KUALA LUMPUR - Perkasa's Chinese New Year "white packet" faux pas is a learning experience in race relations, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Najib, in his Chinese language Facebook (www.facebook.com/ahjibgor) posting, said the incident had served as an eye-opener. He said it could have been avoided with a better understanding of Chinese culture and taboos.
Najib was responding to the uproar within the Malaysian Internet community, unhappy with the ang pow packets in white used at Perkasa's Chinese New Year gathering on Sunday.
The action was deemed insensitive to the Chinese as white packets were usually reserved for funerals.
Najib wrote: "The controversy over the white packets handed out during Perkasa's Chinese New Year open house could have been avoided if we had a deeper understanding and more sensitivity to the cultural taboos of the Chinese.
"Everybody knows ang pow packets are red in colour and it can't be replaced with any other colour.
"This incident is a learning experience," he said in his posting on Monday night.
Najib also wrote: "Ibrahim Ali is an independent MP. As such, the Chinese New Year function where white ang pow packets were distributed, should not be seen as something condoned by the government."
Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who is Perkasa president and member of parliament for Pasir Mas, had handed out the white ang pow packets at the gathering.
Perkasa deputy president Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar later explained that due to the large turnout at their open house in Kampung Baru here, the red ang pow packets had run out and white envelopes were used.
Najib's facebook message drew mixed responses, with many expressing disbelief that Ibrahim, a veteran politician, did not know that ang pow packets should be red in colour.
Some asked for a public apology while others called for action to be taken against Ibrahim.
Perkasa's first Chinese New Year open house was attended by more than 400 Chinese guests, including senior citizens.
Najib's Chinese facebook page went online on Jan 16 and has gained over 21,000 followers.