Najib made history in Sibu - but still loses the election

SIBU - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak became the first Prime Minister to attend a celebration in honour of a Chinese deity on Wednesday but the historic visit opened him to criticism from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) for being all too brief.

The Tua Pek Kong procession, held every three years, became a venue for leaders from both the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) and PR's Democratic Action Party (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.

About 7,000 participants from over 100 Chinese cultural and religious organisations from across the country took part in the procession. Thousands of people also lined the streets of Sibu town to watch the procession.

The Sarawak DAP chief, along with DAP opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, started gathering outside the temple as early as 6.30pm, an hour before the procession started. Announcements were also made over the temple's public address system for the crowd to loudly applaud Mr Najib's arrival.

About 10 minutes before the start of the procession, Mr Najib arrived with the BN candidate, Mr Robert Lau Hui Yew, for this Sunday's by-election. He was quickly ushered to the temple entrance to sign a plaque to commemorate his visit.

Mr 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, Mr Najib was finally escorted to his car.

Via Twitter, Mr Lim who held on to his Blackberry while the minor commotion was going on, described Mr 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?" twittered Mr Lim.

Mr Najib had earlier handed RM15 million ($6.5 million) in financial assistance to 65 Chinese schools as part of his attempt to win Chinese votes. THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER

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