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Mar 7, 2008

Meeting Raja Petra Kamarudin


In a Chinese restaurant along a row of brothels in Brickfields, Raja Petra Kamarudin was having dinner with his wife, Marina, and two close female friends. Sat around a round table on the sidewalk, the ang moh (white) looking “Malay” was charming and had a steady gaze. With a shaved head and donning spectacles, he appeared the intellectual prince of Malaysia Today. What got to me was his easygoing and down-to-earth style. He was definitely not the Sultan of Johor of whacking the golf caddy fame. Actually, Petra was not even like most of the royalty types that hung out in the local clubs and classy restaurants in town. Perhaps the most royal looking part of him was a ring with a huge stone and his watch. Otherwise, I felt he was a true Malaysian in a sense and living testimony that identity goes beyond skin colour. The fact that Petra was probably a PAS sympathiser didn’t add up as he looked so modern. Ah! Stereotypes again.

To shock Malaysians leading up to elections, I wore a PAS pin though I am not a PAS member. I can’t be and neither do I want to be one. Political parties are too restrictive with their constitution and manifestos and all. Also, there are some key things within PAS that I simply can’t agree with but respect as its their culture and their freedom. The most glaring dissonance is the idea of covering up women from head to toe. I like to wear shorts and t-shirts most times with my well-worn pair of Converse sneakers. Especially with the heat, I’m not about to conform to the dress code unless required or in situations where its polite. But that’s their religion. Of course, the other is that I am a Christian.

The PAS pin, which I got from Kota Bahru, caught Petra’s attention. For a moment, I glimpsed a flicker of surprise in his eyes but he didn’t bring it up. Actually, I was waiting to see who will bring it up first. But everyone ignored it. I guess it was not so bizzare that a Japanese-looking woman was wearing a PAS pin.

Petra would be speaking at a few venues that evening. The first stop was a DAP ceramah at the foot of a Monorail station by the river in Brickfields. Then off to the main venue at Lembah Pantai (PKR) and perhaps even to Klang for Ronnie Liu at 11pm.

Some other friends joined us. While they chatted, I ate quickly as I was famished. I hadn’t eaten the whole day. Was just so busy. I live on cigarettes. And caffeine, which may explain my headache.

They too didn’t comment about my PAS pin. Darn! My atttention seeking ploy wasn’t working. But later at the DAP ceramah, the DAP people did look at my PAS pin. Ha ha ha ha. Especially Fong Kui Lun, incumbent and candidate for Bukit Bintang. Ha ha ha ha. They were worried and probably looking to see if I had a DAP pin next to it. Actually, I would have wore all the pins but I only had PAS. The other pin that I could have worn was my Victoria Junior College pin, which I found again this morning after many, many, many years. Just to rile the politicians up, you know. After all, I am not a member of any party so I can wear as many pins as I like. LOL

When we walked into the ceramah crowd of about 1,000, everyone rushed to shake RPK’s hands, snap photos or just to meet him. Everyone roared as he came on stage and over the talk, they cheered and laughed. He spoke in fluent English and Malay, smoothly changing between the two. He placated the mostly Chinese crowd’s fears about PAS and reminded us that we should not be threatened by BN’s reminders of May 13. Even as it started to drizzle, people remained riveted to the ground and almost none moved to leave. Instead umbrellas were brought out.

The crowd of course looked at my green PAS pin. Maybe they thought I was a tourist. ;) Also had a green t-shirt and green eye-shadow just to rub it in…..Ha ha ha ha…….

Nurul Izzah arrived with much fanfare as usual. The flags, the crowd, the noise. But she seemed unfazed. And more energetic than the other night at Flat Sri Pahang.

The DAP and PKR alliance appears to be working fine. Somehow PKR is more acceptable to the Chinese. Although it’s essentially based on Islam.

It’s an exciting time. Seeing the crowd size. Their response. The talk on streets, in the coffee shops. But in these last two days, one comment is much repeated: “Whether crowd size will translate to votes, we will have to wait and see.”

In God, we trust.

PS. RPK, I couldn’t really sum up in the brief time I spent with him. Also, perhaps post-election, we’ll have an interview.


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