SANDAKAN SURPRISE: Prime minister reaches out to the people with walkabout at two markets
ALL it took was to introduce himself as "Ajib Gor" and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak became an instant hit among more than 1,000 students at a school here yesterday.
The students of the Yu Yuan Independent Chinese School were seated in covered tents fronting the VIP stand when Najib warmed himself up to them by saying: "Nama saya Ajib Gor" (My name is Ajib Gor).
Najib went on to advise the students to be multilingual so as to be globally competitive.
He said proficiency in languages, such as English and Mandarin, would give them an added advantage in the international marketplace.
"I encourage all students to have a multilingual ability right from the school level so that this will serve them well when they enter the job market or decide to go into business."
Najib said one of his children, who is studying at a university in the United States, chose to study Mandarin to improve his multilingual ability.
He said that the university stipulated that its students must be proficient in one additional modern language to graduate.
"For four years, he had to study Mandarin and on completion, I will send him to work in Beijing so that he can further improve his Mandarin skills.
"Last year, during the summer holidays, I sent him to Beijing to study Mandarin for a month at Beijing's Foreign Studies University," Najib added.
Najib said this way, Malaysians could succeed on the global level wherever they were.
At the function, Najib brought good news for the school's board when he announced that the Federal Government would allocate RM1 million for construction of the school's multipurpose hall, which costs RM5 million.
Najib then performed the ground-breaking ceremony for the hall and planted a tree to mark his visit to the oldest independent Chinese school in the state, which was established in 1962.
The prime minister's approach with the public, including an earlier walkabout yesterday at the markets in two of the most densely populated areas -- Mawar and Kim Fung -- captures his desire to reach out to the people.
Petty trader Sakura Wong, in her 60s, had no qualms standing on a chair and waving to the prime minister, who was at the Mawar market, yesterday.
"Malaysia No. 1 woh!" said Wong to a group of elderly women around a marble table in the covered wet market food court where they would normally gather.
It was not long before Najib turned his attention to Wong and her group, joining them for tea and a chat. It took about a minute to sink in, but soon, the women went back to their chatty mode with Najib.
Choo Kiew Moi, 80, said Najib asked her about a deck of small cards with Chinese characters written on them.
"It is a card game called lok foo which we play," said Choo.
But games aside, Choo also asked Najib about the welfare aid to some of her friends, which had been stopped.
A similar question was asked at the Kim Fung market by Liew Min Shiong, 72, when Najib joined them for coffee and char-kueh (fried cruellers).
Liew said he spoke to former deputy chief minister Datuk Tham Nyip Shen over the issue and was told it would be looked into.
"At least I got to tell our No. 1 leader about my problem."
The walkabout proved to be a show stopper for many of the hawkers and patrons at the two markets. They stopped him for photographs, shook his hands and even engaged in banter.
A common topic was the 1Malaysia People's Aid Fund (BR1M) where the government gave RM500 to 4.12 million households.
Wong, Choo and Liew expressed their gratitude to Najib over the assistance.