AN OPPOSITION lawmaker in Malaysia has done the “Wakanda forever” salute from the 2018 Hollywood film Black Panther during a parliamentary debate about child poverty.

Nurul Izzah – who is the MP for the Kuala Lumpur electorate of Lembah Pantai and is the daughter of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim – tweeted a screenshot of herself doing the gesture in Malaysia’s Dewan Rakyat, or lower house, on Tuesday.

“Today we support the vision of ‘Malaysia forever’,” tweeted Nurul. “Let no child be left behind.”

Black Panther has been a popular box office release in Malaysia, where it has grossed at least $9.8 million. It has grossed a massive $1 billion worldwide.

The “Wakanda forever” salute has also been adopted as a celebration by some sports stars including Jesse Lingard of Manchester United and French tennis player Gael Monfils.

Nurul Izzah was questioning the Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid about a recent Unicef report which found that 99.7 of children living in low cost flats in Kuala Lumpur were living below the country’s poverty line.

The parliamentary speaker has rejected a motion to debate the report’s findings. “We also carry out surveys and so far have not found any students going hungry. No such case have been reported by teachers,” said Minister Mahdzir on Tuesday as quoted by Free Malaysia Today.

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Unicef’s report found that one in five were stunted, a rate higher than Ghana and on par with famine-ravaged countries such as Zimbabwe and Swaziland. The number of overweight children in low cost housing, meanwhile, was six times higher than the average.

“I don’t know how Unicef could come out with such a report and compare us with Ghana. We can see ourselves that there are no children who are malnourished or have stunted growth,” said Mahdzir.

“This is because we have the supplementary food programme that provides for students in need, in both rural and urban schools,” he added.

The government has been criticised for refusing to debate the topic in parliament, with opposition MP Charles Santiago telling reporters that “the Unicef report demonstrates the failure of public policy in providing a better quality of life for urban poor families.”

“Parents who can’t make rent due to relative and absolute poverty, lack of space in low-cost, high-rise flats for kids to play, and poor maintenance are among other pressing issues,” he said.

Malaysia is set to have a general election later this year in which bread and butter issues will be the most important for voters. Many observers are tipping the Barisan National government – which has ruled Malaysia since 1974 – to win again.

asiancorrespondent