KUALA LUMPUR, 8 Feb – Chinese New Year is nigh, and with the celebrations this year falling hand in hand with the country’s heightened wait for its 13th General Election, tension remain high on a certain side of the political battlefield, some going as far as creating a brawl over removals of banners.
Tourism Minister, Dr Ng Yen Yen has condemned Penang’s Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai, MPSP (Seberang Perai Municipal Council) for carrying out its responsibility in taking down banners bearing the images of Prime Minister Najib Razak put up without permit — a matter Ng called as ‘unbecoming’.
Ng claimed to receive reports that some people have stepped on the banners after they have been brought down, provoking Ng to demand an apology from Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng for the ‘disrespectful behaviour’.
According to Ng, who is also MCA Vice President, stepping on the Prime Minister’s image also meant ‘stepping on Malaysia’.
The ubiquitous banners, depicting Najib donning a traditional Chinese dress in striking red, replete with his Chinese New Year wishes written in Mandarin, have been spotted in many parts of the country — particularly in areas with a sizeable ethnic Chinese presence, as the Year of the Snake draws near.
Photos of the banners were shared quickly all over the social media, with many describing the banners as ‘weird-looking’ and ‘distasteful’. Some has even likened the dress Najib is wearing to the dress worn usually by the dead in Chinese funeral ceremonies, creating a sort of cultural faux pas.
‘It’s MPSP’s duty’
Responding to Ng’s statement, MPSP councilor Steven Sim has defended his local council’s acts against the minister’s flak, saying that Ng is being disrespectful by ‘insulting’ the MPSP workers that were merely carrying out their duty by removing the illegally put banners.
Finding Ng’s claim as baseless, Sim also believed that Ng has ‘insulted the wisdom’ of the people, particularly those of the MPSP workers and Penangites. According to the online portal Malaysiakini, Sim said ‘Ng should know better’, stressing that laws and regulations must be followed.
“Does she [Ng] mean that it is all right to break the law, just because it involves the PM, or Najib?” Sim questioned.
Sim, also Penang DAPSY Publicity Secretary, said that Ng should offer her apologies to MPSP, asking Ng, MCA and BN to ‘be thankful’ towards MPSP instead since the mainland Penang local council has ‘covered up the shame’ of the prime minister, for Penang BN had ‘broken the law by putting up streamers without a permit’.
“Is Ng saying that the workers were wrong in carrying out their duties? She should apologise to MPSP and its workers for her insulting statement criticising MPSP’s official work.”
Further explaining the removal of the banners, Sim said the MPSP workers were just carrying out their normal duties around the Bagan area when they spotted the illegal banners put up by Penang BN.
Stressing that the particular ‘illegal banner removal operation’ has included other banners that were not related to BN or Najib, Sim released that 971 banners have been removed that day during the operation. Out of the total number, 678 were Najib’s banners.
Reminding Ng of the Penang Pakatan Rakyat-led state administration and local councils’ practices of CAT — competency, accountability and transparency — Sim remains adamant that action would be taken to ‘no matter who made a mistake’, whether it is the minister or the prime minister.
Sim is not surprised by Ng’s action, as according to Sim, ‘BN had always practiced double standards’ in implementing the rule of law.
Sim later offered the Member of Parliament for Raub a piece useful advice, hinting Ng that, instead of being a minister who oversees streamers with Najib’s face all the way in Penang, it is better for her to take care of the people in her own constituency.
“They are probably suffering from poison due to BN’s unfriendly policies,” said Sim, recalling the on-going issue of cyanide usage in gold mining in Gebeng, neighbouring Ng’s constituency in Pahang.
The Najib banners are part of the latest stints by Barisan Nasional put up in conjunction with Chinese New Year, as the ruling coalition tries hard to seek approval and mandate from Malaysia’s Chinese community, whose support towards BN has been waning especially during the past few years.
Its lead figure, Najib has been observed as going the extra mile in extending New Year wishes to the Chinese community and Malaysians in general, by various methods from the usual letters and cards to engaging in videos and audio recordings, drawing mixed responses from the public.
In his 40-second audio recording, Najib paired with his 22-year-old son, Nor Ashman who once undertook a Mandarin course in Beijing, to deliver his greetings on air. Najib extended his wishes in Mandarin, followed by asking his son the meaning of his Chinese name, Na Ji, to which his son answered: “to embrace luck and all positive things in life”.
Najib also appeared in a video advertorial, shown beating traditional chinese drums in front of a celebrating chinese family, culminating the video by whispering to the little girl ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’, before wishing the viewers the same.
Surveys conducted by University Malaya Center for Democracy and Elections (UMCEDEL) have shown Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s popularity fell to 54 per cent, down from 58 per cent and 61 per cent in similar surveys conducted by the centre in September 2011 and March 2012, respectively.
According to the same survey, the Chinese community has favoured Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim for the prime ministerial post, with 61 per cent of the people surveyed agreeing so, while 35 per cent of them choosing Najib. – The Rocket