On the ceramah trail

In a campaign where attacks on Najib and mentions of Altantuya have been absent, Raja Petra cannot restrain himself. On 11 Jan, at a Chinese restaurant in Tanjung packed to the brim with about 600 people, Raja Petra began his speech: "Rosmah Mansor, Timbalan Perdana Menteri Malaysia…."

By Danny Lim, The Nut Graph

IN the first half of a cool campaign that has matched the breeze blowing in from the South China Sea, the barrage of issues lobbed between the two major competing parties has mostly avoided personal attacks on the candidates themselves.

In a constituency where analysts have put down the character of candidates as an important factor in swinging votes, the ceramah have kept to party issues, both local and national.

The criticism of the Barisan Nasional (BN)'s Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh's less personable traits has actually come from Umno leaders like Youth head hopeful Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo and (ex-Umno president) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which has allowed PAS to quote them without further comment.

PAS candidate Abdul Wahid Endut is in many ways like the BN's Permatang Pauh challenger Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah — amiable, unimpeachably vanilla characters so well-liked by the local grassroots that their rivals have to aim higher.

"PAS, Parti Ajaran Sesat!" says Terengganu Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said, in his speech to the state's female community leaders at Wisma Darul Iman in the town of Kuala Terengganu. As with many BN activities, the occasion here is staid and officious, attended by the prime minister himself, Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Wira Ali Rustam, Wanita Umno deputy Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, and about 300-odd women all bedecked in colourful flowing tudung.

Held in the rarefied air of a banquet hall, this de facto ceramah conveys the pomp and prestige of power, its message amplified beyond its immediate audience by the blanket coverage by the traditional media. Ahmad Said's proclamation is almost unseemly.

Aiming "higher" here seems figurative rather than qualitative, but Ahmad Said is just prefacing his arguments about how PAS has deviated from its roots. The menteri besar reckons that PAS has diluted its chief agenda of establishing an Islamic state to a position of compromise within the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, thereby relegating the party's mission in order to fish for votes, especially among non-Muslims.