IF the turnout at DAP’s 10th year anniversary celebration of ruling Penang held at the Penang Esplanade is an indication of how the party will fare in Penang, then the party has a lot to be worried about.
Especially Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who is also DAP secretary-general.
Either some people are in denial or they just have bad estimation skill, simple mathematics wise.
For one thing, the emcee of the event appeared confident in announcing a “huge turnout of 50,000 people” but people on the ground knew that there was hardly even ten percent of that.
Some media friends even reported that the turnout over the weekend could not possibly be more than 3,000.
Flash back to 2008, when Lim Guan Eng took the stage to give his speech, it was akin to a mega concert with the whole Esplanade filled to the brim, spilling out to even the roadside.
So much was the admiration and support for the party and Lim back then but in just a decade, the crowd has dwindled and if this is a reflection of the support they will be getting, then they are in for some panic with the general election just around the corner.
I remember a friend who is (I do not know whether she still is) a staunch supporter of DAP especially her “idol”, Lim Guan Eng. She had even braved the rain on a motorcycle to listen to his ceramah and even stood there in the rain holding an umbrella just so she could catch a glimpse of him and hear what he had to say.
Now I asked her would she repeat what she did, she laughed and said “Got better things to do now la. All talk rubbish and making empty promises!”
Even more surprising is the fact that pro-Opposition news portal Malaysiakini did not even report the said 50,000 in turnout as announced by the emcee and all DAP leaders and members on social media but was “generous” enough to give as estimation of a 15,000 turnout.
The portal however did make a comparison to previous DAP events and celebrations especially ceramah when crowds would spill out onto the streets.
Also missing was the deafeningly loud thunderous cheers and applause each time Karpal, Kit Siang and Guan Eng delivered their speeches with their strong and convincing punchlines.
Well for one thing, Karpal is no more and the DAP has lost its strongest voice.
The same venue has witnessed how strong the support was for DAP each time it held ceramah in the vast open area, one of Penang’s famous landmarks.
What has happened now? Has the fire fizzled out?
I know, for I was there and was asking my media friends whether we were at some concert of some international mega star as there was not even an inch of empty space at the Esplanade then.
DAP was clever to have used the iconic landmark to gauge the rakyat’s support a few weeks before the 13th General Election and it was a success back then.
My office then was within walking distance from the Esplanade and already knowing better than to drive, I actually walked there knowing it would be impossible to secure a parking spot for the ceramah set to begin at 9pm.
So I took a nice evening stroll from my office from Macalister Road to have Esplanade’s famous rojak first at around 6pm or so but to my utter shock, I could not even get in!
People had started streaming in earlier than me and mind you, it was not for the rojak but in the spirit of “Ubah”, the slogan used by DAP to ask the people to change to let them be in the government.
And in the spirit of Ubah, thousands were seen already marching their way to the Esplanade hours before the ceramah started, carrying DAP flags and banners shouting “Ubah, Ubah, Ini Kali Lah!”
Some of my media friends even joked that it was such a breeze to get a parking spot last night at the event as the absence of the crowd and fanatic supporters made moving around so much easier.
Let’s just say they even had time to have some rojak first!
Even the lure of free food from ten food stalls given out by the event organiser failed to draw in the crowd, perhaps not even free food as they are tired of listening to the same old empty promises.
What Penangites want to be addressed are issues such as affordable housing, ways of tackling flood woes in the state and not being promised with more development which they cannot even afford, and at the expense of the environment and ecosystem at that.
Even PPBM president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who was one of the speakers at the ceramah last night acknowledged that Malay voters in Penang will still support Umno and Barisan Nasional.
Opposition big guns such as Lim Kit Siang, Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir has failed to attract audience. Penangites have definitely wisened up.
All in all, the ceramah was just a replay of a broken record with the same things being repeated from other ceramah.
The only “interesting” part was when Lim Guan Eng had taken a dramatic role in announcing Chow Kon Yeow to be his successor “in his absence”.
Lim’s once very distinctive aura was also not felt last night as the crowd was seen beginning to leave when it was his turn to speak despite it being only 10.30pm.
Oh, maybe they did not want to sleep late on a Sunday night, it being Monday and the first working day after the weekend.