Thousands gather for rally celebrating Anwar’s release

Supporters gather to listen to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was granted a royal pardon, in Kuala Lumpur May 16, 2018. — Reuters pic
Supporters gather to listen to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was granted a royal pardon, in Kuala Lumpur May 16, 2018. — Reuters pic

PETALING JAYA, May 16 — Thousands have gathered at MBPJ’s Padang Timur for the Himpunan Merdeka Rakyat rally that is a double celebration of Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) election victory and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s release today.

Some began arriving as early as 5.30pm despite the heavy downpour that ended an hour later.

As crews worked to set up marquees and carpets on the field, the first arrivals searched for dry places to sit on. There, they waited patiently as others trickled in, with the noise of hawkers peddling their goods and vuvuzelas blowing in the background.

Those who spoke to Malay Mail eagerly expressed their joy at the occasion.

Norhaezail Hashim, 38, was kept busy selling T-shirts and caps with Anwar’s image printed on them. He said he has been participating in rallies for 20 years now.

“I finished studying in 1997, and the following year, Reformasi happened. I was right there in the thick of it, and have been ever since. Bersih One to Five, you name it,” he said.

A T-shirt vendor displays his wares at Himpunan Merdeka Rakyat in Padang Timur, Petaling Jaya May 16, 2018. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
A T-shirt vendor displays his wares at Himpunan Merdeka Rakyat in Padang Timur, Petaling Jaya May 16, 2018. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

With 900 clothing items at the ready, Norhaezail said he had managed to sell 30 since setting up his stall.

“Me and my partner manufacture the shirts, and we distribute them among the other hawkers present. Depending on how many items are sold, we usually take a 35 to 40 per cent commission for the goods sold,” he said.

Dayang Nur Sarah Zulkiflee, 19, attended the rally with her sisters, 17-year-old Dayang Sofea and 21-year-old Dayang Shahira. For the siblings, this is their first rally ever.

“During the campaign period, we listened to the Facebook Live broadcasts of the ceramahs. But my biggest regret is being too young to vote and make a difference in GE14,” Nur Sarah said.

Nur Shahira said they did not actually believe PH had won, during the early part of the counting period.

“But as the night wore on it, eventually it sank in and we were beside ourselves with delight. For us to be here, it is a dream come true,” she said.

Sofea said she is keen on hearing what Anwar has to say to the audience when he arrives.

“I am sure he will rouse our spirits good and proper. After all, we are here for him,” she said.

Marketing manager Tee Kok Fatt, 48, travelled all the way from Bentong, Pahang, where he had been helping its PH candidate Wong Tack during his campaign to win the seat against MCA’s Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

“I wanted to get a feel of things, as I believe such rallies will become less common in the coming days. You can practically feel the excitement in the air now.

“Finally, all the Bersih rallies have paid off, and we are here celebrating the release and pardoning of a patriot. I think when Anwar speaks, the audience is sure to take it to heart,” he said.

For STPM leaver K. Elaveni, 20, the rally is tinged with a sense of hope and renewal.

“My parents will be joining me shortly, and together we will hear what the man who has gone through hell and high water for this country’s sake has to say.

“I have never felt unity to this extent until GE14, how it brought us together. We did not experience Merdeka in 1957, so for many of us youths this is akin to Merdeka 2.0,” she said.

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