The candidacy of two high profile Malay DAP members for the next general election are in question after a series of photographs depicting a couple sharing an intimate moment, and bearing their resemblance, had made rounds online.
The male in the photographs looked like Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari, a 34-year-old married man with two children, who denied that it was him being depicted in the photographs.
"No, it's not me. It is clearly another attempt to malign me with personal attacks. They are fake, and that's all I have to say," Zairil told Malaysiakini through text message.
Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud, who looked like the female in the photographs, have yet to confirm or deny if it was indeed her.
The photographs - which depicted a man and a woman at a restaurant, where one of the photograph appear to depict the couple kissing - were widely circulated among pro-BN WhatsApp groups and websites yesterday.
The photographs, the third set to be circulated on the Internet to allege that the duo are having an affair, were also posted by Rizal Mansor, an aide to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s wife Rosmah Mansor.
"Does this need a statutory declaration, too?" Rizal asked in a Facebook posting.
Several newspapers reproduced the photographs today. This was not the first time photos, allegedly depicting the duo, had surfaced.
There is talk within DAP circles that this episode had caused embarrassment for the party and would affect the duo's candidacy during the upcoming general election.
Currently, the Penang and Perak DAP leadership said have indicated that their candidacy, which was until today a certainty, might be up for discussion.
Penang DAP confirmed that they have yet to hear from Zairil on the allegations and would discuss its implications on his candidacy "if necessary".
Chow Kon Yeow, the Penang DAP leader, said he will seek an explanation from Zairil soon and advised the latter to address the media.
Meanwhile, Perak DAP leader Nga Kor Ming said Dyana Sofya's candidacy for the Teluk Intan parliamentary seat in the next general election will be decided by the party's national leadership.
"I leave it to the party leadership to decide. Zairil has repeatedly denied (the earlier photographs) but photos keep coming up so it is best for the media to get it straight from the horse's mouth," Nga told Malaysiakini.
"Dyana has been active in Teluk Intan and is there every week to be part of the programme rakyat together with our (Pasir Bedamar) assemblyperson Terence Naidu. She is very committed to serve the rakyat of Teluk Intan," he said.
'Personal and vindictive'
Dyana reacted to the controversy yesterday, but refused to confirm or deny if it was indeed her in the photograph.
"This is the third personal attack within two months, I assume the general election must be very near.
"No matter who is in the photos and videos in which I allegedly feature, these are major privacy intrusions into that person's life. I am sad that our political culture has gone to this," she said in a statement.
Dyana also sought to draw attention away from the "personal and vindictive attacks" on her work in Teluk Intan, including to seek funds for a Women's Development Centre and to repair a jetty there.
Very few options available
Meanwhile, National Council of Professors (MPN) Political, Security, and International Affairs Cluster Head Mohamed Mustafa Ishak said Zairil and Dyana are now left with three options to handle the issue.
He said such attacks against public figures are to be expected, and public figures should be at their best behaviour to avoid having their personal issues being exploited against them.
Now, he said Dyana and Zairil either deny the allegations, sue those making the allegation, or keep quiet and wait for the issue to blow over.
However, he believes it would have little impact on their political careers.
"To be seen as very intimate or close to one another and nothing more than that, I don't think it is going to affect them very badly or adversely. It depends on the extent which this thing will be exploited.
"To me, the publication and distribution of the photos doesn't really affect them. This kind of thing has already happened to our political scene many times already – either from the opposition or from the government," he told Malaysiakini when contacted.
Reporting by Susan Loone and Alyaa Alhadjri.