Malaysian star Yeoh at centre of political storm

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian film star Michelle Yeoh has been heavily criticised following a report that she will attend a function in support of the country’s ruling coalition as a divisive election looms.

Supporters of the political opposition, which is mounting a serious challenge in the May 5 polls, branded the 49-year-old star of “The Lady” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” a traitor and government stooge.

The controversy erupted after a report last week said Yeoh, Malaysia’s most internationally known celebrity, would attend a huge dinner party this Saturday attended by Prime Minister Najib Razak and other ruling coalition leaders.

The event near the capital Kuala Lumpur is being put on by a group of Malaysian ethnic Chinese business figures and aims for 55,000 guests in a bid to set a new world record, reports have said.

Yeoh is a source of pride in Malaysia for her successful acting career but the reaction has highlighted Malaysia’s deeply polarised politics.

Internet users said the report indicates that Yeoh supports the long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which is struggling to prevent a slide in support over persistent allegations of corruption, authoritarianism and misrule.

“Instead of standing up against the corruption, she chooses to go the other way. Shame on her,” said one comment on the Facebook page “We Fully Support PKR”.

PKR is Parti Keadilan Rakyat, a member of the three-party opposition alliance.

An April 12 posting on the page that says “You were once the Malaysian people’s pride but now no longer” has earned nearly 7,000 “likes” and drawn 1,300 comments – mostly condemning Yeoh.

Another comment said the star only “cares about fame, power, and money. Let’s all boycott all her future movies”.

Yeoh has not publicly commented and her publicity handlers did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

The actress received acclaim for her portrayal of Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi in 2011’s “The Lady” and was later made a “Datuk Seri,” a Malaysian honorary title similar to a British knighthood. – AFP


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