KUCHING: In 1996, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was at the height of his power as Umno deputy president and took to task opposition candidates for wasting their time contesting in Sarawak.
During the last state polls in 2001, he was in jail and his daughter Nurul Izzah campaigned for him and candidates of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), led by her mother Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
The crowd was then sympathetic towards Anwar’s family and shouted slogans of Reformasi and Hidup Anwar.
This time around, the former deputy prime minister is back on the campaign circuit, drawing the crowd with eloquent and sarcastic speeches.
Seeing him on Monday night at a ceramah in Lorong Layang Layang, Kampung Semerah Padi, the crowd appeared to have forgiven him for the different stance he now takes compared with his ceramah speeches in the 1996 state polls.
Now he criticises the ruling Barisan Nasional for alleged excessive spending and corruption.
“Higher oil royalty should be given to Sarawak,” said Anwar to loud applause from PKR supporters campaigning for their state chief Wan Zainal Abidin Wan Senusi in the Semariang seat.
Wan Zainal is among 25 PKR candidates in the weekend polls and faces Barisan newcomer Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali in a straight fight.
In the crowd was 29-year-old Malaysia Airlines employee Mohamad Anuar Sadat, who was unhappy with the current MAS retrenchment.
“Why should we suffer? It’s nonsense. It is like people mining gold in your garden and asking you to pay for it,” he said, agreeing with Anwar on the fuel price rise, which has become a hot election issue.
Anwar is among the party’s top guns who have been arriving from the peninsula since three days ago, with information bureau chief Tian Chua, Youth chief Ezam Mohd Nor and vice-president Azmin Ali firing last-minute salvos at the Barisan.
Candidates from PKR, the DAP and the Sarawak National Party (SNAP) are those from the Barisan in straight fights in 54 constituencies, while a group of 20 Independents have made it a three-cornered tussle in 13 seats.
Two seats will see a four-cornered and five-cornered fight in this election, where the Barisan has won two seats – Daro and Dalat – uncontested.
Leading the DAP campaign is Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang, who is trying to shore up support for the party’s 12 candidates.
Also giving the candidates support are secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, Wanita chief Chong Eng, Youth chief Nga Kor Ming, Batu Gajah MP Fong Po Kuan and central committee member Teng Chang Kim.
The DAP leaders from the peninsular are playing more of a back-up role to their Sarawak counterparts, keeping in mind how Sarawakians feel about orang Malaya interfering in their affairs.
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