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Asia Minute: Some in Malaysia Question Prime Minister’s Open House Tradition

YouTube Via CC Commons
YouTube Via CC Commons

It sounds like a political dream and a logistical nightmare.  Thousands of voters at a single event—a captive audience…complete with catering. But what’s been a tradition in Malaysia also stirred some controversy this year. HPR’s Bill Dorman explains in today’s Asia Minute.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia had crowds of people over to his house the other day.  The official tally for Najib Razak was about 75,000 visitors.

Malaysia’s prime minister traditionally hosts an open house at the end of Ramadan….part of the day of celebration known locally as Hari Raya and elsewhere in the Muslim world as Eid al fitr.  Malaysia’s official Bernama news agency was complimentary about the thousands who stood in line…noting that “the heat of the sun did not melt the enthusiasm of the people from all walks of life who had waited patiently and eagerly.”  The Prime Minister’s open house is a long-standing tradition, but some are questioning whether it’s a good use of taxpayer dollars. 

Columnist Mariam Mokhtar was among those suggesting the nearly three-quarters of a million US dollars used to stage the event could be better spent elsewhere.  On the website “theheatMalaysia.com,” she wrote “after the solemnity and abstinence of Ramadan, when we are supposed to empathize with the poor, the $3 million ringgit spent on a few hours of gorging on food, by a minute percentage of the population seems contrary to the religious significance of Ramadan and Hari Raya.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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