After being treated like a celebrity at election campaigns in Johor and Melaka, former prime minister Najib Razak has received a rousing welcome in Penang, a state where he had been booed during the 2013 general election campaign.
He opened an investment summit on Friday, rubbed shoulders with Chinese community clan leaders, and conducted walkabouts at a clan jetty, a popular food court and at a night market.
Najib received red-carpet treatment and was mobbed by large crowds at most events. However, in Bukit Mertajam on the mainland, a group of DAP Youth members carried out a brief protest, which was broken up by police.
In his keynote address at the investment summit, Najib had said the Chinese community is hungry for a change, after poor management by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government which has been in power since 2008.
“If Malaysians restore a strong multiracial Barisan Nasional (BN) government with a solid majority, with our proven track record I can guarantee that the share market will boom once again, foreign investors will knock on our doors, and the good times will come back,” he said.
He later met clan leaders at the Penang Chinese Clan Council, an influential local Chinese grouping often regarded as a bellwether of the state’s Chinese political support.
He was given a red carpet treatment there, with a lion dance ceremony welcoming him. Zhang clan chief Chang Wei Lu called him the friendliest prime minister to the Chinese since independence.
Najib then headed to Insadunia food court in Bukit Mertajam, a local mainstay. Prior to his arrival, members of DAP Youth displayed a banner which read “Bossku Kemaluan Negara”. They said an MP should not skip Parliament and claimed Najib was not welcome because of his conviction on corruption charges.
An organiser of a luncheon for Najib screamed at them to leave, at one point shoving a DAP man. Police ordered the two men to stop arguing and both dispersed without much incident.
The protest did not hamper the spirits of those waiting for Najib as he arrived minutes later in a 11-car entourage, dressed in a pink baju Melayu after Friday prayers. A lion dance and chingay troupe sprang into action amid a large crowd screaming “Bossku”.
“This is an organic crowd we have here, not some people brought from somewhere else,” he said to about 300 people.
Najib then headed to Weld Quay in George Town to visit the Chew Jetty and was feted by the clan jetty committee that invited him there. He told the crowd he was impressed by the turnout, given it was a workday.
He received applause when he said: “I crossed the bridge, but I had to pay the toll,” in reference to PH that they would remove bridge tolls when they came into power.
Later, he visited the popular pasar malam at Van Praagh Road where he also received a rousing welcome by shoppers there. He was later joined by some Umno, MCA and MIC members at an open space at Taman Kheng Tian. A coffee shop owner nearby decided to give free drinks to “Bossku” supporters; he said he was doing so because he did very well when Najib was prime minister.
This morning, Najib met Penang Umno leaders, where he held a few hours of talks with party bigwigs. He told reporters the Chinese mood has changed and appeared to favour BN.
Source : FMT
PENANG has become a DAP stronghold over the last decade and Datuk Seri Najib Razak knew he was walking into the lion’s den.
No one could quite predict what would happen during his March 25 visit to Penang.
After officiating at a business and investment summit, Najib headed out to the Chang Clan Association where he was greeted by dancing lions, deafening drumbeats and the handsome Chang Wei Lu.
Chang, the national chairman of the Chang clan, has the looks of a Hong Kong movie star. But he also has a fearless reputation and is not afraid of anything or anyone, not even ex-Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng.
Chang is a key figure in the more opaque side of Chinese society and politicians know it is better to have people like him as a friend than as an enemy.
It was a day of back-to-back programmes for the former premier and as the day progressed, the crowds grew bigger and bigger.
When Najib arrived at a food court in Bukit Mertajam in the heat of the afternoon, the crowd had become quite crazy, with people surging forward and holding their handphones high in the air to snap his picture.
The conversation on social media, which had mocked the crowds as paid and rented while slamming those at the events as “shameless”, had toned down by the time Najib reached his final stop at the Jelutong pasar malam.
For sure, there was a great deal of organising, even orchestration, at every single event that day.
But it was also quite evident that there were many ordinary people swarming for a glimpse of the man known as “Bossku”.
And when some DAP supporters staged a protest at the Bukit Mertajam event, it was apparent that Najib had stepped on the lion’s tail in its northern kingdom.
This is Najib’s second attempt to touch Chinese hearts and minds.
The first attempt was at December’s Chinese economic conference in Kuala Lumpur where he reminded the business community that he created opportunities for them and how his warm ties with China brought in investments.
He went a step further in Penang, telling his audience that if Barisan Nasional returns to power, the share market will boom, foreign investors will come knocking on the door and the good times will be back.
But he stressed that Barisan needs to come to power in a “truly multiracial fashion”.
He was subtly telling them that Barisan is a government-in-waiting and he wants the Chinese to come along.
Najib also used the business and investment summit where he was the keynote speaker to strip away the misconceptions that Chinese have about him.
He cleared the air about a damaging headline “Apa lagi Cina mahu?” (what else do the Chinese want?) in Utusan Malaysia after the 2013 general election.
He claimed he never said anything like that because that would have been insensitive and arrogant and “that is simply not Najib”.
Kwong Wah Yit Poh, the most popular Chinese vernacular daily in Penang, splashed what he said on its front page.
Step by step, the man responsible for the Chinese tsunami is now able to tell his side of the story.
No one in Umno or Barisan can do what he is doing now with the Chinese.
He certainly got on the nerves of DAP’s Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim, who slammed Najib’s claim that Barisan can bring back the good times as “empty promises”.
Datuk Seri Hong Yeam Wah, president of the influential Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce (PCCC), also said that Penang Chinese do not welcome people who have been convicted for corruption.
The trouble is that this sort of attack does not hold as much water as it used to because Pakatan Harapan’s own election promises are now known as “manifesto bukan kitab suci”, meaning that its election promises should not be taken as gospel.
Some also pointed out that the PCCC should not preach about corruption because Hong had turned up in court in a show of support when Lim was charged with graft over the Penang undersea tunnel project.
The situation these days is what is known as “dua kali lima”, that is, all politicians are the same.
DAP is fortunate that, despite the Chinese disenchantment, the community does not see Gerakan or MCA as a viable alternative.
Lim, who was chief minister for two terms, was hailed as a Chinese hero. But his ongoing corruption trial has hurt him, especially among the Chinese fence-sitters.
“What we have here are two people facing serious corruption charges. If you are a Chinese in Penang, who would you be more drawn to between the two sets of kluster mahkamah (court clusters)?
“One delivers his message in a soothing way, he does not demand that you accept what he says. The other is confrontational and likes to scold people,” said a retired medical doctor from Penang.
Najib regained the sympathy of Malays not long after the 2018 general election.
His Chinese courtship is more recent, after it became apparent that many in the business community have openly switched sides and, of course, after the Johor election.
The brouhaha over Najib’s Penang outing will not necessarily translate into votes.
So much of the Chinese anger that was driving politics in the last decade has been replaced by fatigue and scepticism.
Najib seems to understand the Chinese psyche and what he is doing is to further soften Chinese opinion ahead of the general election.