Ceramah continue to expose more sandbox politics
It was when a bloodied old man stumbled out of a crowd and collapsed on a chair before us, when we realised that we were in the midst of trouble at PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim's ceramah last Thursday night.
The incident obviously enraged Anwar, who was moments earlier calling for calm saying, "They are throwing again? Sigh. Stay calm and remember. Tonight we are witnessing the ways of Umno and Umno Youth. They have no morality."
Then the mood turned when the opposition leader saw the victim, in semi-conscious state, bleeding from his forehead.
"A person is injured by projectiles! A person is injured! Curse ( celaka ) you, Umno people! Curse you! A person has been injured because he had been hit by rocks thrown by Umno Youth. Curses!" he yelled.
He directed that the man be taken away for medical attention while we took pictures and started writing our stories on the spot, paying little heed to the speeches that we were supposed to cover.
We had been assigned to report on the ceramah at the Pantai Permai public housing flats that night. Earlier at 1.15pm, we received word from the Lembah Pantai MP's political secretary Fahmi Fadzil to expect trouble.
"Umno ceramah nearby. Our banners were cut or vandalised. Anti-Anwar banners put up near Angkasapuri," read his SMS when asked why he was worried.
Lasers make dramatic entrance
At first, it was just a group of 80 in red Umno Youth T-shirts, carrying anti-PKR banners chanting "Tibai (whack)," which is also the acronym of an anti-Anwar group.
As Fahmi had warned, there was an Umno ceramah in the vicinity. In fact, it was next door at the Kuala Lumpur City Hall staff quarters.
At the time, we kept an eye out for trouble without expecting any.
Batu MP Tian Chua was the first to speak, and was fortunate to complete it undisturbed.
Then PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin took his turn, only to be targeted by green lasers. He ignored the blinding light and soldiered on.
I t was at 10.25pm when Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar's ( left ) speech had just started, that the lights blinked out, the speaker fell silent, and a green laser turned on her. Her speech would have to wait.
An egg had also landed just a metre in front of one of us, but in the dark, open venue, it was difficult to tell where the missiles were coming from. We only felt their impact.
People were also pointing at the presumed source of the missiles, either at the Umno ceramah venue, or the spectators looking from the apartments above. The chants of "Reformasi" slowly degenerated into random noise.
We saw people rushing into a corridor behind the VIP tent, and we followed them to find several PKR supporters attempting to repair a cut wire. It had been deliberately done, they claimed.
At that point on the Umno side, Ummi Hafilda was addressing some 200 red-clad audience occupying two of the five tents set up.
She looked sweet in her green satin-like robe. She was standing before a rostrum with a fan blowing behind her.
Meanwhile at the PKR ceramah, power was restored and Nurul Izzah, who is the local MP, resumed with her speech but only to flinch backwards as if to dodge something, while her bodyguards rushed forward to provide a human shield, their eyes apparently scanning area for further threats.
Nurul Izzah resumed her speech once she had regained her composure, but now spiced with such fury that neither of us had seen before.
"I have been campaigning for a long time, since (my predecessor) Shahrizat Abdul Jalil's reign, but this is the worst ever.
"(But) I think this is the last time BN would form the government," she said, before going on to, among others, condemn Umno for vandalising their flags, disturbing their ceramah, saying that the people will never forget nor forgive this transgression.
She ended her speech shouting "Reformasi". Even that came in an unfamiliar, angry tone.
Soon, it was her father's turn at the mike when suddenly the atmosphere became infused with confusion and anger once more.
People were making noise and looking over their shoulders. It turned out that an egg had found its mark on a member of the audience. Anwar appealed for calm and continued.
Returning to kindergarten ways
"Make way! Make way!" people shouted.
That was when we saw the old man. And that was when Anwar lost his cool. Then we realised we were not reporting on the speeches any more.
Unhappy with the incident, PKR and Umno supporters closed their distance, separated only by a brick-and-mortar fence. Meanwhile, Anwar and Ummi Hafilda continued with their speeches at their respective places.
The two groups were shouting at each other, looking prepared to climb over the fence to fight it out. At this point, the police rushed in from the Umno venue and ordered both sides to back off.
There was a relative calm after that, and it was Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad's turn at the microphone.
By now, Ummi Hafilda ( left ) had stopped her speech to turn and hear Khalid's before setting forth her counter arguments.
Monitoring both ceramah from the fence, Umno supporters with Jalur Gemilang as masks were seen throwing eggs and water bottles at their PKR counterparts every once in a while.
The police, meanwhile, just stood by and watched.
Over the next 20 minutes, the situation gradually returned to normal. The cheering and shouting died down and we met up again in front of the PKR VIP tent to catch Khalid winding up his speech.
Then, a man approached us.
"Are you from the media? Come, a girl has been injured," he said.
We followed him and found a little girl with her mother resting in the VIP tent. She had just seen a doctor and had a bandage on her arm, on which a fist-sized brick had landed, so we interviewed them both on what had taken place.
The time of the interview was 11.45pm, just 15 minutes shy of her 12th birthday, we were told.
Khalid Samad ended his speech soon after with a prayer at midnight, and the crowd left the area followed by Pakatan Rakyat leaders.
They disappeared into a night market behind the apartment, leaving us standing where we were, dissecting the night's events.