Malaysian-born Hollywood star Michelle Yeoh has been drawing a lot of flak recently from the Malaysian public after it was announced that she would be co-producing the movie adaption of the award-winning book Billion Dollar Whale written by reporters Bradley Hope and Tom Wright. The book details the entire 1MDB scandal, centering around Jho Taek Low, starting from the foundation of the development fund to the lavish purchases and the eventual unraveling of the long con.
The backlash that Michelle Yeoh is facing comes from the fact that she was a very vocal supporter of disgraced ex-PM Najib Razak before the Malaysian 14th general election that ended his grip on the nation.
As early as January this year, Yeoh was deployed as part of a special delegation to Cox’s Bazaar to visit the Malaysian Field Hospital there with Malaysian Armed Forces chief general Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohammed Noor. The actress, who is also ambassador of the UN Development Programme, praised Najib for his efforts in helping the Rohingya people, saying that he has done an amazing job.
“We are very proud to recognise the fact that he was the one who championed this in the first place as a good neighbour and doing the right thing as a human being. Our PM has shown great leadership together with the Bangladeshi government with our partners in Saudi (Arabia) and UAE (United Arab Emirates),” she told reporters during her visit.
Back in 2013, Yeoh threw her support behind Najib and his party, urging voters to ‘give him a strong mandate’ so that he can continue to lead the nation. At a gathering organised by the Federation of Chinese Descendants of Selangor before the election, she said, ‘We have a leader here who has done so many good things and will do more. I hope from the bottom of my heart that he will remain as the Prime minister and I ask all of you to give him a strong mandate”.
It’s widely believed that this was an attempt from the PM to rally voters from the Chinese base. But even back then, Yeoh received harsh criticism for her support of Najib. In response, she defended her actions and told reporters and the public that everyone was free to voice their opinions in the democratic country of Malaysia. Her father, Datuk Yeoh Kian Tiek also came to his daughter’s defence to remind netizens that she was free to support any political party that she wants.
Now, with the news that she will be producing a movie involving the man she so vehemently supported before the fall of his administration, the public is not holding up their punches. Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, said that she is far worse than any loyal Najib supporter, calling her lack of principles appalling. Echoing the sentiments of the public, Zunar implied that her decision was opportunistic and driven by monetary greed.
In a statement on Malaysia Kini, Zunar wrote, “As for Yeoh, you may be famous in Hollywood and can amass a lot of money. In Malaysia, we value your character, not your wealth or popularity.”
Though the Malaysian public have a lot to say about Michelle Yeoh’s apparent U-turn on Najib, author of Billion Dollar Whale has said that he’s perfectly okay with Yeoh’s involvement in the film adaptation despite her past involvement with Barisan Nasional and Najib. Adding on, he said that plenty of people were BN supporters back in 2013 including the current PM Mahathir.
What’s surprising with the reaction from the Malaysian public towards the legendary actress is that they don’t seem to be as forgiving towards her as they were of Air Asia CEO Tony Fernandes when he released a video supporting BN just before GE14 or of PM Mahathir who was Najib’s mentor of sorts.
I guess the difference here is that both Mahathir and Fernandes have since come forward with explanations for their past support. Mahathir has been quite sharp-tongued in this criticism of Najib’s administration for a few years now while Tony Fernandes eventually explain that he had little choice the matter of supporting BN as he didn’t want to risk the livelihood of thousands of employees.
Yeoh has yet to issue any kind of statement in defence of her statements in the past nor has she addressed any of the recent backlash regarding her role as co-producer on this new movie about the 1MDB scandal.