Thursday, January 15, 2009

Strong boost for PR but victory not guaranteed

By Debra Chong (Malaysia Insider)

KUALA TERENGGANU, Jan 12 – There was an impossibly large crowd gathered at the Ocean Restaurant near the Grand Continental Hotel here last night. They had been pouring in since 7pm for the dinner ceramah organised to rally support for five-term Pas assemblyman Abdul Wahid Endut who is looking to upgrade to a federal seat in the Kuala Terengganu by-election on Saturday.

They packed the room, roughly the size of two shoplots, leaving the restaurant’s waiters hardly any space to breathe, let alone move. Yet, more continued to stream in. And even when it was obvious the restaurant had no more room, they continued to press against the glass windows from the outside, seemingly unbothered by the stench coming from the open drains and blowing in from the sea, barely 100 metres from the shop.

On the sea side, others scrambled over the wooden railings and generally squeezed themselves into any free space to follow the proceedings of the night. After all, the ceramah featured a star-studded cast of speakers. There was the president of PKR, the Selangor Menteri Besar, the country’s most famous anti-government blogger from Malaysia Today and the Chief Minister of Penang.

The speakers arrived separately, but the crowd whistled, cheered and clapped loudly enough to bring the roof down each time one of them arrived or took to the stage or finished their speeches. They roared in agreement when Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the former Opposition Leader, called on them to cross the “ping pong ball” on the ballot paper come polling day.

They gave the Pas candidate a standing ovation even though he spoke about the same things as he had at the rally in Chinatown the night before. And when he introduced his wife and son, the response was even more thunderous.

When Lim took to the microphone, a male voice from the crowd shouted in Mandarin: “I love you!”

A startled Lim recovered quickly enough to quip: “I love you too!”, sending the crowd into a bigger frenzy.

It was possibly the warmest welcome the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) front has received from the local Chinese community since the start of the campaign. And they donated close to RM3,500 to the DAP last night. One might be inclined to think the alternative front have safely got the Chinese votes in their pockets. From the turnout and the volume, the local Chinese appear to be sending a strong signal.

But in the women’s toilet later, one middle-aged woman was overheard asking another woman: “So, what did you think?”

The other replied: “I just wanted to hear what they have to say. I already know what to do on the day.”

A Malay boat builder on nearby Pulau Duyong had told The Malaysian Insider earlier: “Terengganu people tend to keep things in their heart. But they will tell all at the ballot box.”

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