King Syed Putra Jamallai, the rajah of Perlis state in Malaysia, visited the Polynesian Cultural Center Oct. 20, joining an impressive list of dignitaries who have recently come to the Church's world-famous tourist attraction.
During the visit, King Jamallai, Queen Tengku Budriah and members of the royal family toured the center's seven authentically re-created island villages. Following normal Polynesian protocol procedures for visiting chiefs, the cultural center's villagers performed special numbers for the royal party and presented gifts to the king.During the visit, the distinguished guests enjoyed a traditional luau and an evening show featuring Polynesian songs and dances.
Malaysia, which gained its independence from Britain in 1957, is a federation of 13 regional states. The visiting rajah is the hereditary ruler of Perlis, the northernmost state of Malaysia. He recently served for five years as the constitutional monarch, a position to which he was elected by the rajahs of the states.
"We were delighted to host the king and his family," said James P. Christensen, president of the Polynesian Cultural Center. "I know he was impressed not only with the talents of the Polynesian people but also with the spirit of the gospel that subtly shines in everything we do here."
Prince Noor, nephew of the king and a student in Honolulu, later telephoned the center to say his uncle and aunt were "touched by the visit. They didn't expect anything as beautiful as this, and were overwhelmed with the reception," he said.
Other dignitaries who have recently visited the Polynesian Cultural Center include Tofilau Eti Alesana, prime minister of Western Samoa, his wife and party; Pule Lameko, Western Samoa's minister of agriculture; Kaufo'ou Naufanu, sister of the Queen of Tonga; and U.S. Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, the former Pacific Air Forces commander who was named U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff soon after his tour of the center.
"We give all our visitors a special introduction to Polynesian cultures," Christensen said. "But I know they cannot avoid being touched by the special spirit that led our Church leaders to establish the Polynesian Cultural Center.
"We just celebrated our 27th anniversary, and since the center opened in October 1963, more than 20 million people have come to this little village of Laie to see what the Polynesian members of our Church can do," he continued. In that same period of time, the center has helped more than 20,000 young students earn their education at BYU-Hawaii. We presently have almost 700 BYU-Hawaii students working here, about one-third of them on full scholarships from the center.
"With so much talent and beauty concentrated in one special place, it's no wonder that millions from all over the world – including dignitaries – enjoy coming to the Polynesian Cultural Center," Christensen said.