“Who do you think will win?” – This is the MOST over-asked question in the last ten days, but I still asked two guys behind me, who came early to “jom” a space so we could witness the final countdown of the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign on PKR side.
They sounded excited and the reason why I turned to ask them the question was because they kept harping (behind me) that “kita mesti menang, kita mesti menang” (we must win).
“Anwar (Ibrahim) will win,” said one of the boys. “But UMNO will play dirty tricks. They are very quiet this time and that is dan-ge—-rous. They are quietly going into kampungs to buy votes”.
“Phantom voters are making their way here. This time they are smart. They are not coming by bus. The police has already warned and asked us not to act like the police”.
“Don’t you think they are planning something?” Er, yes…maybe…but maybe not, I thought.
But the other boy added: “It’s ok. We are used to it. We will keep watch and be careful. As for the money, these days, we take it and vote for who we like”. Then they both laughed.
In various ceramahs over the last few days, Pakatan leaders, including PAS, continue to tell the people to take the money offered to them by ‘the other side’ but when it came to casting their votes, they must know ‘what to do’.
* * * * *
PKR’s sms says that the final event at Jalan Baru will start at 9pm. When we arrived from Penang about 40 minutes later, a string of cars had already lined the road along the ceramah site.
By ‘We’, I mean: yours truly, Mustafa K Annuar and P Ramakrishnan from ALIRAN. The other ALIRAN member Anil Netto, who blogs live and from ground zero said he would be there, but went ‘missing’ later.
We suspect he was busy blogging somewhere under the rain🙂
The crowd started to fill the empty field minutes later, and soon there were a sea of faces. What was nice about those faces was the fact that they were multi-coloured. What a sight.
My companions were already counting the numbers. 10,000, 30,000, 60,000? The reporter next to me estimated the crowd at 3,000 (hmm…). No, she is not from the mainstream media.
Anil’s ‘source’ at the scene (I think I know who!) estimates the crowd between 50-60,000.
By the time Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng spoke (video inside), my face, hair and clothes, were wet with rain water.
I stood in the rain with the pak chiks, makchiks and children with their umbrellas, some people just wore caps, others pulled their coats and vests over their heads, and others like me, was ‘unprotected’.
Eventhough a pak chik chided me for blocking his view of Lim Guan Eng, as he was sitting on the wet ground listening intently to his ‘Chief Minister’, I forgave him.
I tried to take several pixs (not so fine, forgive me) and video-taped Guan Eng, who thrilled the crowd with his fiery, yet humorous speech.
The mostly Malay crowd simply loved Guan Eng, responding to his remarks with cheers or suggestions, always clapping when he said something ‘witty’.
When our neighborhood helicopter hovered over us, flooding the field with its beams, the crowd jeered passionately at it. I suspected the PKR de facto and prime minister in waiting was on his way here.
True enough, Anwar was coming from Seberang Jaya, where they had also been a large crowd.
The reporter next to me had received sms-es saying the crowd at BN UMNO Youth (minus Khairy Jamaluddin) was about 150, and the one with Najib Tun Razak, deputy prime minister and campaign director, known as ‘Mongolia’ to PKR supporters, was visited by about 400 only.
When my friends knew about the vast gap between the number of perceived supporters for both camps, their prediction of Anwar’s big victory tomorrow was justified.
One of them said it would be a moral victory for Malaysians as a whole, not just for Permatang Pauh voters as we are sending the next Prime Minister to Putrajaya.
It wasn’t so much the Anwar factor as prime minister. It was the fact that the people had the power to determine who to put in Parliament and who to kick out.
Anwar is nothing but for the policies he represent. Just as we find it hard to support Arif Shah, the BN candidate, no matter what a nice and kind man he is (can speak Chinese some more!).
Unfortunately, he endorses UMNo’s racist and corrupt policies.
And if tomorrow, Anwar promotes racial politics, corruption, cronyism and nepotism, WE SAY GOODBYE TO HIM as well!
“Well, if he (Anwar) does not perform, we will kick him out,” said my friend. I totally agree with such progressive thoughts.
Over dinner earlier, we laughed over the thought that after 50 years of BN leadership, we couldn’t do worse. We could even run out of mistakes to make.
“We could only repeat the mistakes,” said one of us.
* * * * *
But can Anwar maintain his wife’s Wan Azizah’s majority (13,338) in the March 8 elections? – On March 8, PKR won 64.16% of total valid votes, beating BN which took 35.84% by a margin of 28.31% (People are Boss).
Almost everyone I met, save a few UMNO hardcore supporters, one of them a former colleague said Anwar will win, the question is ‘how much”.
This former co-worker is Ezam Mohd Nor’s supporter. I used to see him in reformasi gatherings, especially in Lunas in 2000. “Our eyes are open now. We now know what kind of person Anwar is,” he ttold me when I met him at one UMNO Youth gathering.
There could be many who think like him, and would be the reason for a slashed majority.
Less majority would give BN/UMNO a chance to go to town with their moral victory. A higher majority spells doom for BN/UMNO, at least, psychologically; and presents PAKATAN the opportunity to pursue the much needed ‘agenda for change’ and ‘bangsa Malaysia’.
Which is why, Paktan leaders on stage continued to remind voters to come out early to vote, and not to give anyone any reason to prevent them from voting.
There were many leaders from PKR, DAP and PAS last night – Lim Kit Siang, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Husam Musa, Azmin Ali, Chong Eng, Chow Kon Yeow, Jeff Ooi, Nuru Izzah, Saifuddin Nasution and Jonson Chong, among others.
Anwar arrived at about 11pm, and was greeted as usual with loud cries of ‘reformasi’.
When he approached the stage, a man came over to garland him with flowers. The guy managed to give Anwar a peck on his cheek.
That drew laughter from the crowd, and a smile from Anwar as well. Someone, in the crowd said playfully “Oi…that’s dangerous!”.
Considering the two sodomy related allegations, Anwar has reasons to be cautious🙂
* * * * *
I do not want to repeat the contents of Anwar’s speech because most of them were repetitious.
But I did feel a sense of hope for Malayians when he ended his speech with shouts of ‘reformasi’ and ‘merdeka’.
As I was leaving the field when the ceramah ended, several men were happily saying “I think we can bury UMNO this time”.
They were oblivious to the massive traffic and ensuing rain. “It was ‘hujan keramat’ they said. “Holy or heavenly rain? Either way, everyone who left the ceramah left with a look of satisfaction on their faces.
The pak chik who was selling drinks outside the ceramah site said he had never experienced such a crowd, and the younger man selling fried mushrooms added he was elated because he had never supported UMNO before, and the results of this election may spell doom for the Malay party.
“I may not be highly educated, but I will never support UMNO. I live by working hard,” he said, while deep frying those delicious mushrooms admist waiting customers.
A customer who overheard our conversation, chipped in “We support PAS, and when a PAS candidate did not contest, we voted for DAP”.
How wise. How politically aware and matured. I stood a while longer at this hawker stall and chatted with the locals.
Before Anwar ended his speech, he crooned Elvis Presley’s “It’s now or never…hold me tight”, appealing to the voter’s conscience that a time like this may never repeat and that they may lose the chance to decide their future.
The song brought home a very important message for all Malaysians. We don’t get many opportunities to decide who is our next leader.
Perhaps, the time has come. Truly, it’s now or never. So, happy voting, Permatang Pauh!