The humble loincloth appears to be causing a political storm in the Land of the Hornbill.

hadi-awang-pasIt began with PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang blaming the Pakatan Rakyat’s loss in April’s Batang Ai by-election solely on ignorant “cawat”- or loincloth-wearing voters who did not know how to vote.

His remarks, carried by the Malaysiakini online news portal on 11 July, was very damaging because it was not based on facts, said Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, who wants Hadi to apologise to the Iban community, especially in Lubok Antu.

Jabu, who is also Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) deputy president, said, “Even though he (Hadi) is entitled to his own views, he is proven wrong because sensible people vote for the Barisan Nasional (BN) and his derogatory remarks are tantamount to looking down on the voters’ well-being,” he said.

In the 7 April state by-election, the BN retained the Iban-majority seat after political novice Malcolm Mussen Lamoh defeated former five-time Lubok Antu Member of Parliament Jawah Gerang of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

Irked by Hadi’s comments made in the run-up to the Manik Urai by-election won by PAS, Jabu said anyone who had offended any community should apologise if he or she was a sensible person.

“I have covered Lubok Antu very extensively, well before, during and after [the by-election], and under normal circumstances, you don’t see anyone wearing cawat except during traditional dances when traditional costumes are displayed,” he said.

Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Datuk Seri Dr James Masing said such comments could stir racial tension in the country as it suggested that the voters were uncivilised.

“Calling Dayak voters uncivilised is uncalled for. It shows just how ignorant PAS is of the situation in Batang Ai,” said Masing, who was also BN director of operations for the Batang Ai by-election.

Tan Sri Dr George Chan, president of Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), one of the state BN component parties, said he, too, was disappointed over Hadi’s remarks.

He said political leaders should be sensitive and responsible when making media statements to avoid tension in a multiracial country.

“Being an experienced political leader, he (Hadi) should be aware of his responsibilities,” Chan said. — Bernama