“Do you want time off or a holiday on August 26, polling day? Probably a day off? I will relay the message to Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng,” he said, inviting gasps of delight from the crowd. “I am just the messenger, not the CM”.
The question was pertinent as 40 percent of the voters worked outside Permatang Pauh. Was this one of BN/UMNO’s tactic to deter voters from exercising their constitutional right to vote?
Oops, I forgot. It was the Election Commission which decided the polling date, not UMNO.
Listen to Anwar Ibrahim’s speech last night, he spoke about the rule of law vs taking an oath to absolve one from guilt, and challenged Khairy Jamaluddin (who dared him to resign the night before): “Let’s see what happens to him after September 16”.
He was all praises for Guan Eng as well, and for the two new PAS menteri besar in Perak and Kedah.
* * * * *
At Guar Perahu last night, Anwar shared several light moments with his supporters, arriving past 11pm, looking calm in his cream Baju Melayu and songkok, and greeted the crowd in his usual style – in Malay, Chinese and Tamil.
Before he stepped into the vicinity of the ceramah, a helicopter was already hovering over the dark skies with its penetrating beams. The crowd squelled. Someone yelled “Get lost. Disturbing only”.
When came on stage, Anwar was greeted with shouts of ‘reformasi’. When he spoke, he did not present a fiery speech. This session seem more like a sharing, with close friends.
The crowd was amazingly responsive, every now and then, someone would make a funny remark which drew laughter from the others, even when the issue was a serious one.
For example, Anwar was narratting the episode of his latest sodomy arrest last month – he claimed he was treated like a criminal – questioned for hours in the police station, brought to the hospital, stripped naked, and embarassed by ‘intensive’ butt examination.
“They want to measure how long it is,” cried a man (loudly) behind me, and everyone laughed. The Malay crowd, it seems, is no longer shy or embarass to discuss sex or sexual parts so openly.
“How many times do they want to incriminate me?” queried Anwar. “Enough lah”. He looked genuinely frustrated.
The crowd, which covered the field from corner to corner, lining up the roads outside Taman Guar Perahu braved the heavy drizzle and remained attentive and animated even way past midnight.
Not too far away from the ceramah site, food stalls were buzzing away with customers. A mini pasar malam, the usual activity accompanying political talks, was in the works.
There were many youths, women, children and senior citizens among the 4,000 strong crowd.
Compare this to a function with deputy prime minister Najib Tun Razak at Simpang Tiga, Kubang Ulu. There was entertainment (by Kelantanese cultural group Dikir Barat), and lots of ‘yummy’ food and drink.
My friends who attended the event joked that the satay sticks were alot more than the crowd, which numbered about 400. And the crowd was a ‘hungry’ one.
Compare PKR’s crowd also to the Guar Perahu operations centre for UMNO a few yards away. It was deserted save a few souls who were there having a meeting. I almost felt sympathy for them.
They were kind enough to let me use their rest room, but added as I entered the centre: “Don’t forget to vote for BN”.
“We are from the media,” I pointed to my reporter friends who were with me.
“Oh, okay, don’t worry, we will not beat you up,” they remarked cynically, referring to several incidences of violence by alleged PKR supporters against photographers.
Somewhere not far away, in Kubang Semang, a ‘bomb’ was found in the Umno Princess (Puteri UMNO) centre. It was defused at about 2.45am. The princesses said that was probably the work of PKR supporters. You will probably read about it in all the major newspapers.
* * * * *
The road from Penang to Guar Perahu in Penanti was indeed a long and weary one, but I arrived there when PKR vice president Azmin Ali was still charming the crowd with his antics.
Azmin at least has his own style – he does not look like, talk like or move like his mentor Anwar Ibrahim, unlike his former good friend, Ezam Mohd Nor, who campaigns extensively for the other camp.
“In 1998, Anwar was arrested for sodomy I on 20 September. On the 16th, I was detained, abused, beatened and forced to admit that I was sodomised by Anwar,” he said, to which one of the guys in the crowd remarked: “Why don’t you sodomise them instead?” – more laughter.
He gave a ‘lecture’ on DNA and questioned the police for pestering his friend about his.
He also slammed Saiful Bukhairy and Najib Tun Razak for their act of Quran swearing, saying “Tis the season for swearing on the Quran”.
In his speech, Azmin reminded the Malays about the “real traitor to the Malay race”. He spoked about poverty and how UMNO was reaping the wealth of the nation away.
He heaped praises on Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng for doing a good job in Penag and for going to jail for two years when he defended a Malay girl.
Charged under the Sedition Act and Printing Presses & Publications Act in connection with the moral scandal of former UMNO Youth President and Melaka Chief Minister Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Chik. Convicted and sentenced to two concurrent 18-month jail terms from 25 August 1998. (chanlillian.net)
“Who destroyed the Malays? It was UMNO who did it,” wailed Azmin. The crowd agreed without question.
* * * * *
I only managed to see PAS deputy spiritual leader Harun Din on stage.
Earlier, at the ceramah site, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang spoke, although I missed his ceramah. PAS grassroots voicing their dissatisfaction for being sidelined by PAKATAN in their last Muktamar in Ipoh, sparked rumours that PAS has distanced themselves from this mother of all by-elections.
“Where is PAS? There are not even that many PAS flags and banners in Permatang Pauh,” observed one journalist.
Meanwhile, according to Hishamuddin Rais, banners screaming “Hadi as PM” were been spotted around Permatang Pauh. This is controversial as PAKATAN claims that it has accepted Anwar as the next PM.
“This is one desperate effort by UMNO to split PAKATAN RAKYAT,” said Hishamuddin (Tukar Tiub).
It seems, not only PAKATAN is hurt by all these political crisis, its supporters are having a bad time as well: HINDRAF had a fall-out with the authorities today, when they held a small demonstration at the Seberang Jaya temple, to protest against a splinter group believed to be linked to Abdullah Ahamd Badawi.
With several possible problems ahead of polling day,alleged phantom voters, heavy police presence, no day-off for outstation voters, allegations of lies and slander against the PKR candidate – sometimes he is a US agent, most of the time, he is a sodomite and a coward (he refused to jump on the bandwagon and swear on the Holy book to declare his innocence (read Najib and Altantuya) – political observers and analysts are reserving their judgement.
“It’s 50-50 chance for now,” they say, when asked if Anwar would win this fight, which can set him off on the road to Putrajaya (as PM), let alone increase his majority.
“Please go home and pray for this election,” Anwar told his supporters before he left Guar Perahu. We’re in for a wild night, ain’t we?
* Last remark is mine.