Andrew Ong | Apr 6, 09 11:52pm
Both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat closed their 10-day campaigning with a bang, drawing out thousands of supporters in a final push for victory.
The most flamboyant of them all was a sold-out “star-studded” DAP dinner which lasted for four hours in Simpang last night, attracting thousands of predominantly Chinese supporters.
Dubbed the “Super Sunday gathering”, the dinner saw supporters paying RM30 for a seat in the 250-table event, at 10 diners to a table, while a few thousand more had to make do with whatever standing room left within audible range of the speakers.
The crowd were thrilled and entertained by a host of Pakatan leaders including PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat, DAP chairperson Karpal Singh, secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang and DAP MP Teresa Kok.
The loudest cheers and applause, however, were reserved for Pakatan’s candidate from PAS, Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin, who arrived at about 9.30pm, prompting boisterous chants of “Nizar, Nizar, Nizar…”.
This was the largest show of political force by the Chinese community here, bearing in mind that this was a paid event. Another RM11,000 was collected in donations.
In comparison, a BN-sponsored dinner on April 1 in Taman Kota Jaya for the Chinese community drew a relatively larger crowd, partly because it was completely free.
Thousands attend PAS ceramah
A few kilometres away in Taman Kaya, PAS held its largest ceramah to date with thousands of supporters filling up a large football field.
Anwar arrived at about 10.30pm and immediately defended Mohd Nizar over his 11-month tenure as Perak menteri besar.
Referring to Mohd Nizar as a “pahlawan (warrior)” and the “new Tun Perak”, Anwar took a Malay literary twist to Umno allegations that Mohd Nizar had committed “derhaka (treason)” by defying the sultan’s order to step down as menteri besar in February.
“In Bukit Gantang, god willing (we will win). Pray that our pahlawan Nizar will be made a member of parliament,” said Anwar, before making way for Nik Aziz, the key speaker at the event.
Dr M’s return to the campaign trail
Not to be outdone, Umno brought in their political juggernaut in form of the fourth and longest-serving prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad into the fray.
Mahathir rallied some 2,000 BN supporters, comprising mostly Malays, during a short half-hour speech in Simpang before speaking to some 300 civil servants at a hotel in Taiping.
Clearly in his element and revelling in the moment, Mahathir could not stop smiling as he gave the adoring crowd a taste of vintage Mahathir.
His supporters whooped and cheered at his sharp digs at the opposition and his trademark message of how BN can ensure prosperity and national unity.
For many senior journalists, it was a surreal trip back in time to the Mahathir-era.
“He was addressing the civil servants just like how he did when he was prime minister,” remarked one senior journalists.
Despite all the pomp and rhetoric over the last 24 hours, there is still no clear winner in sight.
PAS is still in full gear today as party canvassers swept through Trong and other Malay areas, taking advantage of many unmanned posts left by Umno campaigners who were at Mahathir’s morning function.
Unlike the days before, the number of ceramahs tonight are fewer as the main rivals for this parliamentary seat braced for the outcome tomorrow, which is likely to be a photo finish.