A Tale of Two Ceramahs

Posted on March 7, 2008




By Haris’ Hummingbird


What a night! Two friends and I decided that we would go to a Keadilan ceramah in Brickfields. I did not know who all the speakers were going to be, but I did know that Raja Petra was going to be there and I was told by a pal that the man was an excellent speaker. 

Normally I wouldn’t go to these ceramahs. After all I already know who I am going to vote for and the parking was sure to be atrocious. But tonight I thought, “What the heck”. Anyway, it’s in Brickfields and I was hungry. You always eat well in Brickfields. 

So we went, and knowing there was some 30 minutes to spare, decided to have some briyani in a Punjabi restaurant first. The briyani was excellent but slow in coming so we missed the start of the ceramah. Sod this one then, they are going to have another ceramah in Lembah Pantai, let’s go early and catch the whole thing over there. Off we went again. 

The ceramah in Lembah Pantai was due to start at 9.45, we got there at 9.30. Parking was near impossible, but somehow we managed to get one. People were already flocking in. It was held in a large open area. I don’t know what it is in the day time, maybe a car park. There was a tiny little tent with some plastic chairs but it hardly sat 40 and it was full. Everybody else was standing around. 

The stage was simple but high up. At the back of the stage a large screen projected the image of the speakers. We waited and the crowd grew. Then the heavens opened. The crowd did not move. A fellow in the audience took pity on my cap-less friends and gave them a make shift umbrella. It was a poster of Pak Lah. They ripped it in two and used the pieces as hats. Nice to know that Pak Lah is good for something. 

Then the speakers came. They were all excellent. Raja Devan, lawyer for the Hindraf 5 was articulate and fluent. Raja Petra was fiery and highly amusing. Nurul was a formidable speaker. Strong, pointed and passionate. You would not think she was a newbie. 

But, it is not the speakers that I want to talk about. It was the crowd. It just grew and grew. I think there were 5000 people there. My friend thought it was double that. The open space was packed. The flyover that passed it was packed. The river side area separated from the open space by a fence was packed. He might well be right. 

People were standing in the rain and the mud and they did not move. And when Raja Petra said that “BN can threaten the Indians and Chinese over our dead bodies”, the Malay crowd roared approval. I could not believe it. 

Then we heard that Najib was speaking in Bangsar. Like three naughty school boys, we decided to crash the party, so we left after Nurul finished. The rain was still pouring down, but people were still pouring in. Anwar was coming and they wanted to see him. 

We managed to navigate the tank out of its parking and drove to Bangsar. Friends, the difference was shocking. 

They had closed the road next to Bangsar Village II with a gigantic white tent. There was a portable generator the size of truck pumping electricity into the fans and bright lights that illuminated the tent. A cushy stage with Mak Datin chairs were arranged for the, oh so important, people. There were hundreds of chairs for the audience. Thick glossy magazines were all over the place extolling Sharizat’s many virtues. 

At the most, at the most, there were 500 people there. And most of these were curious onlookers on the five foot way. The tent was not even half full. Empty chairs every where. 

And while the huge crowd at Lembah Pantai needed no prompting to shout “Reformasi” and “Makal Sakti”, Najib had to practically plead with the crowd to respond to his pathetic attempts at rousing oratory. Its not that he was a bad speaker. Oh no. it was just that he was not getting any response. Except for a small group of maybe 30 BN workers right at the front. Everyone else sat quietly. Or made comments about how much those fellows were getting paid to shout “hidup UMNO”. 

While I was there, Najib spent a lot of time attacking the man that Pak lah said did not matter any more. Funny isn’t it that he was so busy trying to assassinate the character of Anwar Ibrahim when Anwar is not even standing for elections (incidentally none of the Keadilan speakers I heard took any personal pot shots). Funny isn’t it how Chandra Muzaffar is now BN’s Poster Boy. Funny isn’t it that Najib was trying to scare the Bangsar folk with the threat of a PAS Islamic state when he himself had declared last year that “we have never been a secular country”. Funny isn’t it how Najib extolled the virtues of Bangsar’s “cosmopolitan” life style, when government moral police are happy to tear down Hindu pictures from Bangsar restaurants and drag Muslim patrons from Bangsar bars. You have to laugh because otherwise you’ll cry. 

The differences between the two ceramahs shocked me. One was packed with thousands and thousands of people. Wet, filthy with mud but vociferous in their desire for change. The other was dry, comfortable, posh even, but scarcely attended by people who mainly did not seem to care, despite the speaker’s increasingly desperate rabble rousing.  

Friends, before this night, I thought there was no way BN could lose their two thirds majority. Now, I am not so sure. There is a hope in the air and although I am loath to tell anyone what they should do, I will say this. We must vote and we must vote opposition. We must do all we can to change the rotten status quo. We vote, not just to get BN out of power or at the very least to lose their two thirds majority. We vote for change. We vote for democracy. After tonight, I believe, we can do it.