Far from the madding crowd in Kuala Lumpur and the courthouse where he is standing trial for abusing RM42 million in funds belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd, Datuk Seri Najib Razak cut a relaxed figure wheeling a shopping trolley through a supermarket on the Sabah east coast during a grocery run.
The former prime minister, dressed casually in a dark blue short-sleeved shirt, paused in the cooking oil aisle, and hammed it up for the cameras, most of them in-built into handphones carried by other shoppers.
Earlier, he arrived in a black Toyota Land Cruiser along with Sabah Umno chairman Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin and was mobbed by people and cameras as he made his way into the hypermarket.
The Pekan MP then headed to the egg aisle and picked up a few trays of eggs, which looked to be too much for one person to consume on a short trip. He also had a bag of rice, ‘Buruh’ cooking oil and a pack of dates.
When asked, he said he was shopping for himself and would give the rest away later.
At the cashier, he picked up ‘Eclipse’ and ‘Fishermen’s Friend’ mints before paying with a RM100 bill.
After leaving the supermarket, where he drew a large group of gawkers, Najib broke into song in an open-air car park where his aides had set up a makeshift stage at the back of a pickup truck.
He sang a local song, Tanak Kampung by Jimmy Palikat accompanying Bung, and another song, an oldie Young Ones made famous by Sir Cliff Richard, to the amusement of the people around him.
Addressing the crowd after his song, he said he came to Sandakan to meet the people because he was welcomed.
“Sandakan, ‘bossku’ has arrived. Some people said I would not come but my policy is if someone invites me, I will come.
“I came here to go shopping but some people are scared of me shopping. I came here to see the people of Sandakan and I want to know how you feel after one year under the new government,” he said.
He later excused himself and said he hoped people enjoyed meeting him and taking photos with him.
“But if you do take selfies, I ask that you don’t use the ‘timer’,” he said to laughter from the crowd, before going to the Ramadan bazaar.
People on the ground said that they were happy to get a selfie with the politician and had taken the time just to see him.
“I heard he was coming and wanted to see him. He hasn’t been here in a while and I wanted to take a photo with him. I’m satisfied,” said Irwan Shah from here.
Others said that they were curious to see Najib after the recent news about him.
Najib told reporters later the people were very responsive to his presence, with many who could not wait to see him, greet him and take selfies with him.
“This shows that they appreciated me when I was prime minister before and they were sure in the struggle me and my BN friends were carrying out,” he said.
He, however, said he was not sure whether his presence here would help swing the Muslim vote towards Umno’s choice of candidate, Parti Bersatu Sabah’s Datuk Linda Tsen, but that he would do his part.
“I don’t know. I’m here not because I am not confident it will swing or anything. It is just that I want to show I still care for the people of Sandakan and Sabah. They have been very close to me. And when there was an invitation for me to come and support, I definitely wanted to do my bit,” he said.
Coincidence or not, Najib showed up to support BN in the last three by-elections — Cameron Highlands, Semenyih and Rantau — and BN candidates won all three.
Najib is expected to meet the residents of Taman Harmoni, a predominantly Muslim area, tonight.
Polling day is tomorrow.