minister at the time, the most relevant question that the media and the cabinet ministers should have asked was whether or not he used a condom. You know, to promote safer sex and all. But that’s just my personal opinion. Let’s move on.

When accused of something that Malaysians found lewd and shocking, what did Chua do?

Well, let’s start by talking about what he didn’t do — he didn’t do a Bill Clinton, that’s for sure. Unlike Clinton, Chua admitted it on the spot. That, in my opinion, shows a politician with integrity, unlike Clinton’s craftiness as seen in his trial before the Senate. However, I’ve yet to ascertain whether or not Clinton used a condom, which is what really matters in this case.

It’s only sedekah

Now let’s fast-forward from January to September 2008.

In another high-profile sex scandal, Perak Tengah district councilor Zul Hassan and businessman Fairul Azrim Ismail both admitted to having sex with Chinese nationals. The two of them were offered these women for sex by a certain Muhammad Imran Abdullah at an apartment in Penang.

I know some folks see an opportunity here for some cheap melamine jokes, but let’s stick to the point. This scandal was truly disturbing — just look at how the (now sacked) district councilor justified his actions. According to The Star: “He had been quoted as saying ‘what is important is we did not ask for the women. He supplied them to us. If people sedekah (donate), don’t you want to accept the sedekah?’”

(© Tea/Dreamstime)
I’m still amazed by his superior intellect in disclosing this to an officer from the Anti-Corruption Agency. Thanks to him, I wouldn’t be surprised if every pimp is now lining up to register as a “charitable organisation”. Will the names of Jalan Chow Kit and Lorong Haji Taib be changed to “Charity Drive”?

However the businessman, Fairul Azrim Ismail, who admitted the deed to the Perak religious authorities, is now pleading not guilty and claiming trial.

Obviously the authorities should have dragged him to the nearest mosque, sat him in front of an imam, and made him swear on a Quran. At least then we could all see the video on repeat during another highly charged by-election. And if Fairul has a fiancée, perhaps we could go to her blog and rant about what an arrogant jerk her future hubby is.

But seriously, folks, has anyone noticed something significant about some of the men involved in these scandals? In my estimation, some of them were pretty good leaders.

Clinton managed to undo the deficit left behind by his predecessor, George Bush Sr, and create a surplus. Robert and John F Kennedy both had affairs with Marilyn Monroe, yet both were brilliant, passionate politicians. Who knows, if they had lived longer, perhaps they could have made an even bigger impact in bringing equal rights to African Americans.

Tunku Abdul Rahman (Public domain)
Rumours abound that our own first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman was a playboy, a gambler and a drinker. He was a man who took his old landlady, Violet Coulson, as a second wife, only to be told afterwards by the Regent of Kedah to divorce her. Yet, he was also the leader who fought for Malaya’s independence, and managed to somehow unite the people of Malaya to fight the good fight. And incredibly, he was made the first Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

Everyone makes mistakes

My point is this: everyone has their faults and weaknesses, even politicians. There is no such thing as a perfect, flawless leader. Lest we forget, some even became power-crazy over the course of 22 years, abusing the Internal Security Act (ISA) to cut down alleged lalang. Some flew to Australia to open a nasi kandar shop while Johor was flood-stricken.

Outside Malaysia, some leaders of a certain superpower saw imaginary weapons of mass destruction and launched a war based on these visions. In October 2008, fewer than six years after the war was announced, the country’s national debt exceeded US$10 trillion.

But how many of these leaders had the integrity and honesty to admit their mistakes publicly? These are mistakes that actually caused detriment to the public interest. These were not moral indiscretions of a personal nature. Some moral indiscretions do involve an abuse of power and position, but shouldn’t these abuses be the real benchmark for the rakyat to gauge a leader’s worth?

Are there any politicians out there who can be confident that their personal lives will not be spotlighted, that they will be judged solely by their political integrity?

Ahmad Hafidz Baharom is a paradox. He’s an anti-smoking chain smoker, an environmentalist who leaves his office lights on, a centrist who’s a lalang, and a twentysomething yuppie who dreams of being a slacker. Basically, he’s a lovable moron.

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14 Responses to “Sex scandals and politicians”

  1. Yeo Kien Kiong says:

    Indeed, all human beings are born imperfect.

    But such public figures should have known to take risks of being exposed to such media frenzy, leading to violation of privacy. Since these people are the “shapers” of the country, we should know their integrity as well as their weaknesses.

    Sometimes “the integrity to admit mistakes or shame” is just a part of a larger political agenda. Sometimes not for the opposition, but as part of the “creative” process.

    But overall, [in my opinion] any politicians out there can be confident and being comfortable if their personal matters as well as public matters [if they are just and honorable] are be shared by all or are highlighted to set model examples of good citizens, not mere political integrity.

    In general, at “times” honesty is the best policy.

  2. Yusuf Martin says:

    Did I detect a wry smile at the end of this piece?

    Hafidz, my dear conundrum, yes everyone makes mistakes, but generally these mistakes are seen as the mistake in getting caught, rather than the deed they were caught doing.

    Clinton was not the first American president to lie to the American people, Nixon infamously proclaimed that he wasn’t a crook, but he was, and I believe there were a few less than truthful utterances by John F Kennedy too.

    Moving swiftly along….

    Britain has not been without its fair share of sex scandals, from the infamous Profumo affair with Christine Keeler, the showgirl who was bedding both British and Russian spies, to the Liberal Party leader’s gay affair and association in murder, and Jerry Archer’s dalliance with prostitutes. The list, unfortunately, goes on.

    Actually I do think the moral base of our ‘leaders’ is important, and being caught out in a scandal implies loose morality. It also demonstrates the sort of thinking whereby those in power believe that they do not have to kow tow to the usual laws and decorum, that lesser mortals (we) have to. This is dangerous thinking and leads to manipulation of laws and statutes for personal gain, such as locking away opposition leaders under ISA, or putting away members of the press who disagree with you – slippery slope.

    While I have to agree that many wrongdoers have also done much for their countries, there are many more who did not indulge themselves, who have done as much.

    I am not so certain that the right message is being sent when we wish to turn a blind eye to scandals. First investigate properly. Discover the facts, prosecute and sentence with an impartial judiciary, but above all dismiss those found guilty from any form of leadership.

  3. Tasneem Muhammad-Poyer says:

    Interesting piece. Loved the many tongue in cheek comments. Only the truly lampi (lambat pickup) ignoramuses won’t get what you meant =)

  4. But then what defines a “good” citizen, KK, in a day and age where we are not open to liberal Muslims, homosexuality, discussions on inter-religious matters, media freedom?

    I will agree that at CERTAIN times, honesty is the best policy. However, the majority of Malaysia, to quote Zainuddin Maidin, are too close minded to agree to disagree on the issues raised above.

    For example, the case of Zulkifli Nordin, a member of a party which supposedly supports equality. He decides to barge into and end a discussion hosted by the Bar Council, instead of just peaceably waiting outside and protesting.

  5. YSTan says:

    How can Chua be described as having integrity when he cheated on his wife? I think he did not have a choice but to admit once he knew he was recorded on tape, which was then sold in public. His “honesty” was just designed to make him appear less of a fool.

    The Tunku, great as a leader that he was, did not fight for independence. He negotiated for independence, which actually enhanced his standing. The people who literally fought for independence were the communists, first against the Japanese and then the British. Many died.

    It’s hard to follow your line of thought. From sex scandals, you suddenly jump to mistakes in general. Of course, all of us make mistakes. But we need to distinguish the type of mistakes; between political and personal, and for personal, between sexual and a whole lot of human weaknesses and judgments. Some of these are forgivable and some are not: the variance could be cultural. In France, extra marital liaisons hardly raise an eyebrow but in the UK, it is big news and politicians resign when caught.

    In Malaysia, what is pervasive is the hypocrisy of the politicians, especially the ones in government.

  6. DanielC says:


    I’m curious…since Muslim men who are able to “care” for four wives can do so, how come our wealthy politicians rarely have more than one? Is this the case too with the royalty?

    Would this religious ruling make Islamic leaders less (or slightly less) likely to fall into sex scandals?

  7. Mr. Tan, you give a comment on the assumption that the wife didn’t know about it. Plus, I honestly draw the line between personal integrity and work integrity right here.

    Did his having a mistress affect his work in a negative manner? Doesn’t seem so.

    Plus, I respect your view on Tunku, but negotiation is still a struggle, regardless of how you wish to define the concept of “fighting for independence”.

    In your definition then, Anwar is probably “negotiating” for a crossovers as well, in contrary to the perception of opposition supporters. As for the Communists, yes, they physically fought for the right for independence.

    Then I guess you view Gandhi as a great negotiator for India’s independence as well?

  8. Zed says:

    I think Bill Clinton was correct in saying that he did not have sex with Lewinsky as he did not use the Lewinsky’s sexual organs, but used her mouth instead.

  9. aidan says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Great piece! Funny and intelligent

  10. sino says:

    But if Dr Chua can play out his wife and family, he can do the same to his country and people. Don’t you think so?

  11. Jha says:

    It never fails to amaze me how sexual indiscretions are such a huge deal in the minds of the common person, whereas a politicians could be corrupt, spur racial hatred, encourage violence or something non-sexual crime, and no one bats an eye.

    So politicians have sex. And sometimes with people other than their spouses. Apparently this magically drives nations into debt, corrupts the youth into twisted parodies of their parents’ morality, and I bet it also sends pigs squealing into the sky for fright.

    Oh, and thank goodness I wasn’t around for that “sedekah” bit. Newspapers would have gotten pissed off at me for pointing out, repeatedly, that women are not donations. But hey, it’s nice to know how valued we women are by our courts.

  12. ChooVS says:

    Your writer said ‘Chua admitted it on the spot. That, in my opinion, shows a politician with integrity’.

    Chua had little choice — he was caught with his pants down.

    By the way, he did not use a condom.

    Clinton insisted he “did not have sex with this woman” because he believed that since there was no penetration, it did not amount to sexual intercourse.

    He did not need a condom.

    Sure, politicians are humans, too, but since they are people in high places — and ordinary folk look up to them — they should not get involved in such activities.


  13. Thank you for your comment, Mr. Choo.

    While the “common folk” (I disagree with this term because there’s no such thing) should look up to their leaders, just what exactly should they be looking up AT?

    His work or his personal life?

  14. Thank you for your comment, Sino.

    Let me reverse your logic, just to illustrate a point.

    Does this mean that when Anwar Ibrahim wanted to take an IMF loan, that meant that he had sold out his family before?

    Work and personal matters should not mix. Just like religion and state should never mix.

    And yes, I am a proponent for the abolition of the two-court system in this country.

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