Friday, 15 February 2013 11:57
In what appears to be a hurried and badly co-ordinated attempt to damage-control a most embarrassing episode in Prime Minister Najib Razak’s recent Chinese New Year gig, where Korean mega-star Psy was the attraction, it looks like his advisers have done the exact opposite – exploding a deadly bomb that may well finish off the ruling coalition’s chances in the coming general election.
“In the end, what is left are extreme contempt and distrust,” Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, a senior PAS leader and MP for Kuala Selangor, told Malaysia Chronicle.
He was referring to the mesh of “mumbo-jumbo” death threats that Najib’s BN coalition had offered as being the reasons behind Psy’s refusal to toss the traditional ‘yee-sang’ (raw fish salad that signifies good luck and success) with Najib and other top BN leaders at a Feb 11 event celebrating the Lunar Year.
“First we were told by Chang Yeow it was a death threat against the life of the Prime Minister, then the press was blamed for misquoting him and it was a death threat against Psy instead. Make up your mind which is to be spin that you wish to use, give us a break,” said Dzulkefly.
BN mumbo-jumbo: Self-glorification ahead of public safety?
Actually, the reasons given by the authorities have become even more convoluted since Teng Chang Yeow, the head of Penang BN made his shock revelation via a Chinese daily that Najib’s life had been at threat.
The police have since jumped into the fray, with one top officer denying there had been any reports of any threats against either the PM or the Korean star. His words were borne out when the Penang police chief also told the press that the information they had received was of a “sabotage” attempt against Psy’s performance, and not a death threat.
However, the same police chief later told a popular news portal that a death threat had indeed been made against Psy.
“It looks like Chang Yeow and BN are trying to cover up a mistake by creating another lie. It makes a mockery of Malaysia, the authorities and the police,” Tian Chua, PKR vice president and MP for Batu, told Malaysia Chronicle.
“If there was a death threat against either Najib or Psy, how can the police allow the concert to go on and put at risk the lives of the thousands of people who attended. How can they allow Najib to go up on the stage where he is virtually a sitting duck. Same goes for Psy. Imagine just one bullet, there would have been pandemonium. What were the police thinking of? I would also ask, what were Najib and BN thinking of? Were they putting their self-glorification above public safety?” Tan Kee Kwong, another senior PKR leader, told Malaysia Chronicle.
A day of disasters
The BN’s CNY gig will forever be etched on the memory of those who attended and saw ‘live’ Psy’s astonishing performance of his smash-hit Oppa Gangnam-style. However, it may not be for the reasons that Chang Yeow and Najib, who reportedly splurged millions via a crony to bring Psy in, had hoped for.
Firstly, it was a day of disasters for Najib, who blundered several times throughout the event. Not only was he publicly rebuffed and left stranded onstage by Psy during the yee-sang ceremony, he received a thundering ‘NO’ when he asked the crowd if they were ready to vote his BN coaliton back to power in Penang state, which had been lost to the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim in 2008.
There were giggles throughout his speech, beginning from the time he thanked the crowd for a “rapturous” welcome in the overblown style that has become his trademark, even when it was apparent that Penangites had thronged the school field of the Han Chiang College to see Psy rather than to see him.
Najib also called Hang Chiang College “Han Yang” several times in his speech and only corrected this blooper when Chang Yeow pointed it out to him. The PM’s wife Rosmah Mansor was just as unfortunate, forgetting the lyrics to a Chinese song she had led in singing to celebrate the event.
But the worst debacle was the tossing of the raw fish salad or yee-sang.
‘Cool’ moves: Already clapping their hands & swaying their hips to the beat
Blame has been heaped on the emcee, whom BN supporters accused of departing from the script and springing the Psy surprise on Najib and team. But what are the chances the emcee and also the deejay would have been brave enough to pull off such a stunt on their own, and for what purpose?
Additionally, it was clear from the video footage that Najib and team were anticipating and even looking forward to doing a small dance routine with Psy, akin to the one that the Korean star had performed with UN chief Ban Ki-Moon.
Many including Toursim Minister Ng Yen Yen, Chang Yeow himself, were already clapping their hands and moving their hips to the music in a bid to appear ‘cool’ to the crowd and the nation which was following the event with great interest.
Najib could be seen taking photos with his handphone and waiting for Psy rather than dig into the yee-sang as some of his less protocol-conversant colleagues had done.
Minutes earlier, the Malaysian PM had in a speech promised the crowd Psy would perform a special version of his Gangnam smash-hit – 1 Malaysia Style.
Yen Yen was visibly shocked when the music came to an abrupt stop and the yee-sang table whisked away by some of the crew. She even asked them to bring the tray back. And they did. But after a word with Najib, she allowed them to remove the table. The despondent BN team then returned to their VIP tent, clearing the stage for Psy who only then emerged amid thunderous applause and non-stop screams from the crowd.
Certainly such behaviour is not in line with people who are anticipating an attempt on the life of those in their midst, be it PM Najib Razak or star guest of honor Psy.
Malaysia’s image as an honest & reliable nation under scrutiny
Whether the death threats are indeed a pack of lies or the truth, it behoves the BN and Najib to come clean as the issue has turned “serious” and potentially damaging to the image of Penang and Malaysia as a whole as tourist destinations that are safe and where the government is reliable and honest.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has been asked to lodge a police report against the allegations and to thoroughly investigate Chang Yeow’s claims.
“Teng’s claims are serious and may be potentially damning for Penang and its image as a vibrant and popular tourist destination. If his claims are true, the intention of bringing Psy to Penang to boost its tourism image has created a negative perception for the state for being hostile and unsafe to international artistes and superstars,” said Gavin Khoo Kay Peng, a political analyst wrote on his blog.
“As a Penangite, I would like to urge Teng and the Penang Police Chief to give us a full explanation on Teng’s claims and allegations. If the threats were received before Psy came to Penang, was there a police report made and what are the measures taken to ensure that Psy’s visit would not turn out disastrous for the singer and for the organizer.
“I would like to urge the Penang state government and the local authority to lodge a police report against the allegations and investigate Teng’s claims thoroughly. Penang’s image as a safe, popular and UNESCO World Heritage destination is at stake if the claims of an attempt on Psy’s life is not properly investigated.”