Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has been criticised for skipping the annual Christian Federation of Malaysia’s (CFM) Christmas high tea yesterday.
In a statement today, Lim Kit Siang said Ismail Sabri’s absence from the event illustrated his inability to prove he is a prime minister for all Malaysians or live up to the “Keluarga Malaysia” slogan.
“A Malaysian prime minister who really understands the Malaysian Constitution and the Rukun Negara principles would not have missed the annual Christmas high tea, or at least, ensured that he would be officially represented.
“Malaysia cannot succeed as a Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Dayak country – it can only succeed as a Malaysian nation,” Lim said.
Previous prime ministers have either attended the annual event or arranged for a representative.
The CFM’s Christmas high tea is an annual gathering of Christian leaders of various denominations and top political figures since 1999.
In 2012, Najib Abdul Razak was the only sitting prime minister to have attended the event.
Other prime ministers have assigned senior cabinet members as their representatives.
The high tea session this year was held on Dec 25 at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Subang Jaya, Selangor.
Unlike previous years, there was no participation by cabinet members.
Meanwhile, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok said the conspicuous absence of the prime minister or his representative at the CFM annual Christmas high tea yesterday is disappointing as it does not augur well for his Keluarga Malaysia concept.
Kok said Ismail Sabri Yaakob should realise that 9% of Malaysians were Christians.
She said she was told by the organisers that Ismail’s office did not even respond to the invitation unlike past prime ministers who not only responded but had attended the gathering in the festive spirit.
She said in the past, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Razak had made it a point to attend the annual function to show they were prime ministers for all Malaysians.
“There was a year when even Muhyiddin Yassin represented the government as the deputy prime minister when Najib was abroad.
Ismail had taken to Facebook to express his Christmas greetings, asking the people not to forget those who had been badly affected by the floods and to always obey SOPs to stay safe.
The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF), which organised the event this year, said they sent out the invitation like they always did in the past.
“I would like to think that it must have been the massive floods that the prime minister had to handle.
“I believe that is his priority right now,” NECF president Eu Hong Seng told FMT when contacted.
In his speech earlier, Eu said the NECF applauded the true Malaysian spirit when they “showed up for each other” at a time when race and religious barriers were thrown aside.
“The many who went out to search for and to rescue the thousands who were trapped in the floodwaters, set up kitchens to cook for the hungry, sourced for boats, and made deliveries of necessities right up to the wee hours of the morning were the common people.
“Many temples, churches, gurdwaras, mosques, and NGOs facilitated shelters and served as distribution centres.
“What we are witnessing today is the victory of the common people,” he said.
As the umbrella body for the Council of Churches, the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, and the Roman Catholic Church, the CFM is the largest body representing Christians.