By Clara Chooi
IPOH, Feb 7 – As fate would have it, it poured heavily on the night of the infamous Perak power grab’s first anniversary.
Despite having endured the scourge of the sun all day long today, the rain did nothing to dampen Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin’s resolve to end last night with a grand send-off.
The ousted mentri besar, who was initially scheduled to speak at a Pakatan Rakyat (PR) ceramah far up north in Parit Buntar, the final destination in the “democracy expedition” he had embarked on since morning, decided to attend a small Chinese New Year gathering in the Indian heartland of Ipoh – Buntong.
The celebration was an unexpectedly small affair but it was a meaningful one that mirrored the true pool of support he can draw his strength from.
The Buntong service centre where the function was held was packed to the rafters with a crowd of more than two hundred, comprising an interesting mix of people, mostly from the Indian and Chinese community and a small number of Malays.
Surprisingly, it was the constituents in the Indian-majority Buntong themselves who had come up with the idea to host the Chinese New Year celebration.
DAP’s Buntong assemblyman A. Sivasubramaniam told The Malaysian Insider that he had no hand in organising the function and had only provided the people with the premises.
“It is an honour to me, really. This is the first time that Buntong is having a Chinese New Year function like this. The idea was entirely the people’s. They organised everything and paid for everything too,” he said, adding that the Buntong electorate comprised 49 per cent Indians and 47 per cent Chinese.
If there was any doubt before about Nizar’s popularity with the two communities, especially the Indians, it was dispelled tonight.
The leader, who walked a distance in the rain beneath the shelter of an umbrella to arrive at the center, was thrown a warm welcome with a display of fireworks, a lion dance and a clamouring of hands reaching out to greet him.
Perak DAP secretart Nga Kor Ming had earlier called Nizar the “Tiger of Perak” in his speech, saying that this Chinese New Year would mark a significant change for the political situation in the state.
“This is not just any year. This is the year of the Tiger and Nizar is the tiger of Perak,” he exclaimed, adding that only a truly brave leader would bring the rain with him where he went.
When Nizar addressed the crowd later, the smooth orator cleverly picked on issues that were close to the hearts of the Indian and Chinese communities.
He reminded the people of the racists in the Barisan Nasional (BN) government and retold the story of how senior state executive councillor Datuk Hamidah Osman had said that between a snake and an Indian, it was wiser to beat the Indian first.
“Imagine that. This woman from Sungai Rapat actually said that if you see a snake and an Indian, you should beat the Indian first.
“So I am telling all of you, those in the MIC and the MCA, leave the BN now,” he said.
Nizar also pointed out that when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was still an Umno Youth leader, the latter had unsheathed the keris in 1987 to assert Malay rights.
“And then (Home Minister Datuk Seri) Hishammuddin Hussein too brandished the keris and so did Khairy Jamaluddin.
“Today, we have the close aide to the Prime Minister himself, Datuk Nasir Safar, saying that the Indians are beggars and that the Chinese women had come to this country to sell their bodies. In other words, he means prostitutes,” he said.
Nizar’s well chosen words had a rousing effect on the crowd and he was cheered on. He went on to speak of the deplorable living conditions of many Malaysians who have been left behind and ignored by the BN administration.
“I invite you, the people of Buntong, to come and see the Chinese people of Pulau Sangga in Bukit Gantang. They have no electricity and water supply and they rely on the rain, the sun and generators. Yet, they have resided there for over a hundred years,” he said.
Nizar also pointed out the plight of the poor Indians in Simpang Halt and Ladang Matang and the Malays in Batu Hampar, all in the parliamentary constituency of Bukit Gantang, where he is an MP.
“I have raised these matters in Parliament but for years these people have been left behind,” the PAS man said.
He urged the crowd to celebrate the Year of the Tiger by being as brave as the animal and teach the BN a lesson.
“Be brave enough like the tiger to exercise your rights. Let us send the BN to the cemetery,” he said.
Nizar’s words, which he has been spreading across every nook and cranny of the state over the past week, will surely send home a message to Perakians that come hell or high water this Feb 9, the ousted leader has no plans to concede defeat.