It’s been more than three decades but the gruesome memory of Malaysia’s most infamous political murder case is haunting present-day discourse as frustration with the government’s handling of the coronavirus reaches bizarre new heights online.
Mona Fandey, a glamorous, rich and self-styled witch doctor who rose to notoriety in the 1980s over her use of black magic and love for the occult, began trending on Twitter in late September with many Malaysians recalling the grisly crime she committed with the help of her husband.
In 1993, the duo invited an ambitious and rising local statesman back to their home for a “spiritual flower bath cleansing ritual”, only to behead him without warning, skin and dismember his body, and chop it up into 18 pieces.
The memory of Fandey’s gory and ruthless killing of the politician Mazlan Idris from the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) comes at a time of growing public unhappiness with feuding, power-hungry politicians and members of the upper-class elite, many of whom have made headlines for flouting public safety protocols as the country grapples with a recent spike in daily coronavirus infection cases.
Watch: A Malaysian horror-thriller film loosely based on the real life story of local singer-turned-witch doctor Mona Fandey.
“Looking at our politicians now, I’m starting to feel like Mona Fandey was a hero,” one Malaysian said in a tweet that resonated with thousands.
“You know people are getting so tired of politicians when Mona Fandey [begins] trending out of nowhere,” wrote another, referencing her devious acts.
Others referred to the “witchcraft murderess” or simply offered cryptic warnings to those in power.
Mazlan Idris’s murder, followed by a sensational media trial of Fandey and her accomplices, rocked Malaysia for decades. Parts of his corpse were never found, leading to rumors that he had been eaten by Fandey.
Kelvin Siew, a doctor, weighed in on the timeliness of the decades-old story and why it resonates with so many in the country today despite its macabre nature.
“I guess one wishes that Mona Fandey would be resurrected today to take matters into her own hands,” he tweeted, recalling her chilling final words before she was executed at the Kajang state prison on November 2, 2001:
“I will never die. My soul will live on forever even after my demise.”
Azly Rahman, a U.S.-based Malaysian anthropologist and author, told VICE News that shamanism and black magic are still present in parts of the Muslim-majority country, calling Fandey a “charismatic and fashionable female celebrity bomoh (witch doctor) who stood out in an overly religious, male-dominated field”.
“Her services appealed to ambitious politicians looking for more power and success,” Rahman said. “While there was public outrage and disgust over what she did [to Mazlan Idris], a lot of people also thought it was the fault of such politicians for seeking black magic favors from Fandey and her team.”