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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Despite hurdles, 1MDB ceramah in rural Penaga draws 300

Pakatan Harapan’s maiden ceramah on the 1MDB scandal in the Malay heartland of Penaga drew only a small crowd last night.
However, this did not dampen the coalition’s resolve to take the issue further into the rural areas of Penang and elsewhere.
Local DAP leaders were satisfied that at least 300 filled the hall despite the lack of publicity and the sensitivity of the issue.
They were touched by the interest shown by those who failed to get seats inside the hall, but were willing to sit on the roadside curb, and listened to the ceramah shown on a TV screen mounted on the fence outside the hall.
Lay Hock Peng, who chairs the DAP Kepala Batas communications committee, said he was happy that the hall was “filled to the brim” despite the challenges his team had faced in organising the ceramah.
“It is a sensitive topic and we are organising it here in an Umno stronghold, but we managed to get this crowd. To us, it is quite good,” Lay told Malaysiakini when met at the ceramah.
“All our banners on the event were seized by unknown persons, but we managed to spread the information by word of mouth,” added the state DAP assistant organising secretary.
Bringing scandal to heartland
Titled ‘Sayangi Malaysia, Hapuskan Kleptokrasi’ (Love Malaysia, rid kleptocracy), the ceramah held in Dewan JKKK (village development and security committee) Penaga aimed to explain to the rural folk how the alleged money laundering activities involving 1MDB would make their lives poorer.
The ceramah also touched on the alleged excessive shopping sprees, involving the purchase of a 22-carat pink diamond necklace worth US$ 27 million (RM117 million) for the wife of the individual known as Malaysian Official 1 (MO1) in the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) court filings.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan has admitted on BBC that M01 refers to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
Founded by Najib, state fund 1MDB’s dealings abroad are currently under probe in several countries, and the DOJ has filed a series of civil suits to seize assets worth billions which it claims had been purchased with money allegedly “stolen” from 1MDB.
The premier has denied any wrongdoing, while attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali has accused the DOJ’s suits as being “politically motivated”.
Lack of youths, locals
Meanwhile, Lay frowned at the action by several special branch officers who videotaped members of the crowd in the hall, saying that this may intimidate them from attending future ceramahs on the topic.
However, he did not expect any trouble or disturbance from DAP’s opponents at the event last night, saying the local leaders from both sides prefer to fight each other fairly as most grew up together in the same village or town.
Currently, DAP has recruited about 120 Malay members from Kepala Batas, a feat Lay is very proud of, saying some of them have been appointed as Seberang Perai municipal councillors.
Still, the crowd lacked two important features - youths and locals - as the crowd comprised mostly of senior citizens and DAP members from the island.
The top echelon of Pakatan Harapan’s leadership such as Penang Chief Minister cum DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and parliamentary opposition leader cum PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail were absent from the event.
Instead, PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution, DAP vice-chairperson Zairil Khir Johari, the party’s MPs Tony Pua (Petaling Jaya Utara) and P Kasthuri Patto (Batu Kawan) and Parti Amanah Negara’s youth chief Faiz Fadzil Noor spoke during the two-hour programme.
A drive around the Penaga town found many residents still having their dinner or supper at the local shops, some lingering around the surau or mosque instead of attending the ceramah.
When met, businessman Asri Ahmad, 32, said he was already aware of the 1MDB scandal as he is an ardent reader of internet news and would glean Facebook daily to read up on current affairs, and said, "Therefore, I need not attend the ceramah."

Housewife Nordiah Selamat, 40, said she was only told about the event at the eleventh hour. "I hope there will be another event similar to this one in the future," she said.
Some villagers Malaysiakini spoke to last night were however not interested in the topic, and appeared to be in the dark over the global controversy surrounding 1MDB.
A keen observer remarked that Harapan leaders may mostly be preaching to the converted instead of covering new ground, showing that more work needed to be done to reach out to the Malay grassroots. - Mkini

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