Anwar enters the hall in Kulim to a hero’s welcome
- Anwar publicly announces he will contest in Kulim “barring obstacles”
- 8,000-strong multi-ethnic crowd greets his announcement with thunderous applause
- Hadi assures Anwar of Kedah Pas’ full backing
- DAP to assist in campaign as well
Anwar Ibrahim was given a hero’s reception in Kulim, Kedah during an emotional night when he announced that he would contest a by-election here barring obstacles. In doing so, he has raised the stakes considerably.
A barely visible Anwar dressed in black long-sleeves with hand outstretched (towards the right, below) wades through the crowd
He was mobbed as he entered the hall, led by lion dancers prancing ahead. Hundreds lined his path with outstretched hands either holding cameras up high or trying to reach out to Anwar. Even from a vantage point above the crowd, I was barely able to see him as PKR escorts struggled to guide him to the stage.
About three-quarters of the crowd were Malay with a sizeable number of ethnic Chinese and a visible Indian presence, reflecting Kulim’s ethnic composition.
And then, he declared: “Barring obstacles, I can announce that I will contest in Kulim, inshallah.” The crowd erupted.
Anwar shrugged off recent news of Pas-Umno talks. He told the crowd that he and Hadi had been in close communication and he had spoken to the Pas president over the telephone earlier on Sunday. “Hadi assured me that Azizan would fully mobilise the Kedah Pas machinery behind me in the event of a Kulim by-election.”
He said that the DAP had also indicated its readiness to assist if a by-election is held in Kulim, which lies in Kedah, just across the border from Penang. The town is just 15 minutes’ drive from Anwar’s home base of Permatang Pauh on mainland Penang.
Anwar indicated that the incumbent Zulkifli was ready to give way to him.
A couple of PKR town councillors from Kedah later told me that “it was 80 per cent certain” that Anwar would contest in Kulim – though a lot would also depend on the outcome of the court case involving Zulkifli.
Anwar also disclosed a couple of interesting nuggets.
He said that the surgeon in Munich, Thomas Hoogland, who performed surgery on his back refused to accept payment. “Imagine, he, a Christian doctor, was willing to forego payment because he recognised my struggle for justice on behalf of the Malaysian people and knew what I had been through,” said Anwar, as the majority-Muslim crowd broke out in appreciative applause.
A section of the multi-racial crowd in Kulim listening intently to Anwar
Anwar also described in some detail the recent medical examination he underwent at the KL Hospital after he was asked to take off his clothes. “They examined me front and back. They even took out a ruler to measure me!”
“I was even asked to fill out a form meant for rape victims,” he lamented.
“If they think they can shame me and deter me from the struggle this way, let me say, I–WILL–NEVER– SURRENDER,” he thundered.
He also recalled his oil price debate with Shabery Cheek. “He started talking about Iran and Venezuela and began foaming at the mouth,” said Anwar, as the crowd hooted, knowingly.
He recounted how a kakak later asked him why he had to “win” the debate: “Couldn’t you have just conceded defeat?”
Puzzled, he asked her why she said that.
“Then they wouldn’t have treated you that way,” she said, referring to his dramatic arrest and ordeal the following day, as the crowd laughed.
He said that if he had agreed to all the damaging policies the BN leaders had proposed for the country, he would have been “Tun Anwar” by now.
Claiming that RM10 billion was being lost annually through corruption, Anwar reiterated that he could immediately reduce the oil price by 50 sen if Pakatan Rakyat took over the reins.
His proposal looks even more feasible now – at least as a temporary measure. The global price has plunged from around US$146 per barrel a couple of weeks ago to US$123 now as speculation appears to be losing momentum following fears of a global economic slowdown.
Revealing his ideological mindset, Anwar referred to an ekonomi pasaran (market economy) that would transform the Malaysian economy into one of the giants of this region.
But he added that the existing order was worried about the Pakatan’s plan to uplift the downtrodden, put an end to corruption and bring the various races together after 50 years of divide-and-rule.