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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Malaysian GE13: In sickness and in health?

.Meeting the people: Anwar addressing the crowd during a campaign in Malim Nawar, Kampar.
Meeting the people: Anwar addressing the crowd during a campaign in Malim Nawar, Kampar.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is a very busy man these days, but the person who awaits him each time he comes home must be reason enough for the opposition leader to get up and keep on going the next day.

DATUK Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail jokes that she has now become a JP – Jaga Pintu.

No matter how late her husband Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim gets back from campaigning, she always makes sure she is the one to open the door for him.

“I just think of how much pahala (merit) I must be getting by waking up to let him in and that motivates me,” says the PKR president who has a full schedule herself during this run-up to the general election.

Last Wednesday, Anwar was in Bandar Baru Uda, Johor, then Batu Pahat before finishing in Segamat. His ceramah only ended after midnight.

After that, he stopped at a mamak stall with the PKR candidate for Segamat and former health minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng for a drink before heading back to Kuala Lumpur.

He only got home at 4am, grabbed some sleep, then it was off to the PKR headquarters at Merchant Square, Petaling Jaya, for a morning press conference before rushing off to Pahang for another round of ceramah.

Again, he got back to Kuala Lumpur in the wee hours of the morning – this time it was at 2am – but at the crack of dawn, he was up for prayers and off to the airport to catch a morning flight to Sarawak for another packed programme.

Then he was in Sabah for more of the same before heading back to Kuala Lumpur before dashing off to Penang, Putrajaya, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Perak and Kedah for the final leg of campaigning.

Dr Wan Azizah says Anwar is good at pacing himself and getting power naps to re-energise so he can keep up with the gruelling pace.

Since the dissolution of Parliament, she says the PKR leader hasn’t had time to do his usual five-minute exercise on the bicycle.

“So, he does some stretches. And if (second daughter Nurul) Nuha’s one-year-old son, Sulaimaan, is around, he becomes Anwar’s ‘dumbell’.

“He loves it when Anwar lifts him up and down. So Anwar does that 10 to 15 times and that’s his upper arm exercise,” she laughs.

To maintain his health, Anwar has also started taking bird’s nest soup. “Because I know it’s made from birds’ saliva, I can’t drink it,” says Dr Wan Azizah with her usual no-airs charm.

On the campaign trail, Dr Wan Azizah and Anwar split up so they can cover more ground.

“We BBM or whatsapp each other a few times every day and talk at least once a day,” says Dr Wan Azizah.

Wherever he goes, crowds flock to hear Anwar speak.

“If Pakatan Rakyat wins the elections on May 5, we will be sworn in as the new government on May 6, and on May 7 we will bring petrol prices down,” Anwar says at almost every stop.

He promises that a Pakatan-run Federal Government will fully fund Chinese and Tamil schools in the country and abolish the PTPTN student loan scheme to make university education free.

As for the multi-billion ringgit Iskandar project in Gelang Patah, he says if Pakatan takes over the state, it will make sure there is participation of Johoreans in the project and that locals benefit from it – not just Singa­poreans and outsiders.

Anwar also accuses Barisan of stealing Pakatan’s ideas in its Janji Ditepati manifesto such as the bringing down of import duty on cars.

Another star attraction at the Opposition leader’s ceramah is the PKR double-decker, 18-seater Jelajah Merdeka Rakyat bus.

“Whenever it stops, people crowd around to take photos and pose in front of the bus,” says Anwar’s press secretary Najwan Halimi, who is a mechanical engineering graduate with political aspirations himself.

“Sometimes if Anwar is in the bus and there is time to spare, he’ll get down and take pictures with the people.” Most of the time, though, Anwar is not on the bus.

Because he has to rush from place to place for the tight ceramah schedule and due to his back problem, Anwar usually moves around in a car and hops onto the bus the last two or three kilometres from the location.

“Sometimes party or division leaders would get on the bus to join the campaign and arrive at the venue together with Anwar,” says Najwan. “People love the bus because it is something different and special.”

Come May 5, voters will decide whether they opt for something different or stay with what’s comfortable and familiar.


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