SEBERANG PERAI, May 3 — Thousands of people flooded a residential neighborhood in Simpang Ampat on mainland Penang last night and listened patiently to political speeches from Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders.
It was the second major ceramah held in Seberang Perai, where Penang’s Malay majority live, since nomination day last Saturday.
The relatively rural was jam packed with people and cars parked haphazardly along the roadside while rows of hawker stalls and vendors lined an adjoining open space where the weekly pasar malam is held.
The residents of the taman are predominantly Chinese, but there are several Malay villages just a few hundred metres away and the pasar malam drew a multiracial crowd.
About 100m away from a makeshift stage where PH leaders spoke at length about the four-party pact’s manifesto and compared it to the Barisan Nasional’s, a PAS leader in a white truck sought to attract the public’s attention.
He used a loud hailer to talk about the Islamist party’s maifesto, but was drowned out by his rivals on stage. Passersby barely gave the truck, covered in the party’s green flags with its white moon symbol, a glance.
The crowd’s full attention was focused on the stage and they responded with shouts of “Ubah” and “Pakatan Harapan” every time a new leader spoke.
DAP secretary-general and caretaker Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, his father and party adviser Lim Kit Siang and incumbent Bukit Mertajam MP Sim Chee Keong were among the PH big names that showed up for the Simpang Ampat ceramah.
Over on Penang island at the same time, another PH ceramah was happening at the Han Chiang school field, the iconic spot which had drawn tens of thousands of Penangites in the run-up to the 2008 general election that swept DAP, PKR and PAS into state power for the first time.
The PH pact, which is now minus PAS, is seeking to keep Penang for a third term. With new partners Parti Amanah Negara and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, the DAP and PKR are also seeking to win federal power this round.
The two simultaneous mega ceramah is PH’s tactic to reach out to more people, especially on the mainland, so that voters don’t have to travel and face parking issues far from home.
“We had no choice, this time we are going big,” Guan Eng said of the decision to hold simultaneous ceramahs on the island and mainland.
By having simultaneous ceramah, it meant top leaders like Guan Eng and Kit Siang had to rush from one venue to the other.
The ceramah on the mainland featured mostly candidates from the mainland while the ceramah on the island featured candidates on the island.
At both ceramah last night, Guan Eng spoke of the same issues — goods and services tax, petrol prices, BN’s intention to cancel all of Penang’s major infrastructure projects.
Despite being the chief minister for 10 years now, he continued to command the same awe and excitement from the crowd.
Like a rock star, he was even mobbed by the crowd clamouring for his autograph and to take group photos with him.
PH will hold its final mega ceramah at the Esplanade field on Monday night, two days before Malaysians go to the polls on May 9.