Malaysian Politician Offers to Quit over Nude Photos

KUALA LUMPUR ~ A prominent Malaysian opposition politician tearfully offered her resignation this week after photos of her in the nude were circulated to the media.

Elizabeth Wong, one of Malaysia’s top human rights activists, blamed government “gutter politics” for the release of the images, which reportedly show her sleeping in her bedroom.

Newspaper reports have speculated that the images may have been taken by a former boyfriend.

“I wish to state that I am not ashamed of my sexuality as a woman and a single person. I have broken no laws. I stand by the fundamental principle in a democracy that everyone has a right to privacy,” she told a press conference on Tuesday.

The photographs, which are circulating via cellphone but have not yet been published in the media, have caused a political storm in Malaysia, which is a conservative and predominantly Muslim country.

“I believe that these attacks will continue with greater intensity,” Wong said, adding that Barisan Nasional and the ruling party UMNO would “continue to manipulate the situation.”

“Accordingly I have decided to make a stand in the interests of the party and its struggle for the people,” she said, as a group of supporters holding flowers and banners yelled their support.

Wong, a bespectacled 37-year-old who is not married, is a well-known member of the multiracial Keadilan party led by Anwar Ibrahim, who helms the three-member Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance.

She has won support from both sides of the political divide, including from women in the Barisan Nasional coalition and the Pakatan Rakyat.

But there have also been calls for her to quit her seat in the Selangor state assembly, which the opposition won for the first time in general elections a year ago.

“She is a single person. How can she allow a man into her room when they are not married? What’s the status of the relationship,” said Mohamad Khir Toyo, the former Barisan Nasional chief minister of Selangor.

Keadilan officials said on condition of anonymity that the party feared other more compromising pictures may emerge unless Wong stood down.

However, Anwar did not immediately accept Wong’s resignation, saying the state lawmaker had been asked to take a break and that the matter would be considered later.

“We asked her to rethink her options,” he told reporters at parliament. “I am angry. I am personally disgusted with this kind of gutter politics by UMNO.”

But he said he did not think this was the end of Wong’s career.

“I don’t believe so. She is a tough lady,” he said.

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