SHAH ALAM, 18 Feb 2009: Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has been granted an audience with the Selangor Sultan on 25 Feb over Bukit Lanjan assemblyperson Elizabeth Wong’s offer to resign over circulation of her nude photos.
Speaking at a press conference after chairing the weekly Selangor state executive council meeting today, Khalid said Wong, an executive councillor (exco), is presently on leave, and that her portfolio will, in the meantime, be shared out by the other excos.
The menteri besar added that a decision on Wong’s exco status will be made in a month’s time because “the state could not do without an exco member beyond a month.”
In a statement, Khalid said he will brief the Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj, who is currently abroad, about the issue, and seek his advice. He hopes the audience with the Sultan will result in the best solution for the state.
He also said the state is aware that certain irresponsible parties have been speculating about the photos to tarnish Wong’s reputation.
”We have also taken note that certain media and websites have been exploiting this issue for selfish and political purposes. Although the state respects the freedom of speech, ethics and truth should be of primary concern.
“The state hopes that there will be no further speculation on this issue as the matter is still under police investigation. We also appeal to all parties to stop circulating the contentious photos out of respect to YB Elizabeth Wong’s privacy and urge the police to take stern action against those doing so,” he said in the statement.
Wong, who is the exco in charge of tourism, environment and consumer affairs, tendered in her resignation letter yesterday after news about the circulation of the nude photos was splashed in the front pages of two newspapers on 16 Feb.
Wong, 37, who is Wanita Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) information chief, said she was the victim of a smear campaign and offered to resign as state assemblyperson and exco member in the party’s interest.
Khalid, who had previously said the Pakatan Rakyat-led Selangor government would stand by Wong, condemned the leaking of the photos, calling it a form of cheap politics.
He said Wong, a former human rights activist and first time assemblywoman, offered to resign because she was afraid the issue would affect the Pakatan Rakyat’s chances in the upcoming by-elections in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau.
Khalid said with Wong’s offer to resign, nobody can make use of the situation.
“That is her argument. But we as the exco will consider it and before making any final decision, we will seek an audience with the Sultan.”
Khalid brushed off questions about Wong’s morality as speculative when a reporter asked whether higher standards of morality were expected of Wong as a politician and state leader.
“We should not speculate on her morality. We consider her a victim in this situation. While morality and ethics are part of our consideration, we don’t judge people before we know the facts,” Khalid replied.
Other executive councillors who were also at the press conference expressed their support for Wong.
Kinrara assemblyperson Teresa Kok said the focus should be on the invasion of Wong’s privacy. Gombak Seti assemblyperson Datuk Dr Hasan Ali from PAS said the party also sympathised with Wong, and would help to ensure her name was cleared. He said he was saddened by both the taking of the photos and their dissemination.
Khalid was also asked about reports in the Chinese-language newspapers that PKR had been forewarned about the leak of Wong’s photos. He replied that the party was constantly being warned about heightened interest in their elected representatives.
But he denied any knowledge and dismissed as speculative other reports that there were more photos of Wong other than the ones already released.
Since news of the nude photos broke, Wong has seen considerable support from politicians from both the Barisan Nasional and the Pakatan Rakyat, as well as from civil society.
Yesterday, PKR advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim asked Wong to go on leave and said the party was prepared to defend her.
Police are currently investigating the circulation of the nude photos.