Fancy a drink, anyone? Expiry date: 12 Aug 2011 (I am not sure if that refers to the shelf-life of the water or the BN’s expiry date. Anyway, I hope the drinking water suppliers get paid!)
You meet the most unexpected people when you go ceramah hunting. The media people are the most avid ceramah followers, trailing the elusive candidates wherever they go.
You also bump into fellow bloggers and internet journalists like I did on Tuesday night, when I ran into bloggers Mustafa K Anuar and Susan Loone, a journalist from Merdeka Review and the new kids on the block from The Nutgraph. It was my privilege to buy them a round of teh tarik, milo kosong, and air bandung. If not for them, your only news from the by-election campaign would be from the mainstream media. I also have to thank a particular mainstream news editor – who shall not be named! – for providing me info on how to get to the latest ceramah and for updating me on developments that I may have missed. There are a few good people in the mainstream media, with their hearts in the right place. It’s just that they are often not given the freedom to write what they believe in – thanks to their top editors. That must change – the sooner the better. Anyway, you can see us having drinks here.
We even got to see “UFOs” in the night sky hovering over the ceramah site between Bandar Perda and Bukit Mertajam. These “UFOs” seem to be particularly curious about the earthlings here who have been swarming the PKR ceramah. This particular ceramah was attended by a crowd of about 4,000.
Among the speakers were Saifudin of PKR, Mahfuz of Pas, an “NGO” rep and Anwar. By now, we more or less know what Anwar has to say. (This time though he told Najib not to talk so much about sodomy and personal integrity and all that; otherwise he would ask him about “Port Dickson”!). Mahfuz exposed how much Abdullah’s Raya open house costs each year. For 2003, he claimed the expenditure was RM3.5 million and for 2004-2007, he alleged that the cost of holding the event at the PWTC was RM4.92 million every year! That’s a lot of food – and money! Well, at least it goes to feeding all those hungry Malaysians…
That said, the PKR folk must be more careful about the type of local speakers they get to address the ceramah. The “NGO” speaker who addressed the crowd on Tuesday night had some awful reactionary views. In addressing the UiTM issue, he referred to the non-bumis as “bangsa asing“. I wonder how such exclusivist talk went down with the non-Malays in the largely Malay crowd.
This particular “NGO” chap also appeared to have some xenophobic views as he warned about about the influx of “pendatang tanpa izin” (undocumented migrants). Somehow he also managed to associate this with the increase in the crime rate as he began talking about how criminals were even hauling off ATM machines. Someone should tell him that migrant workers account for only 2 per cent of crimes in the country even though they make up more than 10 per cent of the population. Please, PKR, screen your local speakers more carefully. We don’t need reactionary views like these – not at a time when many are hoping for a more compassionate, inclusivist and progressive Malaysia.
One thing good about the PKR ceramah is that they seem to be providing a huge captive market for a whole range of small traders who sell everything from VCDs of political speeches to religious items, food and beverages, head-bands and unidentified objects that glow colourfully in the dark. And the crowd here actually buys the stuff (so unlike the small BN ceramah). I think many of them actually want to support these traders – instead of patronising stalls elsewhere – out of some sense of political camaraderie. It’s a blessing for these small traders who would otherwise be going through some tough times in the present difficult economic climate.
I even saw an interesting Islamic genealogy scroll chart on sale. This particular chart traces the descendants of Adam and Eve all the way through Noah, Abraham, and Ismail down to Muhammad as well as from Isaac, Moses and David down to Mary, Joseph and Jesus. All in one handy scroll that you can hang on the wall in your home – incredible! Now, doesn’t this show that Muslims and Christians (and Jews) share a common historical heritage? They are all the spiritual descendants of Abraham/Ibrahim. Remind me to take a photo of this chart next time. I would have snapped a couple of shots that night but I forgot to bring along my camera batteries!