Facebook posts falsely accuse Malaysia PM of appointing wife to fictitious job

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on February 9, 2023 at 07:20
  • 3 min read
  • By Arfa YUNUS, AFP Malaysia
While Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was rocked by accusations of nepotism for appointing his daughter as a senior adviser in January 2023, Facebook posts falsely claimed that he had given his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, a job as "chairman of Federal Territories Members of Parliament, Federal Territories Department, Prime Minister's Department". However, this role does not exist. The Prime Minister's Office said Anwar had not appointed his wife to any official role and had no plans to do so.

"Congratulations on Anwar's wife's appointment," reads the caption of this Malay-language post, uploaded on Facebook on January 30, 2023.

The post, shared on a Facebook page with more than 282,000 followers, shows a photo of Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's wife who is also a member of parliament for the Bandar Tun Razak constituency in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Text on the photo congratulates Wan Azizah on her "appointment as chairman of Federal Territories Members of Parliament, Federal Territories Department, Prime Minister's Department."

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on February 8, 2023

Malaysia is made up of 13 states and three federal territories: Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan.

Anwar took office in November 2022 after decades as Malaysia's leading opposition politician, during which he suffered a string of setbacks including being thrown in jail for corruption and sodomy -- charges he said were politically motivated. His wife, Wan Azizah, became deputy prime minister in May 2018 -- the first woman to hold the post in Malaysia.

The claim circulated as Anwar faced criticism for appointing his daughter Nurul Izzah as a senior economic adviser.

While Nurul Izzah, a former lawmaker, said she would not be paid for her work, opposition leaders slammed her appointment as an example of the nepotism that Anwar had pledged to fight against.

Similar Facebook posts circulated here, here and here.

The false posts generated hundreds of comments, with many social media users appearing to believe that Anwar had genuinely appointed his wife as "chairman of Federal Territories Members of Parliament, Federal Territories Department, Prime Minister's Department".

"An entire family and relatives in the government, fantastic/amazing, Malaysia can," one Facebook user commented.

"Can't the MACC investigate this claim that the PM has appointed his family members into the federal administration?" asked another, referring to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Screenshots of Facebook users' comments

Fabricated job title

The position of "chairman of Federal Territories Members of Parliament, Federal Territories Department, Prime Minister's Department" does not exist.

After he took office, Anwar scrapped the federal territories ministerial portfolio and parked it under the Prime Minister's Department, which means that the prime minister now oversees matters concerning the federal territories.

Following the restructuring of the federal territories ministry into a department, the government appointed Rosida Jaafar as its director-general.

Malaysian government departments are headed by a director-general, not a chairman.

The false claim appears to originate from Wan Azizah chairing a meeting for members of parliament representing federal territories in Kuala Lumpur on January 19, 2023.

"Wan Azizah was recently asked to chair a meeting for Federal Territories MPs and they were hoping to create a secretariat -- not a committee or a council under any government agencies -- to better manage issues arising in their respective constituencies," the prime minister's political secretary, Azman Abidin, told AFP on February 2, 2023.

"Wan Azizah herself is an MP serving in a federal territory so there shouldn't be any problem for her to chair such a meeting. But the claim on the poster is false because the meeting was not made through any government agencies or departments."

Azman said that Anwar had not appointed his wife to any position in the Prime Minister's Department and had no plans to do so.

The Kuala Lumpur Information Department also rejected the false claim in a Facebook post on January 30, 2023, saying: "The political secretary to the Prime Minister has denied a rumour claiming Wan Azizah's appointment at the Prime Minister's Department".

Malaysia's state broadcaster RTM published a fact-check report debunking the claim.

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