Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders in Sarawak and the peninsula must be adept in reading the people’s sentiments to ensure support for the government continued to remained strong, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

He said the people in Sarawak, who will be going to the polls in 2011, were still loyal to the BN but several issues needed to be given attention to ensure stronger support.

“We are aware there are certain parties who are trying to divert the people’s support away from the BN,” he told reporters at the end of his three-day official visit to Sarawak, here Friday.

Earlier, Najib, who is also the National Disaster Committee chairman, had handed over compassionate aid amounting to RM2.1 million from the Federal government to Sarawak’s natural disasters fund, which was received by Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan, at the Miri Red Crescent Society’s centre here. Chan is also the state’s natural disasters committee chairman.

Prior to this, Najib had visited Kampung Lereng Bukit here which was affected by a landslide disaster recently.

“I feel my visit to Sarawak this time has been very beneficial although it has been a packed schedule. It enabled me to meet various communities in Sarawak,” said Najib.

Besides getting to meet the various ethnic groups in Sarawak, the Deputy Prime Minister said it also gave him an opportunity to convey the government’s message to them.

On the by-elections in Bukit Selambau, Kedah and Bukit Gantang, Perak, which will be held simultaneously on April 7, Najib said the long campaign period would give the contesting parties ample time to prepare their election machinery.

Asked if the long campaign period would be used by certain parties to sow problems or even violence, he said any negative incidents would tarnish the image of the country.

“We not only practice the principles of democracy but adhere to the rule of law. We should show that we Malaysians are mature people,” he said.

The Bukit Selambau by-election is being called because its assemblyman V. Arumugam has tendered his resignation while that of Bukit Gantang is necessitated by the death of it Member of Parliament, Roslan Shaharum, on Monday.