PKR supporters dance in the middle of a sea of humanity to the beat of Indian drums
1215: And then, the heavens open, drenching the high-spirited crowds. “Hujan keramat (showers of blessings)!,” shouts one PKR supporter, looking up into the sky, as FRU personnel lining the road look on, blankly. I count 13 police trucks on my way out after dashing for shelter under one of the many stalls along the main road. Among those spotted in the crowd by others are Raja Petra, Rais Yatim, and Ezam.
1145: It’s a three-corned fight, with the third candidate coming from Angkatan Keadilan Insan Malaysia (Akim), which is said to be a Pas splinter group, set to play a spoiler’s role. All objections have been rejected. A huge roar erupts when Anwar’s name is announced. The Indian drumming group and dancers are now back in action livening up the atmosphere further. Thunder rolls in the sky as if to accompany the beat. It is threatening to rain.
Earlier, the Pakatan crowd were chanting “Al-tan-tu-ya!” in the open field at the BN supporters.
A PKR Chinese drumming group also performed as an appreciative, largely Malay crowd snapped photos.
Blog reader Muhammad Firdaus Christopher comments:
Syukur Alhamdulillah, Datuk Seri has started his journey towards being our 6th Prime Minister and the show begins tonight. For the record, I was there since 7.00am until about 11.45am and Masya Allah, I have never seen ever the thunderous and huge supporters of Pakatan Rakyat (PKR, DAP, PAS) bestowing in Penanti/ Permatang Pauh. I strongly believe and estimate the crowd of supporters ranging between 90,000 – 110,000. I am speechless…
Love live DSAI and lets us all work extra hard to ensure that his first step into Parliament happens on the 26th August when we cast our votes.
1100: My researcher friend has revised his estimate of the Pakatan crowd to 70,000 – and I tend to agree with him, more or less. But another PKR supporter says it exceeds 100,000 as there are still a lot of people further away.
Anwar has received three or four objections to his candidacy from the BN side, while PKR has not filed any objections against the BN’s Arif Shah.
On the BN side of the field nearby, Umno supporters have unfurled a banner: “Jangan pandang belakang” – a none-too-subtle innuendo.
A senior PKR woman party official from KL tells me that 20 buses of PKR supporters have come from Bangsar while a dozen have come from Cheras. A Sabahan, for his part, says about 100 Sabahans are also here “to learn” from what is going on.
One Permatang Pauh voter predicts Anwar will win with a 15,000-majority but the woman PKR official says it doesn’t matter what his majority is as long as he is back in Parliament.
1030: The sun is blazing down and it is getting hot – in more ways than one. BN supporters are being given a “hot” reception. PKR supporters are lining their paths, jeering vociferously and taunting them by waving one ringgit and ten ringgit notes in front of them. The loudest jeers are reserved for dark or black cars that may be carrying high-ranking BN officials. Police are keeping a watchful eye while riot police have separated supporters with partitions in the field further away.
“It’s like a festival,” says an elderly Indian gentleman, though the BN supporters can’t be enjoying it too much. In fact, it must be rather intimidating for them to walk through such a crowd.
Malay PKR supporters are chanting Makkal Sakthi whenever they spot Indian Pakatan supporters. They respond with broad grins.
0955: A PKR supporter, seeing me on the laptop, walks up to me and asks me for my estimate of the crowd size.
I tell him I have been getting reports that it is around 30,000 to 50,000, some saying even 100,000 and over.
“Impossible,” he responds, “it is much bigger than that. My friend is still stuck 3.5km away in traffic trying to get here.”
I ask him for his estimate of the crowd size.
“That’s not for me to say. I just want you to be fair and give a realistic figure.”
I press him again for his estimate.
“250,000,” he responds.
Earlier, a Pas supporter next to me put the figure at 50,000.
Who can tell for sure? I wish I was in one of those helicopters above.
Blog reader Frankie sends us this report:
Early this morning, at 7.00 am, I can see the police helicopter flying throughout the area of Permatang Pauh and I can already sense this is going to be a different peaceful morning that Permatang Pauh is used to. Come 7.50 am, I drove out heading to the Seberang Jaya roundabout, I can see PKR and Pas supporters heading to the BKE expressway. I did see a bus ferrying PAS supporters stopping over at Subbaidah nasi kandar for breakfast before proceeding and I can see all the traffic lights surrounding area have standby traffic cops.
Hold on to your seat, it is showtime.
0905: Now let’s talk about the crowd size. A researcher friend of mine who has positioned himself in the BN side of the field nearby estimates that the BN supporters do not exceed 5,000. “There’s still a lot of space in the field here,” he tells me. “I can even run the 100 metres here!”
He adds that the slogan chanting, led by Puteri Umno, has become rather personal. “Liwat tetap liwat!” they chant and “Anwar kaki buntut!”
Over at the Pakatan side, the researcher tells me the crowd is probably in the range of 30,000, though some PKR supporters are estimating 100,000 to 150,000. The truth is no one can say for sure as the area is chocker-block with people.
0855: A sea of people with Pakatan flags and banners continue to overwhelm the crowd of a few thousand BN supporters. I bump into bloggers Haris Ibrahim and Zorro and they are in high spirits. I ask Haris for his estimate of the crowd. “”It’s unbelievable,” says Haris. “I dare not even estimate the size of the crowd.”
In fact, the crowds are flowing in from all directions. Two police helicopters are now circling overhead surveying the crowds below – so that tells you something.
Earlier, Pakatan bystanders were teasing the BN crowd walking in and mocking them. As a group of BN women walked by under a BN banner with pictures of Abdullah and Najib, someone from the roadside greeted them: “Selamat pagi, datin-datin hadhari.” Another taunts them, “How much did they pay you to attend this?”
0815: Greetings from near the Nomination Day centre here at Institut Maktab Perguruan Tengku Bainun in Penanti, where there’s a huge crowd of PKR supporters along the Penanti exit of the Butterworth-Kulim expressway.
It’s a festive atmosphere here – notwithstanding half a dozen FRU trucks on standby and a police chopper clattering overhead.
Indian PKR supporters are dancing on the road leading to the nomination accompanied by drummers.
Other PKR supporters have removed a banner from a flyover, purportedly put up by Pas supporters urging Pas to boycott the by-election. “These are dirty tricks,” a PKR supporter muttered as he took down the banner.
About a dozen Indian women clad in beige saris, donning BN caps, make their way among the throng of PKR supporters.
DAP supporters are also making their presence felt with rocket flags in evidence here and there.
I spot PKR’s Gobalakrishnan wearing an Anwar mask. These Anwar masks are selling like hot cakes.
But BN supporters are conspicuous by their absence. Where exactly are they? Let me go and look for them!