Photos by Anil
Between 5,000 and 10,000 Pakatan supporters rallied outside the nomination centre for the Permatang Pasir by-election. I was not able to gauge the size of the BN crowd as the two sets of supporters were kept apart. Quite a few of the supporters wore surgical masks because of their fear of H1N1.
This was the same nomination centre used for the Penanti by-election and this time the crowd appeared much larger than the few thousand that had turned up back then. Among the crowd were small contingents of DAP and PKR reps.
Nearer the nomination centre, Pakatan speakers addressed the crowd. The police presence was noticeably lighter. Penang CPO Ayub Yaakob had earlier spoken of a new approach in putting public order units only on stand-by following complaints that the police presence in previous by-elections had been overwhelming; just over a thousand personnel would reportedly be on duty this time. Apart from the usual plainclothes cops, I spotted the dark-blue uniformed units, mostly concentrated just outside the nomination centre, and their blue jeeps; no sign of any riot police.
But a disturbing incident marred the largely peaceful event. Padang Serai MP Gobalakrishnan was detained and handcuffed outside the nomination centre while he was leading the crowd with chants of “reformasi!” and looked as if he had injured his hand in the process. Ayub, for his part, was reported as saying police moved in after Gobala ignored two warnings to stop using allegedly provocative words.
As I strolled back with the dispersing crowd after the event under the blazing sun, a group of young Pas supporters around me, perhaps incensed by the way Gobala was arrested, shouted some unflattering remarks (which I shan’t repeat here) at the police lining the side of the road outside the nomination centre. But the cops just looked back passively.
A white Mitsubishi four-wheel drive belonging to the Election Commission cruised by, its occupants probably blissfully unaware that someone had cheekily draped a Pas flag on the spare tyre hanging at the rear of the vehicle. As the vehicle passed the dispersing crowd, Pas supporters chuckled at one another, “SPR sudah masuk Pas!”
Some of the Pas supporters had come from as far away as Terengganu and Pahang. I spotted one wearing a T-shirt from the Bukit Gantang by-election campaign in Perak.
As usual, the small traders lining both sides of the approach road to the nomination centre enjoyed brisk business.
0951: Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce president Tan Kok Ping has walked into the nomination centre premises along with Umno vice-president Zahid Hamidi. Kok Ping is now seated at the BN tent, engaging in conversation with Muhyiddin, as Koh Tsu Koon looks on. (Time to ask Tsu Koon some hard questions on Kg Buah Pala, eh?) (Kok Ping later moved to the Pakatan side.)
Earlier, a couple of stand fans were brought to the BN tent under which Muhyiddin and Hishamuddin are seated. It must be hot out there.
Samy Vellu has appeared and goes around greeting people.
Over on the Pakatan side, Anwar, Hadi and Guan Eng have turned up.
I wonder how many of them are thinking of Kg Buah Pala, which has dampened the occasion somewhat.