The trip with Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim to Kuala Kangsar and Lumut on January 4, 2007 was indeed a punishing one. My colleagues and I did not return to Kuala Lumpur until 3 AM on January 5. But it provided me with the opportunity to be in another part of our country where I had not been for long time (I was a frequent visitor during my school days at the Penang Free School for competitive soccer and hockey with our great rivals, Maktab Melayu). E
The programme was packed with places to visit, each stop precisely timed.We arrived on time for Friday prayers at Masjid Ridzwaniah (adjacent to the famous Maktab Melayu/Malay College) in Kuala Kangsar town. Dato Seri Anwar was warmly received by mosque officials and the jumaah, including students who waited patiently to shake his hand and exchange pleasantries with their famous old boy. After prayers, we accompanied Dato Seri Anwar to Taman Chandan Puteri for the opening of a new Parti KeADILan Rakyat branch where some 230 Indian members were received. He spoke to a gathering of 500 people and encouraged them to work hard as the 12th national elections is only months away.
We then proceeded to meet with Mesyarakat Sayong by the great Sungai Perak where we were treated to a nice lunch. The KeADILan de factor leader addressed a group of some 600 people including some Indians from the neighbouring areas. His message to them was simple. It was one of unity and tolerance. He also asked them to vote for a government that would have their interest at heart, not those who were corrupt and incompetent. After that, he was introduced to a young ex-warder who was in Sungai Buloh when Dato Seri Anwar was the guest of the Agong for 6 years.
Our delegation then proceeded to Kampong Senggang. It is an UMNO stronghold, as evidenced by the buntings and flags of UMNO and Barisan Nasional that had been put up to eclipse those of KeADILan. This place was off the beaten track, but the visit was made because the people wanted to personally thank Dato Seri Anwar for starting a housing project for the poor there when he was Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy UMNO President.
Apparently, the people at Kampong Senggang had ignored the instructions of the local UMNO politikus and decided, almost in open defiance, to hold a simple function in his honour. He made a short speech in which he said that he was against UMNO leaders because they were corrupt and arrogant. He was not against the ordinary UMNO members. Instead, he said that he had the people's interest at heart and would continue to fight for justice for all Malaysians.
This was his lifelong struggle since the days he was a student at the University of Malaya. He reminded them that for standing up for the poor people in Baling, Kedah, he spent two years (1974-1976) in Kamunting under the Internal Security Act. After that, he joined the Government and rose to be Deputy Prime Minister before being put in jail for 6 years in 1998.
The Pantai Remis ceramah was arranged for the Chinese community. It attracted some 1000 people who first sat for a meal together. I am told that this is the way the practical and down to earth Chinese community operates: no meal, no talk. A number of KeADILan leaders from Head Office and local representatives spoke about the level of corruption and incompetence of the present UMNO-BN leadership and emphasised the need for change.
When his turn came to speak, Dato Seri Anwar focused on the state of the economy and the challenges the country faced in the coming years. He said that Malaysia had been less attractive as an investment centre, losing out to Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, not to mention India and China. He told them that they should vote in a government led by KeADILan as it will be able to implement polices and programmes that will create new business opportunities and new jobs. He said that his government if elected will fight corruption. He called on his audience to "selamatkan Malaysia".
After Maghrib prayers and a brief speech at Surau Sri Manjung Lama, we proceeded to Setiawan where Dato Seri Anwar spoke briefly to predominantly Indian audience. He told that the Malays, Chinese and Indians must live in peace and that the Indian problem is not due to the Malays but to the UMNO-BN leadership. He reminded the audience is that he is committed to justice for all, each having rights of their own. In order to achieve distributive justice, he would ensure that our economy performs to its full potential. He opened a branch office of the party. His speech at Kampong Koh was before an audience of some 3,000. His message was loud and clear and the opportunity for change is now and that the people must seize the opportunity to make the change. It lasted for an hour.
The highlight of our visit was without any doubt the Ceramah Umum in Teluk Rubiah, Sri Manjung (near Lumut). When we arrived at the venue, we noticed that there was a huge gathering of predominantly Malays with a spatter of Indians and Chinese. Judging from the number of cars and other vehicles parked in a row stretching some 3 kilometers long on both sides of the road, I could say that there were at least 12,000 people.
Dato Anwar told the audience that he was here to explain the issues and challenges facing Malaysia. He had been talking about them, but because the media including television is tightly controlled, his views and comments have not reached ordinary Malaysians. All they hear is about the good things the government had done and that he is demon and a traitor to his own race. He said in 1998 he was regarded as an agent for the Jews, in 2006 he was viewed as pro-Chinese ,and now he is seen as pro-Hindraf.
He said he is a Malay and Muslim leader who seeks to speak the truth, to be transparent and to work for justice for all. He would protect the rights of the Malays and those of the Chinese and Indians. All Malaysians have rights under the Constitution. As a leader, he will defended and respect the sanctity of the Constitution. He will not use political power to amend the Constitution to suit his purposes. He wanted to make his position clear so that people would not be taken in by propaganda by UMNO Youth.
On the economy, he said that Malaysia is no longer in the same league as Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. For example, he said that Singapore's average income is five times compared to Malaysia. A teacher there would earn fives times compared to a Malaysian in the same profession. In terms of economic growth, Malaysia is performing under its full potential. It is also losing out to Singapore and our other ASEAN neighbours, not mention India and China.
The reason is very simple. We have not been managing our economy well. Investors no longer have any confidence in our economic policies and people who are in charge of our country. We still depend on foreign investment and when foreigners do not invest here, there will no growth and no new jobs. Corruption and crime are on the rise. Social problems like drug addiction and moral degeneration are common. Our education system is in a mess.
So the time for change is now. He appealed to his audience to vote for change in government. We need an honest, transparent and responsible government that serves the people, not one that is corrupt and incompetent. A responsible government will manage our resources like oil and gas for the benefit of the present and future generation. These resources belong to the people and must be used to benefit people in terms of quality education, healthcare and social infrastructure, not to be wasted in bailing out loss-making government companies and on mega-projects.
In response to Dato Najib's statement that if we use Petronas' profits to reduce the price of petrol, diesel and gas, Malaysia would be bankrupt, Dato Seri Anwar said that if we managed the country to serve our personal interest and those of our families and cronies, then we would be bankrupt in no time and that is why we must stop the rot. We, therefore, need a government that is open, accountable, competent and honest.
Sdr Mustafa Kamal and his team, thanks for your hard work and for arranging a very productive visit.