I WAS passing through Jalan Penrissen at Mile Four-and-a-Half last Friday evening amid pouring rain which at first I thought had resulted in the traffic hitting a snag.
But as my quantity surveyor friend drove further up the road, we saw a large crowd gathered at an empty land, sitting at dinner tables and listening attentively to a speech delivered on stage with a huge backdrop of ‘Change We Can’.
As I wound down the car window, we could see a man on stage clad in batik addressing the crowd, estimated about 3,000 to 4,000 people with blaring speakers which made his fiery speech audible even across the street.
That man is none other than PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who came here for a ‘Friends of PKR’ dinner.
PKR assemblyman for Padungan Dominique Ng Kim Ho who had earlier cast doubt whether his party chief would be allowed entry into the state was proven wrong when Anwar and his entourage whom among others included Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, PKR secretary general Sallehuddin Hashim and several MPs were all let in by the Immigration Department without hindrance.
Many including some of his closest allies may have called Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s bluff when he said the opposition could wrest at least five states and deny the BN coalition its two-thirds majority in the March 8 general election last year.
But his prediction caught many by surprise when his prediction turned out to be no bluff at all but a reality; the true sentiment on the ground that people have become tired and simply want a change in this country which has long been ruled by the BN since independence.
The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition found itself forming the state government in five states in the peninsula while denying the BN coalition of its two-thirds majority in parliament, a feat which is very much attributed to the charismatic Anwar who binds the PKR, DAP and PAS into a formidable coalition.
Recently, this once heir apparent to the premiership and protégé of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad before his sacking as the latter’s deputy in 1998, said the opposition would be eyeing the state election which could be held anytime from now until 2011.
And who on earth this time could brush aside Anwar should he once again say that the opposition could deny the two-thirds majority or even topple the state BN to add Sarawak into its feather? Say it he did, trumpeting that PR would capture the state in the state election.
It has been almost a year after the general election and it seems that the PR-run states have been receiving accolades from the people, for instance the CAT (Competency, Accountability and Transparency) practised by the Penang state government and the issuance of perpetuity titles to new villages in Perak.
And recently, Ngemah assemblyman Gabriel Adit and former members of parliament Donald Lawan and Jawah Gerang joined the PKR together with thousands of their supporters.
State DAP chief and assemblyman for Bukit Assek Wong Ho Leng has claimed that the party was in talk with some disgruntled SUPP members over possible crossover.
The PKR and DAP will go into talk soon on the possible avoidance of multi-cornered fight and if the talk goes smoothly and without hiccups, we can expect straight fights in all the state seats.
But the war of words between Dominique Ng and DAP MP for Bandar Kuching and assemblyman for Kota Sentosa Chong Chieng Jen may ruffle the feathers in the opposition which may give the BN the edge.
With the state BN controlling two-thirds majority in the legislative assembly and the opposition eight seats which all came at the courtesy of SUPP, the coming state election will be a huge task for the BN coalition to maintain the feat.
The rural areas will no longer be the bastion for the BN with the PKR making its presence felt while the urban seats, needless to say, will most likely see further casualties.
The current economic climate will further erode the people’s support to the government coupled with the rising cost of living and the possibility of job losses and pay cuts.
The protracted land issue will be a contentious one in the coming state election and Anwar was quick enough to seize the sentiment on the ground by saying that land would be returned to its rightful owners.
PRS president and Minister of Land Minister Dato Sri James Masing is not so optimistic with the PKR’s presence and he sounded the alarm bell to the state BN in his recent New Year message.
All eyes will definitely be on the state election and with Anwar saying PR would give the BN a run for its money, we better take him seriously this time.
But in the meantime, let us just wait for Kota Terengganu by-election result at 2230hrs (17January09).