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Published: Wednesday November 25, 2015 MYT 8:27:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday November 25, 2015 MYT 10:16:31 AM

A costly blunder for Nurul Izzah

Nurul and Jacel pose during her visit to Manila.

Nurul and Jacel pose during her visit to Manila.

YOU have got to feel for Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar. It’s not been an easy week for her.

Instead of celebrating her birthday on Nov 19 like a regular person, she was the target of brickbats from the public over a photo she took with Jacel Kiram, the daughter of the former self-styled Sulu Sultan who was behind the Lahad Datu intrusion in 2013.

The photo, which was taken in the Philippines earlier this month, shows Nurul Izzah and Jacel standing side-by-side and holding up a “Release Anwar Immediately” poster.

In two other photos, she’s in a selfie with Jacel while the other shows them dining with two unidentified men.

The Internet went mad – literally – over the fact that the PKR vice-president was pictured with a sworn enemy of the state, with most Malaysians saying her actions were an insult to the policemen and soldiers who had lost their lives in the deadly intrusion. 

Some went so far as to accuse Nurul Izzah of committing treason and betraying her nation.  

Jacel was, after all, not just an innocent bystander in the incursion led by her father, the late Jamalul Kiram III.

The “Sulu princess” was somewhat of a social media spokesperson for the “Royal Sulu Army” at the time, and has since repeatedly claimed Sabah as Filipino land.

She has also made the claim on Sabah a key part of her recent campaign to become a senator in the Philippines, stating that she will not stop fighting until that goal is achieved.

Hence, implying that there is “no big deal” with the photos, as some of Nurul Izzah’s opposition colleagues have done, is foolish to say the least.

To the Lembah Pantai MP’s credit, she immediately apologised for the photos and explained that she had not intentionally sought a meeting with Jacel, nor had the two ever met before.

But that part was never disputed, was it? We all accept that this was a chance encounter. What we don’t understand is why Nurul Izzah chose to have her photo taken with Jacel, when she could have politely said no.

What we also don’t understand is why Jacel and Nurul Izzah are holding up “Release Anwar” posters.

Whichever way you spin it, it looks like the PKR veep was seeking endorsement from the Sulu princess for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s release from prison.

Not stopping there, Nurul Izzah is also seen holding up a poster of her own – seemingly indicating that the two are uniting for a cause.

The question is, why would a well-informed politician such as Nurul Izzah choose to be united on anything with a known villain of the Lahad Datu episode?

Unless of course, and I’m inclined to think this was the case, Nurul Izzah had no idea at the time that the person she was photographed with was the self-styled Sulu princess.

By her own admission, there were 15 guests at the meet up, which was hosted by Filipino authorities. So okay, perhaps she forgot to do a background check on all of them.

But it still leaves her in a pretty embarrassing situation. Given the scale of the Lahad Datu intrusion, and the fact that Jacel became a “household name” with her remarks being quoted copiously in the media at the time, I would think that she’d be etched into memory by now.

And if Nurul Izzah was indeed unaware of Jacel’s identity, then she and her PKR counterparts should have come right out and admitted their blunder from the start.

Instead, they waited for the photos to go viral and then resorted to defending her by deflecting the issue.

PKR central committee member Latheefa Koya even compared Nurul Izzah’s case to the time when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak shook hands with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations assembly in New York.

For starters, Netanyahu isn’t actively trying to invade or stake a claim on Malaysian territory.

And more importantly, neither Najib nor Netanyahu were smiling into the camera, taking a selfie, or holding up a poster to advocate a common cause.

The PKR lawmaker has made a costly blunder, and one she will struggle to wiggle her way out of when the police come knocking.

Tags / Keywords: Jacel Kiram, Nurul Izzah Anwar, PKR, Sulu, opinion, Akil Yunus

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