Monday, May 5, 2008

Listening to Tengku Razaleigh

Posted:19:12 Apr-5-2008 Filed under: Umno, Commentary

by Carolyn Hong, Apr 5.

For a tiny town in rural Kelantan, Gua Musang has a very large district police station. You can’t miss it. It sits just outside the town, and looks almost like a craft complex with its traditional Malay architecture.

It was my first time in Gua Musang on Friday, a two-hour 150km journey from Kota Baru, and it was to listen to Tengku Razaleigh’s first speech in his campaign to unseat the prime minister.

It was worth the journey.

Gua Musang is remote, west of Kota Baru and bordering the Taman Negara in Pahang. In fact, there is turn-off to Taman Negara along the road from Kota Baru to KL.

The road is pretty good, and though the journey is not particularly scenic, it’s interesting. It goes past small towns and villages, vast swathes of jungle and at one point, along a bridge soaring breathtakingly high over a river.

It was a drizzly morning, and the sky was heavy with clouds snagged among the trees. As we got closer to Gua Musang, the road goes past a stretch of limestone hills.

The town itself is small, with many Chinese coffee shops. I was told that the area houses Malaysia’s oldest Chinese village with a 600-year-old temple. But we didn’t get a chance to take a peek.

We hurried to Ku Li’s event – technically a meeting of his Gua Musang Umno division but in reality, the kick-off of his campaign.

The hall in Bukit Cekati, about 2km outside town, is accessible via a road so narrow that the thousands of party faithful who showed up had to leave their vehicles a good distance away and walk in.

We were, however, more brazen – we flagged down a car at random to hitch a ride. It was an AJK of the Gua Musang division who happily cleared out his untidy backseat for us.

By the time Ku Li arrived, the crowd had spilled outside the hall, and it took him quite a while to reach the stage as he shook hands with hundreds on the way in.

Ku Li is instantly recognisable. He has this ageless face that hides the fact that he’ll be 71 next Sunday, April 13.

He’s not a fiery orator, nor is his wit as razor sharp as Dr Mahathir’s, but he has an engaging public speaking manner.

His style is placid and steady, and oddly enough for a seasoned politician, he didn’t seem to pick up on any of the audience cues. He ploughed on even when they started to clap, rather than stop for the applause.

The speech was hard-hitting - it did not skirt the truth, nor did it skimp on vision. It was the speech of a statesman, and one that appealed to all Malaysians.

Sitting on a chair at the side of the stage where I could only see his profile, I scribbled a few notes while swatting away mosquitoes.

I liked the speech a lot – it was honest, it had ideals, vision, and passion. It was a Malaysian speech.

I wonder if Umno liked it as much.

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