KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today hit back at critics of his use of kangkung or water spinach for an analogy, saying the leafy green was popular with Malaysians.
Najib also emphasised that he only used the vegetable in a recent speech in Kemaman, Terengganu to help illustrate the model of supply and demand in recent price hikes.
“I was trying to explain the concept ― that was why I used sawi (mustard greens), kangkung. But when I gave examples, people made fun of them,” Najib said in a dinner held by the Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress (Kimma) here.
“I like to eat kangkung. All of you like to eat kangkung, too ... If I had used for example quail meat, only some people would eat it.”
Earlier in his speech, Najib also said he has instructed the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs to determine how much sugar is used in an average glass of teh tarik, a popular milk tea drink.
According to him, Putrajaya will then calculate a reasonable price for a glass of the drink favoured by Malaysians, which the public could use as a guideline to compare with prices at restaurants.
Thousands from the Indian Muslim community gathered at the Putra World Trade Centre’s Tun Razak Hall tonight, in a dinner which was also attended by Ministry of Federal Territories, Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor.
The “kangkung” controversy erupted as Malaysians, hit by a slew of price hikes in essential goods and services from the start of the new year, took issue with the prime minister’s use of the humble vegetable in a recent analogy.
Najib had questioned recently why the government is blamed whenever the prices of goods rise, but not conversely praised when these fall, pointing out that the cost of kangkung has dropped.
Malaysians’ running gags on the prime minister’s recent remarks on kangkung had attracted global interest, with British news service BBC publishing a report titled “#BBCtrending: Be careful what you say about spinach”.
Some local internet users however complained yesterday that they were unable to access the report, leading to allegations of censorship.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has since insisted that it did not block the report, claiming it does not have the means to do so.
Telecommunication provider Telekom Malaysia (TM) also refused to confirm if it had blocked access, saying only that it “complies” with regulations set by Malaysia’s Internet regulators.
BBC News said in its report last Tuesday that food is a “faux pas minefield” for politicians, noting public anger in Malaysia over the rising cost of living amid corruption and the government’s purported failure to cut spending.