In Mat Sabu's Defence


In Mat Sabu's Defence

The first three Pakatan Harapan cabinet ministers were announced on Saturday. The choice of Mat Sabu as Defence Minister raised a few eyebrows. Zakiah Koya trawls social media to gauge public reaction.

One may question why the three - Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu were chosen by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to head very important ministries, namely Home Affairs, Finance and Defence.

He obviously did not just tembak (shoot in the dark) in making these important appointments without much thought. These three were undoubtedly the most loyal to Mahathir ever since the former Prime Minister became the chief of Pakatan Harapan.

Of the three, Defence Minister designate - Mohamad Sabu, also known as Mat Sabu became the main target for memes with Lim Guan Eng - the Finance Minister designate also not being spared. 

Muhyiddin escaped the same treatment though, probably due to the fact that he was a former Deputy Prime Minister. (Muhyiddin is well known for having been sacked by former PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak when the former questioned him on the 1MDB financial scandal.)


Both Mat Sabu and Lim served two years together in detention under the now-defunct Internal Security Act in 1987, ironically under Mahathir's rule.

The duo were long time opposition leaders, the former with PAS and then Amanah, and the latter with DAP.

Rolly poly Mat Sabu, with side-parted hair, carries with him the reputation that of a joker, while Lim was the no-nonsense tokong (venerable diety) Penang Chief Minister in the way he does things. 

Both Mat Sabu and Lim served two years together in detention under the now-defunct Internal Security Act in 1987, ironically under Mahathir's rule.

Anyone who sits down with Mat Sabu will always come away entertained by his jolly banter. He has a naughty schoolboy face who is always with a grin and it is very rare for one to see him angry.

The one time he did get angry publicly was when he did the "Mic Drop" when he threw down a microphone on stage, slamming it at a Free Anwar rally early last year.

The jokes he crack only serve to make him a fiery and magnetic speaker on stage. He was the main rally organiser for PAS during the tenure of Datuk Seri Nik Aziz Nik Mat before he led a rebellion against PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

At that time, PAS always managed to get thousands on the streets, especially for their after-Friday prayer demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur. He then led a group of top party leaders who abandoned PAS to form Parti Amanah Nasional (Amanah) in response to Hadi’s hardline stand on the implementation of Hudud and extreme Islamisation for PAS.

Unknown to many, he is also very well-versed in international politics and is well-read despite the kampung joker image he tends to portray in public. The only thing is, while he speaks fairly good English, his thick Malay accent gives the kind of image that he does not speak English at all.

A BFM radio interview done a couple of years ago when he was still in PAS, has gone viral again suddenly and many expressed surprise that Mat Sabu spoke good English.

When Mat Sabu was announced as the new Defence Minister, many of his friends who know his tendency to poke fun over everything told him, "Jangan main tembak-tembak lagi ya!" (No more playing the fool). Another posted, "Abang Mat banyak experience, dulu kecik kecik main tembak-tembak" (Brother Mat has lots of experience, playing cops and robbers as kids).

Memes of Mat Sabu cheekily captioned "Make love, not war" are also popular. 

There is one striking meme of him riding in an armoured vehicle, another with him in military gear armed to the teeth with an assortment of lethal weapons.

While everyone who knows Mat Sabu were poking fun at him, those who know Lim joked that now all the Kari Kepala Ikan (fish head curry) restaurants will get more financial funding.

This is because Lim is well known for his publicly-declared obsession with the popular fish head dish. Some had even said he moved from Melaka to Penang because the northern state had the best fish head curry.

While some questioned his suitability for the post of Finance Minister due to his ongoing trial over alleged irregularity over a house purchase, many came out in his defence stating that Lim is "innocent until proven guilty". One of that was former Finance Minister II, Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani of Barisan Nasional.

Lim knows he must win the case to ensure that his credibility as the clean guy remains intact.

He got off to a good start when he memorably answered a question from a reporter from China about his race and and his elevation to the Finance Ministry by saying, “I’m Malaysian, I don’t see myself as Chinese.” She had asked him how  he felt in becoming the first Chinese Finance Minister in the history of the Malaysian cabinet after a 44-year hiatus.

As for Muhyiddin, many thought it was wise of Mahathir to appoint him as the Home Affairs Minister as he was always a man who does not talk much but much admired for his calculated moves.

Muhyiddin's weakness, say many on the social media, is that he tends to take too much time to make decisions, as he did before he was sacked by Najib and he needs to be pushed to get things done quickly.