The crowd of Anwar loyalists in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur ready to celebrate Monday night. — The Malaysian Insider picture by Choo Choy May
By Debra Chong
KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 – In the past, supporters of Parti Keadilan Rakyat and its founder, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, would greet the date of his incarceration for corruption and ban from politics with fresh tears and a whole new load of fears. Not this year.
This year marked the end of his ban from active politics. And they greeted it with elation, jubilation and not a little impatience.
From the onset, the celebratory mood was apparent. Jalan Dewan Sultan Sulaiman in Kampung Baru was lined with a parade of hawker stalls offering steamed corn, steamed nuts and party gear – one enteprising fellow had set up stall right outside the gates of the Sultan Sulaiman Club selling LED devil horns that lit up – which the hungry horde gobbled while waiting for their leader to arrive.
In the club compound, the organisers had set up a giant projection screen atop the clubhouse showing video clips of the early, heady days of the Reformasi movement. It certainly helped move time forward for the antsy crowd.
At 9pm, upon the arrival of Anwar at that historic bastion of freedom fighters, the 10,000 strong crowd burst into thunderous applause and cheers of “Reformasi!”
While mindful of the presence of the police, backed up by an army of Federal Reserve Unit and Light Strike Force personnel, they were not shy of showing their exuberant support for the former deposed Umno No 2, the man they have all but crowned head of government.
They followed through with a particularly spirited rendition of the national anthem. The crowd comprised an astonishingly mixed following that cut across all sections of society: young, old, male, female, pregnant, not, Malay, Chinese, Indian, Bidayuh, Iban, Kadazan, Mat Salleh, Eurasian.
They didn't mind that they had to park their butts on the damp, grassy – and at times, muddy – open air field. But they minded when the police sought to interrupt Anwar's speech just as he was about to wrap it up.
That Anwar could contain their wrath with just a few words testified to the strength of support accorded to PKR in these new and somewhat uncertain times. That Anwar could avoid a potential volatile situation between his loyalists and the police from blowing up signifies a refreshing mindset.
Black 14 ended earlier than expected, but perhaps April 15 will see the dawn of a clean slate for everyone.