THE two major competing parties in the Kuala Terengganu by-election couldn’t have started their campaigns in more contrasting fashions.
Umno revved up its election machinery in the gilded expanse and expense of Taman Tamadun Islam’s convention centre on the eve of the 6 Jan 2009 nomination day. PAS, with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and DAP, took to the beach of Tanjung Kuala Terengganu in Ladang for their first ceramah perdana.
Addressing the assembled Umno Wanita, Puteri and Pemuda wings, Datuk Seri Najib Razak set their campaign’s tenor by reminding the cogs in the Barisan Nasional (BN) election machinery to drop elitist mannerisms and stick to kampung-style courtesy and approachability. The young crowd’s spirits were high. They sang, chanted and cheered in response to the top Umno leadership lined up on stage.
After the clamorous proceedings ended, Terengganu campaign workers were called to stay back to collect their “borang”, as the emcee described it. This “borang” was RM10 per worker, for their expenses.
PAS kicked off their campaign after nomination with a star-studded ceramah in the scenic and breezy locale of the Tanjung Kuala Terengganu waterfront. Besides top PAS, PKR and DAP leaders was the conspicuous presence of the Umno defector, Datuk Zahar Hashim, who recently joined PAS.
DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang confused the crowd a little with his convoluted rhetorical questions. Wondering about the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s integrity, he asked the crowd, “Kalau begitu, pilihanraya kecil di KT akan menjadi by-election yang pertama yang terbersih sekali dalam sejarah Malaysia. Bolehkah ini berlaku di Kuala Terengganu?” The crowd yelled, “Boleh!”
PAS leaders like Terengganu PAS commissioner Datuk Mustafa Ali and party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang dealt with domestic issues, whilst PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim took a circuitous route in his argument against the BN by way of the Gaza invasion. He missed the morning of nomination day because he was on his way back from Turkey to consult regional leaders on the issue.
The most electrifying response was saved for the rare appearance of the PAS Mursyidal Am Tok Guru Datuk Haji Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who looked withered and ailing, as he waited for his climatic turn. Some in the crowd, which filled the sandy waterfront the size of a couple of football fields, were concerned enough to ask that he be allowed to speak sitting down.
But up on the stump he went, with an invigorating performance that belied his years and his feeble countenance mere moments earlier.
Danny Lim is a freelance journalist and photographer.