Oleh Debra Chong
IPOH, Sept 6 — Having successfully swept the stakes in the past eight but one by-elections since his thumping return to active politics last year, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim appears impatient to face off with his bitter rivals from Barisan Nasional (BN) in the upcoming contest for Bagan Pinang.
“Now we must win Bagan Pinang in Negeri Sembilan. We have to work hard, pray hard so we can get 9-0,” the former deputy prime minister turned Opposition Leader told a thousand-strong multicultural crowd at the Tow Boo Keong hall here last night, earning a rousing applause in return despite some dodgy mathematics.
All but one of the previous eight votes, the most recent of which was in Permatang Pasir, were taken by the PR coalition. BN secured its solitary win in Batang Ai in Sarawak, where it was the incumbent, and conceded the Penanti seat without contest, making the score now 7-1 in favour of Anwar’s alliance.
The Bagan Pinang state seat was declared vacant following the death of its assemblyman, Azman Mohd Noor from Umno last Friday, paving the way for the country’s ninth by-election since Election 2008.
In the March 8 elections, the late Azman had garnered 6,430 votes over PAS rival Ramli Ismail’s 4,037, earning him a 2,333 vote-majority win.
While the seat is widely considered an Umno stronghold, Anwar seemed highly convinced that his three-party Pakatan Rakyat (PR) faction will be able to snatch a sure-fire victory from the grand old party.
“We’ve changed that,” the 62-year-old grandfather told reporters who trailed him from Tow Boo Keong to his last stump at a village surau near the Lost World of Tambun, on the city’s fringes here late last night.
“They have to accept the reality that people are clamouring for change,” he added, referring to the wide margin won by PR in the seats previously considered Umno strongholds, namely the recently-ended Permatang Pasir by-election and Bukit Gantang, won by toppled Perak mentri besar, Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin.
But he shied away from giving his reading on the way the vote may swing at this point.
“It’s too early to say. We’ll work very hard. The 5,000 postal votes will complicate matters,” the PKR supremo said.
He also criticised the Election Commission for failing in their duty to ensure free and fair elections are carried out at poll centres.
“Notwithstanding that, we’ll continue to work together with all parties to give a formidable challenge,” Anwar added.
The fiery orator had earlier admitted to troubles creeping up on the fledgling three-party alliance.
But he tried to play down their severity, calling them “one or two problems” and painting a picture that there were open channels among his own PKR, the secular DAP and the Islamist PAS.
To the non-Muslim crowd in the hall, Anwar said he had just had a long two-way talk with the DAP’s Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng before swinging into Perak, and will be speaking with PAS’ Datuk Seri Hadi Awang and his No. 2 soon.
He added the alliance leadership will be meeting next Thursday.
Curiously, he gave a very slight but tellingly different message to a majority Malay-Muslim audience at the Surau Nurulhuda at Batu 6 an hour later.
“I will separate from the DAP,” he vowed to the large number of serban-wearing Muslim men seated in the audience, should the secular party dispute the position of Bahasa Melayu, the powers of the Malay rulers, the rights of Malays and their religion.
The Quran-quoting Anwar has been accused of being a “traitor to his own race” by none other than deputy premier Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
Despite his claims he need not rebut Muhyiddin’s charges, Anwar scored major brownie points with the predominantly non-Malay/Muslim crowd in the former tin-mining capital for defending the rights of the minority races and religions.
“Just because they are a minority, the minority must be defended. We must never have a tyranny of the majority,” he highlighted to loud cheers from the packed floor in Tow Boo Keong.
“We have to condemn perpetrators of violence,” he continued, referring to savageries committed in the name of Islam, and indirectly linking terrorist acts from extremist groups such as al Qaeda to the brutish intolerance shown by a group of Malay-Muslim protestors against the relocation of a 150-year-old Hindu temple into their neighbourhood in Shah Alam.
The charismatic leader even managed to squeeze in a jab at Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
“Hey, Najib. Listen to big brother here. Last time you snatched Perak but don’t think you can get away with Selangor,” he warned.
The seasoned politician was on a marathon road trip through several small towns in Perak to touch base with his grassroots supporters.
He had earlier touched on a score of current issues — from the deaths in custody of DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock and suspected car-thief A. Kugan to yesterday morning’s explosive racial protests over a proposed Hindu temple site in a housing area in Shah Alam.
Anwar will be heading south today for a similar campaign to carry his justice-for-all message on the road to the small towns in the heartland of Umno — Johor.
Sumber: The Malaysian Insider