FOR decades the scene at ceramahs (adhoc public rallies conducted to spread a political party’s manifesto) held in urban and suburban constituencies by DAP and opposition alliances have always gained overwhelming support from the people who have also donated funds generously.
This time around, for GE14 to be held on May 9 – it is no different. The DAP ‘Circus’ has arrived in town!
The line up of speakers always includes local personalities who are usually people with oratorical skills and an ‘imported’ ‘face’ or two from Penang, Kuala Lumpur or Sabah. Most of the evening’s speeches are conducted in Mandarin, Hokkien and English, interpersed with bazaar Malay for special effects.
DAP ceramahs usually attract thousands of people (compared to a few hundreds for similar ceramahs conducted by the ruling BN party). The ceramahs are usually held at sites that can accommodate the huge crowds who stand or sit on makeshift benches and chairs.
The topics of speeches usually encompass a spectrum of matters that affect the daily lives of the people and the hot issues of the day. Much time is spent on running down the party manifestos of opponents and often involves taking personal pot-shots sometimes verging on slander and libel. However, in such an environment, most targets are usually not considered ‘libelled’ enough to warrant legal recourse or police reports.
In my opinion, and speaking only about DAP ceramahs in and around Sarawak, it has been mostly cases of ‘preaching to the converted’. I would say that 95% of the audience would already be DAP supporters or those that support the other opposition parties such as PKR and STAR.
Most people attend these ceramahs to enjoy the evening’s show and have a jolly good time with likeminded supporters.
The late Sim Kwang Yang, who stood as a DAP candidate for the then Kuching Timor (now renamed Padungan) state seat in Sarawak, once commented that “it would be a disaster to interpret the crowd turnout at DAP ceramahs as votes” for him or for his party.
Sim had noted then that DAP ceramahs held at every general election be it for state or parliamentary seats, have all been well attended. Supporters usually outnumber the BN SUPP’s ceramahs by as much as 10 to 1 or even more, if the venue can take the crowd.
Sim also gave the example of the 1995 Sarawak state elections in which he was challenged by BN SUPP’s Datuk Song Swee Guan for the Kuching seat. Every one of his nightly ceramahs had been overwhelmed with huge crowds throughout the campaign while SUPP’s Song’s ceramahs were usually poorly attended by only a few hundred party loyals.
However when election results were announced, there was a massive swing for BN SUPP’s Song who took the seat for the first time – this despite the popularity of Sim himself, who had served the constituency for 13 years prior to his defeat.
Once again in the 2016 Sarawak state elections, the BN SUPP ceramahs in Batu Kitang and Batu Kawah were very poorly attended most nights. Even on the penultimate night prior to the polls, the then candidate Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian’s ceramah at the Kuching City Mall had barely attracted 1,000 or less, even with the presence of the then very popular chief minister, the late Datuk Patinggi Adenan Satem.
Just a short distance away at Batu 4, Kuching/Serian Road, an estimated crowd of 8,000 had thronged the DAP’s final ceramah; their donation takings alone that night were estimated to be about RM30,000 to RM40,000.
However, when the results were announced the following night, DAP only managed to win one of the three state seats up for grabs in that area – Kota Sentosa. BN SUPP had won back the two seats of Batu Kitang and Batu Kawah.
The supporters of BN SUPP hence, should be encouraged and not disheartened by the small crowds at their current ceramahs. DAP should also be aware that the massive crowds they are seeing now are usually peopled by staunch supporters who will vote DAP come hell or high water.