Anwar, Guan Eng join hands to rock Penang

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This was one of the big ones.

It was one of those evenings where you just had to be there to experience the growing sentiment among Penangites seeking change and reforms. Indeed, those were the rallying cries tonight – change, reforms, Makkal Sakthi, perubahan!

Some 10,000 Penangites converged at the indoor stadium of the private Han Chiang High School in Penang. Though the stadium is said to have a seating capacity of only about a 1,000, a couple of thousand more sat on the basketball court and crowded the entrances. It was standing room only and people were still trying to enter the stadium long after the ceramah began at 7.45pm. Outside, thousands more followed the proceedings on large screens.

What struck me most was watching the people around me as I walked to the stadium. These were ordinary Penangites on a mission. There was something in their stride – of course, they didn’t want to be late or to be left outside, but it was something more. A sense of purpose and determination, a sense that they could make a difference.

It was a crowd largely made up of Chinese and Indian Malaysians who were relishing the arrival of Anwar Ibrahim and Guan Eng as well as Karpal Singh, Jeff Ooi and Chow Kon Yeow.

Karpal and Guan Eng in particular received rousing receptions.

But it was Anwar who received a rock star’s welcome, as the crowd rose to their feet and cheered his arrival.

As he spoke, photographers jostled around the rostrum, blocking the view of a section of the crowd on the sides. The crowd hooted in dismay until the photographers stepped aside and allowed them to see Anwar.

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They hung on to his every word. The mere mention of Samy Vellu’s name provoked jeering from the floor. Khairy’s name too drew similar derision. It was clear who the two most unpopular BN politicians were as far as the people in the stadium were concerned.

Anwar spoke about making use of Petronas’ profits for the benefit of the people and how he had kept oil prices at RM1.10 for the eight years when he was finance minister. Using different intonations, a sudden switch in tempo into fiery mode, expressive gestures and pregnant pauses, the man really knows how to work a crowd.

Despite the DAP’s call to deny the Barisan its two third’s majority, Anwar couldn’t resist taking the call a step further: “This is a defining moment and the people of Penang must take the lead to topple the BN government.” Thunderous applause greeted his statement.

I was more interested in the issues raised: it was clear that corruption and the “BN” (Barang Naik) syndrome touched a chord among the crowd; the Lingam scandal, which Karpal raised, also drew widespread disgust as well as the obligatory response of “Correct, Correct, Correct!” from someone in the crowd, sparking laughter from the rest.

Guan Eng spoke about the PGCC and how Abdullah Badawi had given the green light for this project. He said the government had completely misread the people’s desire. Instead of having dozens of 40-storey towers that would lead to more traffic congestion and pollution, “the people of Penang want more green lungs and public parks”. The crowd applauded in approval, indicating that quality of life issues including the preservation of the environment were uppermost in their minds.

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He also mocked the choice of Gerakan’s Teng Chang Yeow as the reported chief minister designate to replace Koh Tsu Koon, who is now standing in the Batu Kawan parliamentary seat. “T-e-n-g C-h-a-n-g Y-e-o-w,” he drawled, as if to suggest “of all people”.

Even after the big guns like Anwar, Guan Eng and Karpal had spoken and left the stadium, thousands remained to listen to newbies such as Jeff Ooi say their piece.

As I left the stadium I was squashed as a sea of people surged out only to have our paths blocked by hundreds still standing outside, with their umbrellas open in the rain, intently following the proceedings on the screen. They were not going anywhere until the last speaker had spoken the last word.

I bumped into a journalist who told me he had heard the BN was going to pump in more resources and money in the week ahead to counter the growing pro-Opposition sentiment.

But the key to unlocking the door to power in Penang is how the Malays will vote, especially in the Umno strongholds. There may be a small swing among the Malays to the Opposition, but will it be enough to achieve the gains the Opposition is looking for? Anwar left early, informing the crowd that he still had work to do: he was visiting three largely Malay areas tonight.

Earlier in the day, while I was having lunch in a hawker centre and had filled my plate with “economy rice”, I walked up to the Chinese Malaysian cashier to pay.

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He stuck out his fore-finger.

I looked at him, puzzled.

“Know what this is?” he asked.

“Rocket?” I hazarded a guess.

“Correct!” he roared in delight.

I asked him what the sentiment was like among the stall-owners.

He replied that the BN candidate had been around to put up some air-vents in the hawker centre recently, so some of those running the various food-stalls might be voting for the BN in appreciation. (Umm, isn’t that vote buying?) But this cashier was not from the same constituency and he was thus voting for the Rocket.

The fever is on. And only a week to go.

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yap.chongyee
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IN DEFENSE OF Dato Seri Anwar Hey! Dr Chandra Muzaffar are you trying to dazzle the poor Malaysians with your “Doctor” whatever that stands for; please la Doc. That Phd. Does not mean s***, It does not make you more intelligent and it does not neam that you are any smater than when you started. A Phd. Just means that you had taken an in depth study of one aspect of a subject and as a matter of fact a Phd merely leads to a career in teaching, Our Asian people are so awed by that Phd., thinking that these… Read more »

M.A.michael
Guest

Hi frens, The rally is here again wheather BN orBa…posting vote are have finish what eles they still wondering is there anything else? It a pity to see money been going to drain…..poster are hanging here and there for people to see the seeing people are the poor people who will come to rescues them tht what is in they mind but who is bother cause life is only for elected person he will forget what has happen on the election day back to same old days……If the money is spend for poster if can be utilise for the school… Read more »

Michael
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From far away (snowy Estonia) I wish you success in getting meaningful reform peacefully! Great post! I will spread the word from here about your inspiring story!

Penangboy
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Penangboy

I believe it was great to be there. At least I was there to hear the stand of the party on PGCC. Sure our ex CM have said that the rakyat has spoken. I am puzzled on what stand YB Chia has on this issue. True enough, Mr Liew Chin Tong issued this statement on his blog….I am so very glad.

http://liewchintong.com/?p=102

lingam
Guest
lingam

There is one major problem the opposition has to deal with and they must deal it real fast.Dont count the CHICKEN BEFORE THEY HATCH.History is a living proof.. dont make the same mistake again.slog for every single vote as if thats is a winning vote.

scaredoftheISA
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scaredoftheISA

I wonder if there is a video of this ceramah floating around online… I wanted to attend yesterday, but with the rain, traffic and crowds, it was LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE to get in!

Daniel Yong
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Daniel Yong

Hi Anil,

Thanks for the article above. I was at the rally too. I have linked this article to my blog. Thanks

lydia
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lydia

I’m a penangite who used to believe BN can make a difference under Abdullah’s leadership, and am deeply dissapointed at how the country did in the past 4 years. I was probably fooled and blind-folded by the pro-BN media, when internet access was not so common as today. Well for this GE, I’m definitely going for the opposition regardless of if the rep is a Chinese, or Malay, or Indian. The key thing now is to smack these BN money mongers for their arrogance & corruption, for missuing the ppl’s money, for cheating the Malaysian in broad day light! Should… Read more »

alim
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alim

Mr Anwar,

Chinese and Indians are ready, how about my malay frens…….. pls convince them as well.

KH EE
Guest
KH EE

Anil, TQ for the report. According to a report in thesun papers which was not reported in the mainstream media, Chow Kon Yeow said a delineation will be done by EC in 2010 where Penang will be realign to ensure that umno will have a lion’s share of the state seats and hence, will take the crown jewel – the Chief Ministership! And according to another report that I’ve read – sorry, can’t remember where – presently umno has just 50-52% of parliamentary seats with the other BN component parties making up the balance to 91%. Putting 1 & 1… Read more »

botakpenang
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botakpenang

thanks bro Anil Netto on your writing, i found this page in google search. my name botak, born 1972, ysterday night is my 1st time i join ceramah. b4 that i never attend any ceramah, because i always believe that the most important in inside my heart and my “cross”. BUT, this year i make a different……..i have join the live concert and sing together with all our supporters and leaders!!!! and it also a message to our Opposition leaders ……….. “We Can See(we are looking), We Can Hear (we are listening) what u guys hard doing out there………..keep it… Read more »

joehancl
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joehancl

God help those who help themselves. This is a wake up call. If the people of PENANG does not hear the call even God cannot help. PRAY, it works.

cy
Guest
cy

Watch Azmi Sharom talk on the 2008 GE

multidimid
Guest
multidimid

Malaysiakini relying on unreliable sources came out with the bold news (even with an update at 9.35pm) that “Outsider Teng Chang Yeow will be named as the next Penang chief minister in an announcement to be made soon”
How can an alternate paper be privy to such news? So it has to depend on other souces.
And the Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon dismissed it as only a rumour
http://powerpresent.blogspot.com/2008/03/malaysiakinis-rumour-teng-chang-yeow-as.html
plus
Koh Tsu Koon who warned of bets on Batu Kawan Seat; Penang DAP & Gerakan Slogan Warl DAP Lim Guan Eng police report against him

rajaphillips
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rajaphillips

DO NOT be too confident just yet,

The crowd was 100,000 in 1999 but see what happened ! Get your people to walk every house in small goups EVERYDAY until election day

Wisdom above
Guest
Wisdom above

A ” Dynamic Malaysia “…equality for all… a better future…

..Anwar’s strong presence on the field and drawing large crowds.

>Keadilan, which projects itself as a multi-ethnic party, is regarded as the best bet to bring together DAP and PAS.

He has vowed to end race-based discrimination policies in Malaysia, making it one of the major planks of PKR’s manifesto.

Many professionals have joined the DAP,PAS,PKR,PSM,MDP,PASOK throughout Malaysia, Sabah & Sarawak.

It is a multi-ethnic party.

Women Power on 8-3-2008, International Women Day.

Syabas. Barisan Rakyat..

lucia
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lucia

wow anil! you are quick indeed to blog on this. i was there too… as MAFREL observer. i returned home after midnight… too tired to blog on it. anyway, might have to report on the ceramah to MAFREL.

i was attracted to attend because of anwar because i have never heard him speak before… and also of course because of jeff ooi, an old time friend. it was indeed a great ceramah. all the speakers were so energetic and charismatic,

i really hope, and wish and pray that this time around BN would be denied their 2/3 majority.