Najib’s lightning temple visit riles Kit Siang

By Adib Zalkapli (Malaysian Insider)
Najib waves to the crowd before the Tua Pek Kong procession in Sibu May 12, 2010. — Picture by Jack Ooi
SIBU, May 12 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak became the first prime minister to attend a celebration in honour of a Chinese deity tonight but the historic visit opened him to criticism from the Pakatan Rakyat for being all too brief.
The Tua Pek Kong procession, held every three years, became a venue for leaders from both Barisan Nasional (BN) and PR’s DAP to charm the Chinese voters who form about 67 per cent of the 54,695 Sibu voters.
The festival is one of the major events in Sarawak’s tourism calendar and the four-day celebration ends tomorrow with a dinner to be attended by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
About 7,000 participants from more than 100 Chinese cultural and religious organizations from across the country took part in the procession which lasted more than two hours.
Roads around the seven-storey Sibu Tua Pek Kong temple, which is one of the town’s major landmarks, was repaved last weekend in preparation for Najib’s visit.
The state DAP took part in the celebration and the delegation was led by its candidate in the May 16 by-election, Wong Ho Leng.
The Sarawak DAP chief along with Lim Kit Siang, DAP Youth chief Anthony Loke started gathering outside the temple as early as 6.30pm, an hour before the procession started.
Thousands of people also lined the streets of Sibu town to watch the procession.
Announcements were also made via the temple’s public address system for the crowd to give a thunderous applause upon Najib’s arrival.
About ten minutes before the start of the procession Najib arrived with the BN candidate, Robert Lau Hui Yew, for this Sunday’s by-election and he was quickly ushered to the temple entrance to sign a plaque to commemorate his visit.
Najib was then ushered back to his car before a temple official could present him with a picture of the temple as a souvenir.
With a lot of pushing and shoving and shouts of “Don’t push!” from the crowd, Najib was finally escorted to his car.
Via twitter, Lim who held on to his Blackberry while the minor commotion was going on, described Najib’s appearance as a “three minutes lightning visit.”
“If in vital Sibu by-election Najib can only spare 3mins 4 120yr TuaPekKong Temple after so much publicity what does it imply?” asked Lim.
Najib had earlier handed RM15 million in financial assistance to 65 Chinese schools as part of his attempt to win the Chinese votes.
The community had backed DAP in Election 2008 and BN lost six Chinese-dominated state seats in the Sarawak election held two years earlier.
In Election 2008, the late Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew retained the seat for BN with the help of Malay/Melanau and Iban voters who form about 33 per cent of the constituency’s 54,695 voters.