Najib invites Facebook friends to tea party

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, it seems, is making friends with netizens.

The Malaysian leader has invited 300 friends of his Facebook page to a tea party at his Putrajaya home next Saturday.

In the past, the Malaysian government was quick to condemn blogs and websites. The Internet was widely credited – or blamed, depending on one’s political preference – for the political tsunami in the March 2008 general election.

The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) suffered massive poll losses. The opposition Pakatan Rakyat, using the Internet to its advantage, reaped huge gains.

So the Premier’s move to meet his online fans is an obvious attempt by the BN ruling coalition to get close to the growing numbers who hang out in cyberspace. An estimated 42 per cent of Malaysians have Internet access.

Najib has a www.1malaysia. blog and Facebook and Twitter accounts. In the past, some of his Twitter followers had complained that his tweets were a little dry and impersonal, and rarely said more than “4.30pm: Meeting”.

That, too, seems to be changing, judging by a March 2 tweet: “Visited Kampung Sungai Bedil yesterday in Sarawak, where I retraced the steps of my dear father.”

Now his online presence is fast gaining popularity. He has more than 118,000 fans on Facebook. That is more than his chief rival Anwar Ibrahim’s 60,544 fans and Democratic Action Party veteran Lim Kit Siang’s 20,902 fans.

Mr Najib also has more than 11,000 followers on Twitter versus 6,000-plus for both Mr Anwar and Mr Lim.

When he announced the tea party, some 600 people responded. They included fans asking for invites. One went: “I’ll love to come to ur tea party. Please pick me so I will know more. Please…We love u Datuk.”

But there were also complaints. One suggested: “If space is limited at Putrajaya Seri Perdana, why not have the event at the stadium? More people can come.”

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