Sunday, February 21, 2010

Downpour dampens Najib's CNY visit

It rained cats and dogs on Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's Chinese New Year parade, wreaking havoc on the plans carefully laid for the national leader and his entourage.

bn pandanmaran cny open house 1His security detail, protocol officers and event officials ran around frantically, trying to salvage what they could from what had become the 'wet batik-shirt' washout.

But the rain was not the only dampener in Pandamaran last night,

There was also a lack of enthusiasm from the estimated 20,000 crowd, at least as indicated by their lackluster clapping.

Up to one-fourth of the crowd was made up of event organizers, performers, the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture's media minders - including red-shirted staff from the obscure Department of Special Affairs (Jasa) staff - and the usual coterie of Rela, civil defence, riot and regular police units to control the crowd.

The rest looked like they came to partake of the carnival-like offerings on hand, apparently indifferent to the official agenda and tone of the occasion.

The masters of ceremony seemed hard put to work up the crowd for Najib's finale speech.

Even Information Minister Rais Yatim in his speech tried his hand at it, but his exhortation for the crowd to “dry out their wet clothes” by “clapping till the bulbs burst” did not evoke the desired effect.

Rais also hit out at Pakatan Rakyat figures for predicting that no one would bother to come to the occasion and for trying to “sabotage” the festivity by scheduling an event nearby on the same night.

Dressed down protocol

When his turn came, Najib also lamented that the large billboards depicting him were taken down, allegedly for not having the required permits.

Najib also made much of the supposed dressing down of protocol during the event, talked of being “a PM for 1Malaysia” and how BN leaders are willing to sit 'down there' with the rakyat.

bn pandanmaran cny open house 2Only the 'inconvenience' of the rain, he said, forced them to relocate to the high stage.

The purportedly reduced protocol directive was belied, however, by Najib's protocol officers who, in preparation for Najib's visit to three 'ordinary families' in Pandamaran, had swarmed their homes, covered some furniture with crispy-clean white sheets, labeled the designated seating arrangements and reiterated the program's sequence of events to ensure the itinerary was strictly followed.

A four-man team of police technicians armed with crowbar, metal detector and torchlights had also swept the homes and questioned their owners at some length.

Nevertheless, the rain failed to dampen the enthusiasm of those whose homes were chosen for the premier's visit.

Hoping, surely, that “when the Emperor visits, three generations of luck will come,” as one Chinese proverb puts it.

Tan Hock Bin, the owner of the first house graced by Najib's visit, said it was akin to “winning the lottery”.

“This PM is good to the people. He never looked down on us. When have we ever had a chance to meet a PM before?” he asked.

After the visit, Tan Hock Bin revealed that PM also made small talk with his 80-year-old mother about her hometown. He said he had hoped, however, to ask Najib to help solve his son's red identity card problem.

bn pandanmaran cny open house tantHis hopes were not realised, as Tan was told not to bring up his son's problems with the PM. He was told to instead contact Najib's political secretary, Oh Ei Sun, in two weeks' time.

Tan Chi, the owner of the second house, said he also was very happy as this is the first premier to visit an "ordinary" Chinese house in 60 years.

“I want my children, grandchildren and future generations to remember Feb 20, 2010, as this the date the PM visited our house,” a beaming Tan proudly proclaimed.

The PM also gave 'angpow' to the children containing RM10 each.

Money to burn

Some in the audience however expressed disdain at the elaborate - and wasteful - efforts to contrive the appearance of a government that 'listened', when genuine moves to solve the concrete problems faced by Pandamaran residents would have been more successful.

bn pandanmaran cny open house gooddies“It is no use visiting three houses here when only a stone's throws away, 230 houses have been demolished and the land taken away from the home owners,” one man in the audience, who declined to be identified, told Malaysiakini.

“Why spend all the money here on this spectacle when you should have compensated those whose houses were destroyed with a mere RM7,000?” he asked.

“We won't be easily swayed, but hey, the men behind this have lots of money,” he added, while pointing to an MCA leader on a poster behind him.

Underscoring his words, an impressive 10-minute fireworks display went up to commemorate Najib's Yee Sang with local residents.

How much money had literally gone up in smoke tonight, asked one gentleman, who also grumbled about the disruption of traffic and the distance with which he had to park his car for fear of the traffic summons he would have incurred had he parked any closer.

Unexpected visitors

NONEPandamaran's state assembly member and Selangor exco Ronnie Liu made a brief cameo appearance at one of the houses visited by Najib, before proceeding on his way for a Pakatan function at the nearby Dong Zen temple.

Just as his Chinese New Year posters were eclipsed by the BN pictures of Najib, Liu also seemed slightly out of place in the occasion.

bn pandanmaran najib rosmah poster“I gave the PM a mandarin orange and a letter which contained the wish list of locals to PM,” said Liu when met.

Another unexpected visitor was the poster of Port Klang's independent assemblyperson, Badrul Hisham Abdullah which appeared on the wall of one of the houses visited by the Najib.

Aproached after the event, Deputy Information Minister Heng Seai Kie denied that the choice of location was made with any political design.

She said Pandamaran was chosen because “it still retains the special characteristics of a new village while the two other big new villages, Jinjang and Serdang, have evolved into modern townships.”

She also pointed to the good turnout of Pandamaran villagers despite the heavy downpour as showing their acceptance of Najib as their premier.

“After the rain, there are still so many people. This proves that the Pandamaran people highly support the PM and his cabinet,” said the deputy minister.

news courtesy of Malaysiakini

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