The people asked me to run in this election, says Malaysia's 'King of Shamans'

Reporting and Photos by Fadza Ishak; Video by Nabil Danial

You could say general elections are an “enchanted” time for any nation, when one gets to watch the magic of democracy in action.

So is it any surprise that a self-styled shaman has decided to run for office in Malaysia’s upcoming national polls?

Ibrahim Mat Zin, also known as Raja Bomoh (“King of Shamans” in Malay), announced on 17 April that he would be running for the Bagan Datuk parliamentary seat in the 9 May general election (GE14). His bid could potentially see him taking on Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The 68-year-old silat teacher and real estate businessman, is no stranger to the limelight. In 2014, he made headlines for putting on two much-publicised rituals at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport – involving coconuts and bamboo sticks – with the intention of locating the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

In March this year, Ibrahim performed another ritual outside the National Institute of Forensic Medicine at Hospital Kuala Lumpur following the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. This time, the performance was meant to protect Malaysia from outside threats, especially those coming from North Korea.

Ibrahim was subsequently taken to task for his antics and publicly apologised the following month for creating a scene and mocking Islam. He also admitted that the rituals conducted were merely for the sake of causing drama.

Born in Bagan Datuk but registered in Teluk Intan, Perak, the self-described shaman says he has four wives and 32 children. He also claims to be a descendant of Dato Maharaja Lela, the folk hero who resisted British colonialism.

As president of the Silat Gayong Ghaib Malaysia association, which teaches a mystical form of the martial art, Ibrahim claims he has students across Malaysia and other parts of Asia. It is these students, along with his neighbours and friends who have been pushing him to step into the political arena, he adds.

Yahoo News Singapore caught up with Ibrahim in Kuala Lumpur to find out more about his election plans.

1. What’s your interest in running in this election? Why now?

I actually had no intention of running, but my students, neighbours and friends have been nudging me to do so for the past 10 years. Previously, I left it to other parties to take care of these people because it is the (minister’s) job.

But, the people have become frustrated. Back then you could get two full bags of groceries with RM50 ($17) when you went to the market. Nowadays you cannot get that any more… (The people I’m referring to) are “kampung” (village) people, and not city people. Like in Bagan Datuk, Hutan Melintang and Simpang Empat. They are all fisherman or work on cocoa farms and coconut plantations.

So they came to me, asking me to run to defend and guide them. And the people, all five million of them, asked me to run for this election….

The current illegal immigrant problem in Malaysia has made it difficult of locals to get jobs. And if we look at the standard of salaries between all these illegal immigrant and locals, their pay is the same. At times the (illegal immigrants’) pay can even be higher than that of the locals.

These illegal immigrants get their salary, they pay their rent and send the rest back to their countries, but our people they have to pay for their car, water, electricity and families. So it is sad to see how our government has been managing the economy…

Back when we were colonised by the British, our economy was good, prosperous and everyone lived lavishly. But now, when Malaysians themselves govern the country, our economy has become bad for everyone. Now the rich are getting richer while things are getting worse for the poor.

I, as Dato Mahaguru Ibrahim Mat Zin, am running not because of the salary. I will give the five years of my pay to the less fortunate within the Malay community. Secondly, I will also help the Chinese, Indians, the Sikhs, Christians as well as the Murut and Bajau people in Sabah and Sarawak.

Because I am not the people’s representative, but I am the people’s spirit.

2. Do you have any experience in politics? What will be the main focus of your campaign for GE14?

I have mixed with people in politics for years. I have been involved in politics since the era of Tungku Abdul Rahman. Tun Razak, Tun Ismail and also Tun Hussain Onn, Abdullah Badawi, and also Tun Mahathir. I was not a politician but I mixed with politicians.

I am used to officiating openings of schools and have done political campaigning under UMNO, during which thousands of people watched me talk. But I didn’t get into politics.

Because of the current economy, I myself sometimes feel sad. It’s not that the party that governs the nation is not good, but the person who leads the party is not that good.

If elected, Ibrahim – seen here with his bodyguard – has promised to give back all five years of his pay to less fortunate Malays and other communities. (PHOTO: Fadza Ishak for Yahoo News Singapore)
If elected, Ibrahim – seen here with his bodyguard – has promised to give back all five years of his pay to less fortunate Malays and other communities. (PHOTO: Fadza Ishak for Yahoo News Singapore)

3. Who are your supporters and why do you think you appeal to them?

See, now there are people from Barisan Nasional, Parti Keadilan Rakyat, PAS and also independent candidates. But the people feel none have tried to help them. That’s why I am an independent, so no one can be angry at me.

So the president for this independent party is me, and I have 15 million followers. This is not including people from outside of Malaysia.

I was the president of Teluk Intan’s Trishaw Society and I am also the president for Teluk Intan’s Malay youth society. I am also president of an association for traditional healers.

So that is why I can speak in public like this. I am also the president of my silat society.

4. What will you do if you win? Will you continue to stand in elections if you lose?

For me, I promise if I win a parliamentary seat in Bagan Datuk, I will build one big Islamic Tahfiz School or a big Chinese school or a big Tamil school. This is because the students from these schools mostly come from poor families.

I will also give all the students RM120 per month to help them to go to school. There are a lot of single mothers in Bagan Datuk, and I will give them each RM800 per month. For the disabled, I will give them RM1,500 per month.

So the total amount that I will give out is RM500 million within that five-year term. If I win, I will add another RM3 billion…

I will still run in the next election even if I don’t win. Because I am new, so people don’t know me yet. Just like if you open up a restaurant, people don’t know what is good in your restaurant, but sooner or later (they will) and I will build on that support.

5. What is being bomoh about in the 21st century?

(Being a) bomoh is a way of Islamic healing that is being inherited from the time of the Prophets, the kings. In 2018, it is like our left and right hand. Left is the traditional way and the right is the modern medical way.

So in cases of mysterious illnesses, people will go to the traditional healer to ask for help. Like being haunted by a ghost, hysteria – you won’t go to see the doctor for help (in these matters). If you have gastric or liver problem, you should seek the help of modern medicine. We won’t try to heal that.

Ibrahim believes he is more well known than this possible election competitor, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. (PHOTO: Fadza Ishak for Yahoo News Singapore)
Ibrahim believes he is more well known than this possible election competitor, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. (PHOTO: Fadza Ishak for Yahoo News Singapore)

6. Will you be using your “powers” to help yourself win?

Every politician use bomohs during election periods. Not only that, if you want to win a singing competition you will go look for ustadz (music teacher) and bomoh. So when you seek a bomoh, it is not like you place your faith with the bomoh, but with God.

7. What would you say to those who are sceptical of your past demonstrations of “magic powers”?

There are four types for bomoh. First is Pawang, then Dukun, Kiyai and the traditional healer. We don’t all use magic.

Some will recite some gibberish, which is what you can call superstition. But if you recite from the Quran then that is different. So if that is considered wrong, then what else can you do beside that?

8. Among the major parties contesting the election, which one do you support (if any)?

Nope (laughs).

9. Would you be intimidated going against big name such as DPM Zahid Hamidi?

For me Zahid Hamidi is a nice and good man, and his name is well-known. I do support him actually, but when talking about the current situation my name is even bigger because the whole world knows me. I just hold the two coconuts, and I made the news in Korea and in the United States.

Being a big name comes second. If we have a big name but we do little work, the public won’t be happy. As an independent… I’m not running a business party. Even if I was being offered big project by the government, I would refuse it. I would open it to the people, to whoever want it.

I have a lot already, so why should I take it? I should give it to the public.