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By Anwar Ibrahim
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Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim finally hit the ground last night ahead of the April 25 by-election here, but seemed to have come up against a wall in pushing his brand of colour-blind socio-economic justice and Islamic agenda among village voters. The Selangor economic advisor was the last speaker of the night at Kampung Sekolah, a tiny village bordering Perak with about 1,700 voters, according to PKR’s count, where he spoke lengthily and expansively on the state’s welfare programmes, rolled out since Election 2008. His comparison between the PKR-led state administration’s promise to award 100,000 land titles to poor home owners in the constituency and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s priority to award vast tracts of national land to “tauke besar” — like the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong who developed Genting Highlands; property magnate Tan Sri Vincent Tan; Astro’s Tan Sri Ananda Krishnan and sugar tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary listed by Forbes as among Malaysia’s richest men — appeared to pull the interest of the 300 villagers who turned up to listen to him.

“Even if we lose this by-election, we promise you will get it,” said the Opposition Leader, making the front-row listeners straighten up and those standing at the back of the humid, dusty school hall draw nearer the stage. “If we win, we will push it. If we lose, we will still push the programme,” he stressed, and added that he had spoken to Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim about it. They applauded rather heartily when Anwar raised the issue of the federal government’s increased gambling licences and how his fellow Pakatan Rakyat colleague from the Chinese-dominated DAP, Anthony Loke, vocally criticised the move in Parliament. But the former deputy prime minister’s attempt to stir the reticent audience on national and international issues failed to excite them.

He spoke of the Najib administration’s controversial engagement of global communications firm APCO which he linked to Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence body he claimed “had killed Palestinians”, bringing up his possible suspension from Parliament as a result as well. “I broke Israel’s espionage in Southeast Asia,” Anwar boasted, to blank stares from the floor, more than half sporting skullcaps, songkoks and headscarves. Anwar’s digs against former Selangor mentri besar Datuk Seri Khir Toyo’s uninhabited mansion in Shah Alam and his family holidays to Disneyland allegedly on state taxpayers’ funds drew a few smothered titters in this Umno stronghold. But the normally charismatic speaker’s calls to back Pakatan Rakyat’s campaign for fair treatment for all races at the end of his 50 minutes saw the audience making a quick getaway before he had quite finished his sentence.


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