A Facebook appeal by Malaysia’s leader for help naming two young Chinese pandas has drawn ridicule with many cheeky users seizing the opportunity to take shots at the government.
Premier Najib Razak posted a message on his Chinese-language Facebook page Wednesday seeking help naming the pandas, which China will send to Malaysia for 10 years in the latest chapter in Beijing’s “panda diplomacy.”
More than 300 people commented by Thursday, with many alluding to government corruption or other sensitive political issues.
One user suggested naming the pandas “Bersih” and “Stop-Lynas.”
“Bersih” is the name of an NGO coalition that organized a huge April 28 rally for free and fair elections that saw clashes with police, while the other name refers to a controversial rare earths plant being built in eastern Malaysia by Australian mining firm Lynas Corp.
Another suggested “Altantuya,” the first name of a Mongolian woman who was murdered in Malaysia in 2006 in a highly sensitive case.
A former close Najib associate was acquitted in the case, which at the time sparked opposition accusations of a massive cover-up.
Malaysia will sign an agreement on Friday for the pandas, which Najib had requested in April in a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao as a sign of strong diplomatic ties between the countries.
The majority of Malaysia’s 28 million people are Muslim ethnic Malays, but ethnic Chinese make up a quarter of the population.
Najib, who must call elections by early next year, has sought to reach out to the country’s minorities, many of whose voters abandoned his ruling party in 2008 polls.
Some Facebook users said Malaysia should first ensure protection and welfare of its own endangered animals, such as tigers.
“The government cannot even maintain our [national zoo] and look after the poor animal[s] in there… and now we are talking about taking care of two pandas… You gotta be kidding me. Set your priority right,” one posting said.
Malaysian officials have pledged recently to better protect zoo animals from abuse and neglect following cases of animals found in poor conditions in zoos.