AFTER visiting his parents and relatives, Yusmahazlin Mohd Yusof decided to take his wife and son to the state-level Hari Raya open house at Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir’s official residence in Ipoh on Sunday.
While many would have wanted to spend time with their relatives and friends, the 44-year-old Fire and Rescue Department officer said he had attended the open house three years in a row.
When asked why, Yusmahazlin just said one word: “Unity.”
“It is nice to see people from all races gathering here for one festivity. In recent years, we have seen some tension due to political and cultural differences, but come the festive season we are united.
“I see many of my friends here and my family is also more than happy to attend,” he said.
His wife Noraisah Alias said she was hesitant at first because of her anxiety around crowds but after attending the open house last year, she came to enjoy it.
“It may sound cliché but this is where we get to meet people from various races. It is nice to see people mingling and talking about their daily lives.
“That’s what we want and it is nice to see the mentri besar organising the open house annually,” she added.
Though the weather was warm and humid, people were not deterred as thousands attended the event, which was also graced by the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah and his consort Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Zara Salim.
Many of those in attendance came as early as noon for the function as the mentri besar welcomed people of all races to join him for the celebration.
Speaking to reporters during the function, Zambry said he was heartened to see the huge number of people in attendance and hoped they felt comfortable throughout the function.
Admitting that he underestimated the number of guests last year, he said this year he was better prepared as he arranged for shuttle services through Uber and Perak Transit and also ordered more food to cope with the crowd.
“The shuttle services were organised in the hopes of helping to reduce traffic congestion, and based on what I saw, it worked. There were also more people here than last year and I made sure there was lots of food to ensure that everyone went home with a full stomach.
“We had to be ready because this is the long public holiday and we needed to make sure everyone went home happy. Food finishes quickly at events like this and we had to plan ahead to make there was enough food,” he said.
Guests were treated to Malaysian favourites served from stalls set up on the lawn of the residence, such as satay, rojak, cendol, koey teow, rendang, lemang, laksa, nasi biryani and ketupat.
There were also live performances to keep visitors entertained, before Zambry proceeded to hand out duit raya to orphans and underprivileged children on stage.
In his speech, Zambry reminded those present that they all have a key role in maintaining the peace of the country and only through unity would the country prosper.
He said that the strife in some countries should be a reminder for the people in Perak as to what can happen if disunity is allowed to fester.
“This occasion shows how happy and peaceful we are here, but we must work hard to maintain this. People from various races are here and it is so nice to see everyone mingling.
“This happens often in our country and it is an example for many countries. There is no divide between us and we should always maintain this,” he said.
“From generation to generation this will continue and we all should stay together to make sure this country is always strong and peaceful,” he added.
R. Venugopal, 55, who listened to the speech, said Malaysia is certainly privileged to have an united multi-racial society and hopes it will go on for a very long time.
“For every festive occasion, you will see everyone wishing each other. During Deepavali, you will see the Malays wearing saree or jippa and during Chinese New Year, you will see Indians wearing the cheongsam or samfu.
“We are able to adapt to any condition and most of us here prefer to call ourselves Malaysians. Let’s hope things stay this way because that only means better things for our nation,” said the former contractor.
Meanwhile, hundreds of police officers and well wishers also turned up at the Hari Raya Adilfitri open house organised by State Police Chief Commissioner Datuk Hasnan Hassan at his official residence on Jalan Towers, on the same day.
Hosting the event for the first time since becoming the state police chief, Hasnan said that while he was overwhelmed by the number of visitors, his main concern was for his colleagues.
“I organised this function for some of the working officers in Ipoh, who could not spend time with their families because of their duties.
“As a colleague, I felt they needed to experience the spirit of Raya and this function was one way to make them feel the joy of the season,” he said.
“I understand that the respective police chiefs in each district are also organising open houses for their officers,” he added.
Hassan said the state police are only allowing around 10% of the force to take leave for Hari Raya as the rest will have to work during the festive season.
He also issued a stern reminder to members of the public to not play with bamboo cannons during Hari Raya Aidilfitri as it is illegal and dangerous.
He said certain districts still practice the firing of bamboo cannons and many do not realise that it is an offence under the Arms Act 1960.
“I am worried that people might get injured and you do not want that to happen during the month of Syawal. The public might also be uncomfortable with the loud sounds,” he said.
“We have received reports from people who have complained about the sound and it was disturbing their sleep or their daily activities,” he added.