REMBAU, Aug 12 — More than one type of fireworks was going off in the quiet village of Kampung Selemak here last night at PKR's Merdeka celebration. Responding to Umno's relentless accusations that he is a traitor to the Malays, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim attacked his bitter rivals last night in front of a large rural crowd.
Despite the accusations of betrayal, several thousand Malays, and a smaller number of non-Malays, still made the trek to this hamlet, located in Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin's constituency in Negri Sembilan, to hear Anwar rail against what he said was Umno's own betrayal of the Malays.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had last week labelled Anwar a traitor to the Malays and party-backed newspapers like Utusan Malaysia went to town with the story.
The newspapers have also carried a slew of stories that have put PKR and PAS on the defensive by painting them as puppets of a Chinese-dominated DAP, due to recent issues such as the large number of Malays taking part in the recent anti-ISA protest rally and the squabble over the sale of beer in Muslim-majority Shah Alam.
Last night, thousands of rural Malays, their curiosity piqued, filled up a dusty clearing, perhaps slightly smaller than a football field, by spreading newspapers on the bare earth on which to sit.
The crowd broke into cheers and laughter as Anwar and PKR central committee member for Rembau Badrul Hisham Shaharin, former Umno Cabinet minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and PAS leader Mohamad Sabu chastised Umno for throwing stones in the proverbial racial glass house.
"They call me a traitor to the Malays. However, I consider it a sin to take shares and projects meant for Bumiputeras for myself or my family. Why don't you ask Umno how many billions in shares, AP permits, licences, projects meant for Bumiputeras they have taken for themselves, their relatives and their cronies? What traitor?" roared Anwar.
"Umno says we are tools of DAP because we gave land to the Chinese. They say we cannot give land to the Chinese, we have to take care of the Malays. OK, then who gave the largest and most beautiful mountain near Kuala Lumpur to Lim Goh Tong? Who gave land in another mountain, Bukit Tinggi, to Vincent Tan?"
"They ask why we care for the Chinese and Indians. But look at Manek Urai in Kelantan. It is poor, not because the Chinese made it so. Till now, they still don't want to pay oil royalty to Kelantan."
Before concluding his speech, Anwar addressed the issue of Pakatan Rakyat's long-term survivability by pledging he would work with the leaders of PAS and DAP and rectify their weaknesses.
Earlier, Badrul Hisham, also known as Chegubard, and Mohamad Sabu, also known as Mat Sabu, had the crowd in stitches as they mocked Umno over the issue of ISA protests, treason to the royalty, crime and poverty.
"They say we commit treason and that they love the royalty so much. But then who stole away the Selangor princess before? It was an Umno leader," said Chegubard, referring to former Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Muhammad Taib's controversial previous marriage to the late Sultan of Selangor's daughter.
"It was Umno who amended the constitution to reduce royal immunity. Karpal Singh is a lawyer and he is only saying what he sees in the law books. It was Umno who opened the door for the monarchy to get sued. If Karpal is a traitor, then Umno is the father of the father of traitors," he added, referring to the current sedition charge against Karpal for saying that the Sultan of Perak can be sued.
Mat Sabu started his segment by making a sarcastic comment related to news reports that the ISA protest rally had forced the closure of shops in Kuala Lumpur and resulted in huge economic losses.
"Those traders outside the clearing must be upset. Those who hate big crowds are the traders," he quipped. "Because when there are big crowds they have to close shop. This is the stupid news that is being repeated by RTM and TV3 to fool the people. The shops in Kuala Lumpur had to close because of tear gas and water cannons."
"Ninety-nine per cent of the hardcore poor in Penang are Malays. Who ruled Penang before this? It was Umno and their partners in Barisan Nasional," he added.
He also took issue with heavy police presence at opposition events.
"I was at a private function recently in Jelebu and hundreds of police officers were there from 2pm to 3am to guard Mat Sabu's gathering. They should be fighting crime instead."
Chegubard, however, thanked the police for giving him a permit to organise the event. There was also little police presence at the site.
"He can only talk," said one man from nearby Tampin at last night's rally, referring to Muyhiddin.
"We know how to judge for ourselves whether the government is doing the right thing or not," said another man, an ex-soldier from Port Dickson.
Besides the speeches, the opposition is also banking on a cottage industry that has sprung up around the sale of political DVDs and CDs.
There were at least four stalls selling such items at the site that drew curious crowds to their TV screens.
A check with one trader revealed that the current bestseller is footage of the recent ISA protest rally but that his evergreen product is parliamentary sessions.
"I sell between 20 and 50 of those each day," he says. "People want to see for themselves what is said in Parliament."