It was dubbed the wedding of the year for its opulence but Umno minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has defended his daughter's lavish wedding ceremony and dinner in Kuala Lumpur as a thrifty expenditure at a time when Putrajaya is on an austerity drive.
The Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Minister's daughter Nina Sabrina had married celebrity Indonesian fashion designer Jovian Mandagie at an extravagant wedding that included the akad nikah ceremony at the previous Istana Negara and a two-day reception at a five-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur, attended by royalties, celebrities, politicians and socialites.
"To cut cost, I even asked my son-in-law to do his reception in KL. If it's in Jakarta, my family and relatives will have to fly there and as a result, I have to bear more cost for flight tickets and accommodation.
"So that's why the reception was held over two days – one for my family, and the other by my in-laws. But without knowing facts, I got attacked," Ismail Sabri told The Malaysian Insider, adding that the reception at his Temerloh hometown in Pahang was done gotong-royong style where everyone pitched in to help.
But the minister refused to reveal the cost of the wedding.
"Nobody in Malaysia declare their wedding expenses, should I?" he said of the wedding that featured famous Malaysian singer Datuk Jamal Abdillah as well as Indonesian diva Ruth Sahanaya entertaining guests with their songs.
Questioned on using the former national palace of Malaysian kings for the akad nikah, where the rental was at RM25,000 for eight hours, Ismail Sabri said his son-in-law received a "good package" in return for the publicity.
"It was the first wedding held there. He is a renowned designer and the wedding generated a lot of coverage, including on the Mahligai Cinta programme on TV3. So this is good advertisement for Istana Negara for their future wedding packages," he said.
Recently, Ismail Sabri's colleague, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was criticised for hosting a “lavish” birthday bash at a five-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur which his guests claimed was a New Year’s party.
Several pro-Umno bloggers have also questioned the Prime Minister's Department over the need for two VIP jets after it was revealed that Putrajaya spent some RM180 million to maintain and operate government jets for official trips in 2012.
The wedding, coupled with Ahmad Zahid's lavish party and even Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng's new government limousine come at a time when most Malaysians are grumbling about hikes in electricity tariffs, food and fuel prices and even schooling costs.
Prices of fuel, sugar, ice and electricity tariffs rose after Putrajaya cut back on its subsidies while public transport fares would be increased this year. The goods and services tax would also be introduced in 2015.
Government spending ballooned with this year’s budget increasing to RM264.2 billion compared to last year’s RM251.6 billion amid concerns that Putrajaya was not cutting back on expenses despite asking the public to do so.
A number of Malaysians had also poured scorn over Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's announcement on December 30 that Putrajaya would implement 11 austerity measures to cut spending in 2014.
Najib's economic czar, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar, had even advised consumers to spend wisely and look for alternatives.
The former banker said that Malaysians have to be thrifty and live within their means.
"I go to the market every week. I know that the prices of basic necessities are high, but consumers have a choice in what they spend their money on," he was quoted as saying in a news report. – January 12, 2014.