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Ceramah war: Pakatan ablaze, Najib scorched

 | April 11, 2011

Pakatan's top guns draw yet another huge crowd while Najib has people walking out on him.

KUCHING: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was greeted with virtual disinterest when he spoke at a half empty hall here last night, telling of Barisan Nasional’s dim chances to regain the state’s capital.

To add salt to the injury, witnesses – including reporters from the government-linked media – said close to 8,000 thronged Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s event at a separate venue.

The “Meet The Leaders” event last night was Najib’s first official campaigning day in Kuching where the predominantly Chinese electorate is known to be spiteful of the state BN government under Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.

Attempts by Najib to woo the crowd by boasting of the government’s supposed economic success met with a disappointing response as droves donning the 1Malaysia t-shirt walked out of the 3,000 capacity Kuching Council Stadium.

The crowd, about 1,000, also appeared to be unmoved by the revelation that the federal government has plans to turn Kuching into a “health metropolis” and a health tourism centre.

Najib, however, went on with his speech, echoing past statements that only BN can deliver the goods while the opposition can only give promises.

“Don’t be fooled by their slogan of change. What they can do is just give you promises but there is no guarantee that it can be delivered,” he said.

The premier has packed his schedule with six days on the campaign trail, even cancelling his Cabinet meeting this Friday to focus on the Sarawak election, an unprecedented move.

But his effort has backfired with the opposition intensely capitalising on this, describing it as a sign of desperation on BN’s side.

Najib’s fate and future plans for the nation hinge on the outcome of the Sarawak polls, a gauge to the support he has and whether or not he can call for a snap general election.

Pakatan Rakyat holds all except one of the five state seats in Kuching and is likely to maintain status quo as far as the state capital is concerned.

Pakatan sets the night on fire

Meanwhile, about 20km away in Batu Kawah, traffic was backed up for almost three kilometres as people thronged the grassy patch where Pakatan was holding its ceramah.

They even perched on vehicles along the new Batu Kawah bridge to hear fiery speeches from Anwar, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Kelantan Menteri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.

Anwar delivered an impassioned speech on why Sarawak needed change and urged the people to reclaim their rights which have long been lost to them. He also declared that Pakatan will win the Pandugan seat and the crowd shouted back an affirmation.

Padungan is seeing a three-cornered fight after former PKR Sarawak state chief, Dominique Ng, left the party to defend his seat as an independent.

A huge cheer erupted when Nik Aziz took to the stage and greeted the crowd in Mandarin. The PAS spiritual leader, more fondly known as Tok Guru, spoke about justice and equality for all as was intended by God.

He also made a brief mention of Kelantan’s controversial decision to ban all forms of gambling in the state.

“Gambling paralyses the mind,” he said. “This is unlike making money thorough a business which invigorates it. When you gamble you don’t need to think. This is why we want it banned.”

Lim, meanwhile, had the crowd in stitches as he took swipes at Taib and SUPP president George Chan.

“Sarawak has oil, timber and even crocodiles,” he said to shouts of laughter. “But this crocodile is two-legged and white which makes it very dangerous.”

“So I urge you to choose a representative that is brave enough to hunt a white crocodile and I call upon you to be white crocodile hunters yourselves!”

Lim also promised RM1,000 a year for every senior citizen should Pakatan form the next state government. To the crowd’s delight, he then proceeded to entertain them with a song and dance pertaining to corruption in Sarawak.

But there was also a sober moment when he acknowledged the previous weak Chinese support for DAP in Batu Kawah.

“We received less than 50% of Chinese votes from here in 2006,” he told the crowd. “To win this battle of the century we have to win Batu Kawah.”

This seat is the toughest of DAP’s four Kuching seats with greenhorn, Christina Chiew, going up against BN veteran, Tan Joo Phoi.


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