Pressure on a new Malaysian minster over his choice of press officer – who also happened to be a LGBTI activist – became so much the staff member resigned.
Newly appointed Youth and Sports Minister, Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, hired Numan Afifi Saadan to work in his media department.
But the Malaysian public was not happy with the choice because Numan is gay. He is also one of the country’s leading LGBTI activists. After the backlash started both Syed Saddiq and Numan said the latter was only working in the office on a temporary basis.
A mere few days into the job, Numan resigned saying the threats he received made it too hard for him to do his job.
‘The backlash and threats from opposition propagandists have made it impossible for me to exercise my duties,’ he wrote in a statement.
‘Hopefully we get to live in a community in Malaysia that values diversity without prejudices.’
Syed Saddiq became minister after Mahatir Mohamad returned to power in a surprise election win in May.
Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, which bans ‘positive’ portrayals of LGBTI people on television and in film. Recently, it began blocking access to LGBTI health and tourism websites.
Syed Saddiq, 26, is Malaysia’s youngest ever minister and in an attempt to endear himself to constituents, he asked that people refer to him as ‘bro’.
He even referred to Numan as ‘bro’ in his goodbye tweet to the activist.
‘Your service has been invaluable bro since our campaigning days,’ the minster wrote.
‘Stay strong and i’ll always respect your decision.’
‘You’ll always be a bro.’
Your service has been invaluable bro since our campaigning days.
Stay strong and i’ll always respect your decision.
You’ll always be a bro. https://t.co/68nhiuaMqY
— Syed Saddiq (@SyedSaddiq) July 9, 2018
In response to Numan’s premature exit, pro-LGBTI people began roasting the minister’s use of bro.
‘The only kind of ‘bro’ that Syed Saddiq has proved to be is B-R-O, ‘Be Really Obtuse’,” Kerry Chin said.
I don’t know about you but for me, @SyedSaddiq is cancelled.
— Afiq Harraz (@AfiqH1507) July 9, 2018
Hi @pakatanharapan_ , @SyedSaddiq. I took no pay leave from work and travelled cross the country just to vote for you. I am lesbian, part of the @lgbtq. But I suppose asking you to stand up for us for once, the people who voted you in, is too much to ask for. #dontbrome
— zσє к (@sapphicblade) July 10, 2018
“Bro” @SyedSaddiq, say, what did you do to your “bro”? 😡 Stop “bro”-ing and start standing up for the rights of LGBT people. Your “principles” are worth nothing if you don’t practice what you say. #dontbrome #campurLGBT
— Teoh Han Hui (@teohhanhui) July 9, 2018
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) also expressed concerns at Numan’s forced resignation.
‘The resignation of the interim press secretary of the Youth and Sports Minister following backlash over his sexual orientation and/or LGBT non-discrimination activism is extremely troubling and makes SUHAKAM very uncomfortable, as Malaysia is supposed to ensure equality of its citizens under Article 8 of our Federal Constitution,’ SUHAKAM’s chariman, Tan Sri Razali Ismail, said in a statement.
‘SUHAKAM finds it unfortunate that the Ministry of Youth and Sports caved into public pressure and did not take a principled stand on this matter, when it should have assessed and evaluated the Officer on his skills, qualifications, and ability to contribute to the Ministry and our country.’
Tan Sri said Numan was judged solely on his sexual orientation, ‘which is a characteristic completely irrelevant to job performance’. This concerned SUHAKAM because it could lead to more discrimination of LGBTI people in the workplace across Malaysia.
‘SUHAKAM reiterates that all human beings which includes LGBT persons shall be provided access to among others, education, employment, housing and healthcare services without discrimination,’ Tan Sri said.