KUALA LUMPUR(Feb 22)--The recent controversy surrounding the "Sugarbook" dating platform is yet another example of how government overreach in Malaysia fails to address the core issue and instead gets caught up in biased sentiments.

Sugarbook founder Darren Chan, was remanded for another 7 days after prosecutors filed for a review of the police’s application to detain him. Justice Noorin Badaruddin did not give a reason for the court’s latest decision.

The same court denied the police their application to keep the suspect in custody on Feb. 18 as Chan promised to assist the police in their probe.

Where Sugarbook exists or not, consenting adults will use other platforms to meet up, hook up and pay up. Arresting and prosecuting a tech entrepreneur like Chan will only harm the country’s image instead, further reinforcing Malaysia is a bad place to do business in.

A poor economy as we have now will almost certainly give rise to the demand for work, additional income and any means to escape the harsh reality of life in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. That is the fundamental issue. Of course this is not to say the economic conditions before the pandemic were great for Malaysia either.

The practice of older men (or women) using their wealth to court young lovers is as old as human society itself. There is nothing new under the sun, even the Malaysian sun.

Let us remember that child marriage involving children as young as 11-years-old has been documented as having taken place in Malaysia, for example:

“Ayu’s marriage to Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid, a 41-year-old rubber trader with a prominent role at his mosque and a fleet of fancy cars, has reignited debate in Malaysia about the persistence of conservative Islamic traditions in this modern, multiethnic democracy.”

While a sugarbaby has the choice of getting involved with a sugar daddy, the child bride has no such choice and is often too young to even understand the implications involved and the fact that her childhood is over.

It is even more disturbing that certain politicians now trumpeting the arrest of Chan and action against Sugarbook are “protecting the dignity of women''. These very same people will not say a word against child marriage and are we to really wonder why other social ills are being ignored as well?

When there are such pressing problems to solve, the COVID-19 pandemic, the failing economy, extremism and an environment that is constantly suffering from degradation, why are we focused on what consenting adults do with their time and money?