SEVERAL photographs of Malaysia’s First Lady Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali have gone viral after she was reportedly seen sporting a ‘RM 125.10 (US$31) handbag’ on Monday during the prime minister’s first address to civil servants.
Dr Siti Hasmah’s fairly modest choice of accessory came as a thrill to netizens amid turmoil faced by ousted former first lady Rosmah Mansor, who recently saw police seizing what looked like millions worth of luxury handbags and jewellery from her properties as the government hones in on former Prime Minister Najib Razak over graft allegations.
According to online news site, Free Malaysia Today, netizens believe the bag held by Dr. Siti Hasmah was made by Marie Claire, a relatively inexpensive brand that is widely available online.
The photos of Dr Siti Hasmah and her nonagenarian husband Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, were shared over 3,200 times and more than 17,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook at press time.
“The modesty of Tun’s wife has been honored and praised by Malaysia’s multiracial community,” netizen Lily Boon was quoted as saying.
Other netizens like Muhammad Shah Rizal believe shoppers would make a beeline to buy the bag on e-commerce websites like Lazada and Zalora.
Another netizen, Margerita Murib, said: “Cheap things in the hands of good and decent people can look elegant but expensive things in the hands of bad people make them look cheap and old.”
However, one Asian Correspondent reader pointed out that the bag seen with Dr Siti Hasmah more likely resembled one made by Harmano, which retails for about (US$592) on e-commerce site Rakuten.
During the address in Purtajaya, the country’s federal administrative capital, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia is saddled with over RM1 trillion ($251.70 billion) in debt, blaming the previous government led by former protege Najib, according to Reuters.
Dr. Mahathir, 92, led an opposition coalition to a spectacular win over Najib’s previously undefeated ruling alliance in a general election on May 9, having campaigned aggressively over people’s rising living costs and a multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
“We find that the country’s finances for example, was abused in a way that now we are facing trouble settling debts that have risen to a trillion ringgit,” Mahathir said when speaking for the first time to staff of the prime minister’s office.
“We have never had to deal with this before. Before we never faced debts higher than 300 billion ringgit, but now it has climbed to 1 trillion ringgit,” Mahathir said.
Malaysia’s anti-graft agency has summoned Najib to give a statement on Tuesday in connection with a probe on SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.
The summons came days after police raided six premises linked to the former prime minister as part of investigations into the state investment fund that Najib founded in 2009.
Among the items seized include 284 boxes of designer handbags and dozens of bags filled with cash and jewellery, from a luxury condominium in the centre of Kuala Lumpur linked to Najib.