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Monday, March 23, 2009

Nizar soldiers on - In plantations and town halls

IPOH, March 23 — By Debra Chong | malaysianinsider

Gameplan being devised. Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin in discussion with Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Perak DAP boss Ngeh Koo Ham

The only visible sign that the heat was getting to Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, the impeccably groomed man who stoutly maintains he is the lawful menteri besar of Perak, were the little beads of sweat on his prominent Adam's apple.

As usual, he was garbed smartly in a loose-fitting silk shirt - green this time - pressed black trousers and polished black leather shoes with not a strand of hair sticking out from his left side parting.

He stood in the shade of the now famous rain tree at the corner of Persiaran Istana, where an extraordinary auction took place yesterday morning to raise funds for a bigger, more lasting monument to democracy.

The Pakatan Rakyat alliance was selling five shards of the "democracy plaque" that had been erected under the tree to mark an equally extraordinary emergency meeting of the Perak legislative assembly 20 days ago.

As the bidding for the last piece of broken black marble memorabilia shot past the RM10,000 mark, even Nizar's normally stern visage cracked.

We keep fighting, as long you guys stay with us. Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin bonding with people who turned out at one of the many ceramahs being held back to back

His eyebrows shot skywards, his eyes widened and catching this reporter's eye, he flashed a toothy grin and a barely perceptible thumbs-up as if saying, "I can't believe this. This is fantastic!"

It was a moment of pure elation.

After being unceremoniously booted out from his mentri besar's office, Nizar would certainly have felt "jubilant, victorious" surrounded by such generous supporters, as he told The Malaysian Insider the previous night after a late ceramah in Taman Chempaka.

The state assemblyman for Pasir Panjang has been diligently touring Perak for the past one and a half months since his "fall" from grace and power.

Having been mentri besar for 10 months, it seems a most bitter pill for him to swallow to be forced to return to the campaign trail just when he managed to rouse the local government from their many years of complacency.

Yet strangely, it would seem the turn of events has bolstered his popularity to a level greater than when he was freshly-appointed.

Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin shaking hands with a supporter at a meet the people session held, as the fight for the hearts and minds of Perak folks continue

  1. Everywhere Nizar goes, he is greeted warmly by men, women and children of all races rushing to shake his hands or at the very least, snap a picture with him. They consider it an honour to do so, judging by the grins that threaten to split their faces in half afterwards.
  2. Tangaragie Papu, a 56-year-old Ipoh retiree, pointed out the irony in the Ipoh City Council's swift removal of the "democracy plaque".

"For years they've been slow to do things, but they improved after Nizar came in. And now, see how quickly they remove the democracy plaque," said Tangaragie, who had dropped by Persiaran Istana last Saturday afternoon to take pictures of the tree with his 21-year-old daughter based in Shah Alam.

Nizar, a trained engineer, has reacted pragmatically to the constitutional crisis. That does not mean he is not angry at his situation or that he does not rant at his arch-rivals, whom he has consistently accused of taking the word "derhaka" (Malay for treason) used during his audience with Sultan Azlan Shah out of context and insidiously staging a coup d'etat against him.

His speeches often begin with a quote from the Holy Quran, a single line from Surah 17, verse 81, which touches on the night journey.

The story so far... Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin explaining to the crowd the situation in Perak

"Truth has come and falsehood is vanished, verily falsehood by nature is bound to perish," Nizar opens at every single ceramah, reminding his Malay, Chinese and Indian audience not only of the perceived injustice done to him, but of his religious background as a party member of Pas.

His schedule is packed day and night with his side's explanation of why, despite having elected Pakatan Rakyat into the state office last year, the Barisan Nasional is now ruling the state.

On Thursday night, he was in Bukit Gantang, coaxing the voters to choose wisely in the upcoming by-elections next month.

On Friday night, he was in Pasir Salak, delivering a fiery message to thousands of Malays and a sprinkling of Chinese villagers in the middle of an oil palm plantation.

On Saturday, with a phalanx of outriders on Harley Davidson motorcycles, scooters and the humble "kapchai" leading the entourage, he ripped through the orang asli settlements on the outskirts of Ipoh in the afternoon and a Chinese residential neighbourhood at night.

And yesterday, he launched the auction in the morning before zooming off to Selangor to speak with the outstation Perakian community in the afternoon and landing up back in Sungai Siput after dark.

On the screen, and seemingly everywhere in the silver state, Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin

While the Pas Unit Amal team that forms his security detail snatch a quick nap in between ceramah sessions, punctured by the frenetic pace they must follow to keep his punishing schedule, Nizar always appears energetic, even after midnight. The only giveaway is the bulging bags under his eyes.

But Nizar feels he owes a duty to the 54 per cent of Perakians who voted in the PR alliance last March.

As he explained in a fiery lecture to the villagers of Chenderong Balai, they had cast their vote for "change" and it was his duty as the mentri besar to protect their "rights", not because he craves to stay in power.

In a few short hours, the Federal Court in Putrajaya will decide who is the lawful mentri besar of the silver state.

Regardless of the verdict, in the court of public opinion, Nizar is a winner.

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