By Din Merican
I joined Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim on his visit to the rural heartland of Negri Sembilan on December 28, 2007. The journey took my colleagues (Sdr. Azmin Ali, Dato Kamarul Bahrin who is the KeADILan Chief for Negri Sembilan, Dr Xavier Jayakumar, Sdr. Saifuddin Nasution, and others) and I to Felda Pasoh 4 in Jelebu, Felda Palong 10 in Jempol, Pekan Rompin, Pekan Kuala Pilah and Pekan Linggi (near Port Dickson), Negri Sembilan. We criss-crossed the state,meeting interesting Malays, Indians and Chinese, who showed genuine concern about the economy, and the state of our national and local politics.
It was my first extensive trip to Negri Sembilan since 1967 when, as a central bank officer, I was exchanging old Currency Board notes for the new Ringgits issued by Bank Negara Malaysia. At that time, I was living in Seremban Rest House (from June-September, 1967). I was surprised that I could still recognise the places I visited and operated in some 40 years ago. This means that the much touted progress or development, corridors and what not, has not come to the people in the places we visited, and their lives and economic status have not changed very much. In stead, they have been burdened by rising cost of basic foods and services. That much for UMNO-BN propaganda!!
In his speeches during his various “politik berjiwa rakyat” sessions, the de facto KeADILan leader was candid and open. He brought a message of national unity, racial harmony and hope. His voice was one of moderation and temperance. He appealed to his audiences to vote for change and to make a difference. He then urged them to restore the honour and dignity to our country.
Let us move forward, he said, rather than dwell on the past. There is no time for bitterness (referring to years he spent under the ISA in 1974 in Kamunting and 6 years in Sungei Buloh) and revenge. He wanted to focus on the future and actions that should be taken to make Malaysia a truly great nation.
He explained, like he did in Penang and Kedah, to them that he was a target of a vicious UMNO campaign which sought to tell the Malays that he had become an Indian leader and a traitor to his own people. He was not worried about this, because as a Malay and a Muslim he sought justice for all. The rights of all Malaysians as guaranteed by the Constitution, he said, would be respected. He was for Malay rights (as embodied in Article 153 of the Constitution), Bahasa Malaysia, and Islam (not Islam Hadhari); he would support Indian rights for a better life, for respect of their place of worship, culture, and language, for better housing and schools ; and he would ensure that the Chinese community rights are equally respected. Under his leadership, the economy will be strong and vibrant. His government will be committed to maintaining high standards of good public governance with fiscal discipline.
Corruption, nepotism, and the blatant abuse of power must no longer be tolerated. These social ills have resulted in our loss of competitiveness with countries like Taiwan, South Korea and Taiwan, and our moral degeneration. The politics of ethnic division and animosity under UMNO-BN must cease as it would only lead to political instability and racial discord. It is now the time to vote for a government “yang berjiwa rakyat”, he told the enthusiastic and cheering Malays, Chinese and Indians who turned up in signficant numbers (in Linggi, he spoke to some 5,000 Malaysians) to listen to his speeches.
In Linggi, he praised the members of the Civil Service, the Police and the Military for their stellar service to our country over the last 50 years. He was sure that these services would again rise above petty politics.With ethical and competent leadership, they would be able to better serve the people. He looked forward to their support so that together and with the Blessings of Allah we can begin to rebuild the country.
The marathon sessions which began at Felda Pasoh 4 after immediately Friday prayers on December 28 and finished in Linggi at 12.15 am on December 29, 2007. It was a fitting end to this eventful year. The message from the people of Negri Sembilan is unequivocal. They want change now.
Credit must go to Dato Kamarul Bahrin and his team for an excellent and useful programme. Everything went according to schedule and the people of Negri Sembilan are ready to, and will vote for change in the coming elections.