|An evening with Anwar Ibrahim|
Baradan Kuppusamy | Mar 1, 08
It is incredible that with just one seat in the dissolved parliament and himself not a candidate, Anwar Ibrahim can tell voters in his campaign rallies that "after we win on March 8, I will reduce the price of petrol."
But in the �s constituencies of Wangsa Maju, Bandar Tun Razak and Lembah Pantai, Anwar drew loud cheers and applause. "Who says petrol price cannot be reduced. I was finance minister for eight years, I never raised petrol price."
For this promise to be taken seriously, the combined DAP-PKR-PAS opposition must win government on polling day - which is near impossible - then appoints Anwar as senator and names him the new prime minister.
Equally incredible, voters at Anwar�s rallies roared in approval. "I will abolish toll charges, fix minimum wages at RM1,500 and provide free education until university level," he said to loud applause.
"I don't see why we have to raise petrol price when we are a net petroleum exporter, and when we earn over RM100 billion from oil export. What is wrong with using this income to subsidise petrol to help poor?"
Going by the enthusiastic response, the promise to cut fuel price is having the desired impact on voters. Along with toll charges, the rise in fuel prices is the ordinary voter�s No 1 fear.
The roads around Malay-majority Wangsa Maju and Bandar Tun Razak, where people live in crowded high-rise buildings, was packed bumper to bumper with cars, mostly cheap Kancils and Protons.
"Nearly everyone here owns a car, sometimes two cars," said former army driver, Azman Halim, who now drives for Nikko Hotel. "A car is not a luxury but a necessity. If fuel price rises, we all suffer."
Hard sell by the government
Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who raised fuel prices three times in the last four years, is on the defensive to explain why there will be another hike after the election.
The issue is not whether oil price in is lower then in . Voters are in no mood to compare prices with our neighbours - they simply cannot accept, and rightly too, as to why , a net oil exporter, is raising oil prices.
"There is no logic in raising petrol prices... we sell oil to the world. It should be cheaper lah!" said Samuel Lim, a Sabahan living in Wangsa Maju. It is a logic the government finds it hard to fight.
Anwar ended his speech, "If you vote them, they will raise the petrol price. You vote us, we will reduce the price. The choice is yours."
A master orator who understands the emotive power of silence, Anwar paused, waited as the crowd went silent, expectant.
"Now is the time to change - on March 8!" he rammed home as crowd erupted into cheers and claps.
Critical mass missing
He waded into the crowd, hugged, shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. He recognised some old faces as former reformasi warriors. He then got into the car and drove off to the next ceramah in Brickfields as the crowd dispersed to shouts of �reformasi�.
To change a government you need critical mass. But this appeared to be missing in the two Malay-majority areas on Thursday night - an ominous sign that Anwar, once a firebrand promoter of Islam and later a Malay nationalist par excellence, is not winning the Malays in numbers large enough to see change.
In an area where about 30,000 Malays live, only 500 turned up at Bandar Tun Razak. It was the same in Wangsa Maju, about 600 people of mostly Malays came to lend Anwar their ears.
Some, from their Arabic-style costumes, were presumably PAS members while others were younger, upwardly-mobile Malays, the reformasi types who always travel with Anwar and take up the front-row seats. The rest were local residents.
I asked a well-dressed Malay man hanging around, "What do you think?"
"Well, fuel prices always go up, it is a question of how much and how well it is explained. Anwar can't get voters to change government but he can at least help get his daughter, Nurul Izzah, elected," said the man, who turned out to be a lawyer.
He gave me his name card, but it was ruined by the washing machine.
In Makkal Shakthi territory
Later that night, Brickfields was like a madhouse.
Thousands of people, mostly Indians, packed like sardines in a small field where a stage had been set up and some Hindraf and PKR �small fries� were warming the mike for Anwar.
This is clearly Makkal Shakthi (people�s power) territory - the new rallying cry that has united disenchanted Indians, the big majority of whom are Tamil youths holding low-paid, semi-skilled jobs like drivers, dispatch boys and office clerks.
One after another, the speakers went to the rostrum to lambast MIC president , who is now the favourite whipping boy of PKR Indian leaders. They all started their speech with some invocation probably in Sanskrit.
Suddenly the air was punctuated with shouts of Makkal Sakthi.
There was a stir in the crowd. Nurul Izzah Anwar had arrived and was being escorted to the stage to the lively and stirring tunes of live Indian drums and nadhaswaram (wind instrument) music.
Dressed in a red kebaya and with large floral patterns and a grey tudung, the fresh-faced 27-year-old still looks fresh, politically that is. She kicked off her speech with the Makkal Shakthi slogan to the approval of the crowd, and spoke in careful measured tones with precise hand gestures.
She did not criticise her opponent. She spoke about rising crime, about money wasted on a space tourist and promised to work hard if elected.
The security around her was also tight with several UTK-types in black leather jackets, their mouths always working like toman fish munching chewing gums.
Anwar finally arrived about 11pm and was again accompanied with Indian music. He began his speech with his now familiar, "On March 9, I will reduce petrol prices!" and went on to give the audience, estimated at 5,000, a commanding performance.
He attacked both and his old nemesis, Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The Makkal Sakthi crowd lapped it up.
Some old Anwarites tried to get the crowd to chant reformasi but failed. The crowd preferred Makkal Shakthi. However, �Anwar car stickers� sold like hot cakes at RM4 a piece.
After the speech, Anwar stood on the stage and had a difficult time receiving the cash that the sea of humanity was pushing into his hands. Finally someone found a discarded plastic to hold the cash.
As in Bandar Tun Razak and Wangsa Maju, there were few Malays and Chinese, another ominous sign that Anwar is not winning the middle ground but is sliding to the fringe where the anger is palpable but the votes are not enough to create a critical mass for national change.
Petrol price is unlikely to be slashed come March 9 but the chances for Nurul Izzah to enter Parliament is improving.
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|Indian business group lauds PKR manifesto|
RK Anand | Mar 1, 08
The Malaysian Indian Business Association (Miba) has given the thumbs up for PKR's election manifesto which features the slogan 'A New Dawn for '.
Miba president P Sivakumar commended the opposition party for calling for a review of the New Economic Policy (NEP).
"A rose should be extended to PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim for his bold approach in discarding discriminative policies and ensuring assistance to the poor regardless of race," he said.
Sivakumar said many Malaysians were suffering in silence while some had chosen to voice out their dissatisfaction over the manner in which certain things were being done in this country.
"The PKR manifesto addresses these issues and provides positive solutions for the well-being of all citizens," he told Malaysiakini today.
Sivakumar also reminded Malaysians that the country gained independence in 1957 because of the joint effort of all races.
"The Malays, Chinese and Indians rallied behind the late Tunku Abdul Rahman to liberate the country from colonial rule," he stressed.
Sivakumar said Tunku - in seeking the agreement and mutual cooperation of the non-Malays - gave the assurance that after independence they would be treated fairly and justly although the Malays, who were then economically backwards, would be given some leverage.
"He also declared that the country for all intents and purposes would remain a secular state with freedom of worship for everyone irrespective of their religious beliefs
"This understanding lasted till 1969. But the unexpected May 13 racial riots paved the way for the formulation of the NEP to correct the economic imbalance between the Malays and non-Malays."
However, the Johor-based businessman said nearly four decades later, the policy had come under criticism and caused unhappiness among the non-Malay communities.
"On Nov 25, some 30,000 Indians took to the streets to voice their disgruntlement over not being treated equally, the indiscriminate temple demolitions and the lack of educational, business and civil service employment opportunities.
"This can be said as the outpouring of accumulated discontentment stored in the hearts for far too long," he said in reference to the rally organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).
Credible representatives needed
On the same note, Sivakumar said it cannot be denied that the government had brought about much prosperity to the nation albeit with some disparity in the treatment of its citizens.
"In the eyes of God all men are equal but the NEP divides Malaysians into two distinct classes - bumiputra (son of the soil) who have special rights and non-bumiputra (not a son of the soil).
"Today after 50 years of independence, every Indian born in this country is asking why such classifications and discrimination. When will all these stop?" he added.
"With such preferential and differential treatment between the people of one nation, can the government candidly say that it is fair to everyone?" he asked.
Stressing that was a wonderful country, Sivakumar, however, noted that times had changed and policies of the past were no longer applicable.
"So we need to change some things for the benefit of all. We need quality people to run this country," he added.
In view of this, the Miba president called on the Indian community to cast their votes for credible candidates in this elections.
"We need capable representatives to champion the cause without fear and negotiate a better future for all," he added.
|PKR alleges BN hooliganism in Rembau|
Syed Jaymal Zahiid | Feb 29, 08
PKR members in Rembau are accusing BN of employing �hooligan tactics� to gain the upper hand in the race to win the parliamentary seat.
Rembau�s PKR candidate, Badrul Hisham Shaharin claimed that the party�s campaign posters have been torn down and in Rantau, BN supporters had aggressively stopped his supporters from putting up the party�s campaign posters.
Following this, Badrul�s representative and supporters lodged two police reports this morning at the Rembau district police headquarters.
�BN supporters in Rantau had wanted to chase our supporters out and tried to block them from putting up the posters. They claimed that PKR is not wanted in Rembau and that the constituency has always been BN�s,� Badrul alleged.
The battle in Rembau is closely watched as it is contested by Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin, who is also the prime minister�s son-in-law.
In the last general election, BN candidate Firdaus Muhammad Rom Harun won the seat by a staggering 18,656 votes against his PAS counterpart, party head researcher Dr Dzulkefli Ahmad.
For Khairy, or known to many as KJ, this will be his electoral debut and he is in a hurry to win over the hearts and votes of the 61,690 voters in Rembau.
Badrul said Khairy�s prominence will not intimidate him from facing the the Umno rising star for the seat. The PKR supreme council member claimed he has in his sleeves facts about his opponent that would turn the heads of Rembau residents against the BN upstart.
�Khairy�s prominence is none other than the product of his blood ties with . This is what you call crony politics and he has been benefitting in millions by this and in our leaflets, we have exposed this,� he told Malaysiakini.
The ECM Libra scandal
Explaining, Badrul said that one of the many issues raised in the leaflets is the ECM Libra-Avenue merger scandal that involved Khairy.
The ECM Libra-Avenue merger had raised eyebrows when the deal was approved by Abdullah shortly after Khairy had bought a RM9.2 million worth of direct stake in ECM Libra.
This led to wide criticisms of cronism as Abdullah was overseeing government-linked companies (GLCs) in his capacity as finance minister.
Subsequently, Khairy was forced by public pressure to sell off his shares in ECM Libra in August 2006.
�We are still curious as to how Khairy managed to get that amount of money to purchase the shares? The second point is how did a small company like ECM Libra managed to merge with a bigger company like Avenue Capital,� added Badrul.
Associating the matter with the elections, Badrul said this exposure by PKR have scared Khairy and hence the employment of hooligan tactics against PKR supporters and campaigning effort.
Despite this, Badrul added that PKR have received good support from the ground in Rembau and vowed to continue to intensify the party�s campaigning effort.
Rembau is a predominantly Malay constituency (68.9 percent) followed by 15.8 percent Indians and 15.2 percent Chinese.
State seats that fall under Rembau are Paroi, Chembong, Rantau and Kota with all known to be strongholds for BN. The state�s chief minister, Mohamad Hasan is the incumbent for Rantau and will seek to retain his seat against PKR�s Aisah Lamsah.
Daripada Abu Umarah iaitu al-Bara' bin 'Azib radhiallahu anhuma, katanya: "Kita semua diperintah oleh Rasulullah s.a.w. untuk melakukan tujuh perkara, iaitu meninjau orang sakit, mengikuti janazah, menentasymitkan orang yang bersin, menolong orang yang lemah, membantu orang yang teraniaya, meratakan salam dan melaksanakan sumpah."