Monday, August 25, 2008

Battle gets nastier as polls near


Umno leaders carried out a carpet-bombing mission but PKR returned fire with religious superstars from PAS.

A MASSIVE jam had built up along the road leading through Pekan Permatang Pauh because of the Umno Youth ceramah.

Among the cars caught in the snarl was a metallic beige Mercedes Benz. The passenger was none other than Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who was on his way to speak at yet another ceramah.

The PKR leader wound down the window and stuck out his head, only to see that the person speaking on the low stage was the Prime Minister’s son-in-law.

It was their first encounter in Permatang Pauh and Khairy Jamaluddin playfully called out to Anwar’s entourage “not to be afraid and to come over and join our ceramah.”

When the Umno Youth crowd saw the famous face, they erupted into a chorus of boos.

Anwar looked amused. He tends to be rather blasé about rebellious behaviour since he had been even more radical in his student leader days. He grinned, waved and wound up his window.

But Anwar might not have grinned so broadly had he heard what Khairy was saying.

The Umno Youth deputy chief was really pushing the envelope that evening. He complained that Anwar had accused Umno and its leaders of all sort of things, from corruption to conspiracy.

But Khairy’s return volley was even more alarming and he used terms like munafik (hypocrite), pengkhianat (traitor) and made some pretty daring jokes about Anwar and his “coffee boy” Saiful Bukhari Azlan. He questioned why Anwar was so reluctant to swear his innocence on the Quran and dared him to do so.

“It was the most hard-hitting ceramah so far,” said Umno Youth secretary Datuk Rahman Dahlan.

Call him impetuous, opportunistic or even foolish, but Khairy is among the few in Umno who would dare stick his neck out for the party on this issue.

The 300-strong crowd loved it just as they loved the scandalous accounts from two of Anwar’s former associates, one-time PKR Youth chief Ezam Mohd Nor and Datuk Nallakaruppan, better known as Anwar’s former tennis partner. It appears that there are no permanent friends or foes in either politics or tennis.

The problem is that Ezam and Nallakaruppan have a credibility issue. The other problem is that more than half the audience were party workers, so all of them were speaking to the converted.

The same evening, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak surprised people attending a mosque function when he swore in the name of God that he did not know, nor did he have anything to do with the murdered Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.

The fact that the Deputy Prime Minister said this inside a mosque made many sit up.

But it was Mongolian consul-general Datuk Syed Rahman Alhabshee who caused the biggest stir that night.

At a ceramah not far from the mosque where Najib was speaking, Syed Rahman confirmed that there was no evidence that Najib knew Altantuya and neither were there photographs or letters involving the two of them as some had insinuated.

Umno seemed to be on a carpet-bombing mission that Friday evening.

But last night, PKR returned fire via two of PAS’ biggest names.

PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang and famous spiritual healer Datuk Dr Haron Din lent their religious credibility to why Anwar need not take the oath the way that his accuser had.

The crowd seemed to absorb their words like a sponge would water. They are very powerful religious figures, providing arguments that ulama figures from Umno would have to struggle to counter.

But the most powerful endorsement will come tomorrow from the most influential man in PAS today.

Mursyidul Am Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat has been unwell for more than a fortnight, but he is determined to make his way to do battle for the PKR leader.

After that, everything is in the hands of the voters of Permatang Pauh.

click here: Battle gets nastier as polls near Malaysia Star