When Harapan’s hors d'oeuvres can be as tasty as the main dish

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COMMENT | It appears the main challenge to speakers on the Pakatan Harapan campaign circuit for the next general election (GE14) is how to keep a crowd in thrall when the main draw is absent.

In culinary terms, it's how to make the hors d'oeuvres as tasty as the main dish.

By that measure, the speakers at the Amanah-organised Harapan ceramah in Padang Pinji Mewah, on the outskirts of Ipoh last night, were a success because there wasn't a palpable sense of disappointment when the emcee announced that Dr Mahathir Mohamad would not be making an appearance.

Urgent matters in Kelantan had apparently sidetracked the Bersatu chair but the 500-odd crowd – some 300 seated under four tents in a part of an open field, and another 200 milling on the fringes in drizzly weather – that had gathered by the session's start weren't stirring from their vantage points.

Instead the assembly, composed mainly of Malays from the surrounding areas mixed with a modicum of Chinese and a slew of Indians, seemed to wax as the ceramah lengthened into the night, wanting perhaps to stay to hear what Amanah president Mohamad Sabu, the next luminary in the supporting cast of speakers, was going to say.

The Amanah chief and Harapan deputy president didn't disappoint.

This despite Sabu, a 40-year veteran of the campaign circuit with all but two of those years spent on the PAS stage, is no longer the fiery speaker of his days with the Islamist party when he used to enthrall with an oratorical style punctuated by the colourful vocabulary of the practised debater, flavoured with the rhetorical tics of the streetside medicine seller.

Sabu's now a mellow, weather-beaten exponent of a strain of campaign oratory that suggests the fire of youth has given way to the modest, slightly weary, pleadings of middle age.

Missing are the howls of disgust and cackles of derision that had peppered his rhetoric on the hustings in reformasi's early days.

In its place is found these days the wizened manner of an avuncular elder tugging gently on the sleeve of his listeners, quietly confident his persuasions, culled from long years of seasoned observations of the ebb and flow of national politics, would finally be heeded.

Part of the attraction of his spiel last night was his rendition of his interactive experiences with Mahathir in Harapan's presidential leadership council meetings...

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