Malaysia appointed a Sikh as a federal minister for the first time in the country’s history when Gobind Singh Deo, a Member of Parliament from Puchong, was named as the Communications and Multimedia Minister. Deo was sworn in at the National Palace on May 21.
Deo is also the first Sikh minister in Asia outside India, New Straits Times reported, quoting the Asia Samachar website. The 45-year-old politician is among the two leaders of Indian origin inducted in the Pakatan Harapan coalition’s Cabinet led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who himself is of Indian descent. Mohamad named M Kulasegaran from the Democratic Action Party as the Human Resource Minister.
After taking over as the ministerial post, Deo said that his priority is the freedom of media. He also said that the Anti-Fake News Act officially gazetted in April will be amended or abolished.
Deo holds a Bachelor of Law degree from Warwick University, Britain. He is the son of Karpal Singh, a reputed lawyer and opposition leader in Malaysia, who was nicknamed “the Tiger of Jelutong.” Singh represented Jelutong, a constituency in Penang in northwestern Malaysia. He died in a car accident in 2014.
Deo himself, who has been a leading member of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), is called the “little lion of Puchong.” He was elected as a Member of Parliament after the 2008 general election, when he defeated the incumbent MP Lau Yeng Peng of the Barisan Nasional party. He was suspended from parliament for a year in 2009 after he accused former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was then the deputy prime minister, of involvement in a murder case.
Deo was re-elected into the Lower House in 2013, and won in the recent 2018 general election with an impressive margin of 47,635 votes.
The Punjabi community in Malaysia welcomed Deo’s appointment to the ministerial position, the Borneo Post reported.
“It is good to see Gobind Singh, a member of the Punjabi community, in the cabinet. It is a proud and happy occasion for our community. Other than being a recognition of his abilities, it is also a recognition for the long established Punjabi community in Malaysia,” Karambir Singh, the president of the Miri Indian Association, was quoted as saying by the publication.
Sikhs, numbering at around 75,000, make up less than 0.25 per cent of Malaysia’s population, according to an earlier report from star2.com.
The Malaysian Parliament now has 16 elected members of Indian origin, following the 14th general election held earlier this month. The elections led to veteran politician Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s elevation to the post of the Prime Minister, making him the world’s oldest PM at the age of 92 years.