IPOH, Sept 6 — After decades of politics MCA-style, the experience of just over a month of fiery Opposition politics has been nothing short of a major culture shock for former party stalwart Datuk Chua Jui Meng.
For once, he is finding his oratory skills can be put to good use and people actually listen to him in rapt attention during ceramahs.
Those who turn up also do not seem to expect free handouts like transportation, food, money or goodie bags.
In fact, many appear willing to travel some distance to attend such rallies.
This was evident during the ceramah at the Tow Boo Keong hall here on Saturday night where more than 1,000 supporters gathered to listen to a star-studded line-up of speakers, which included Chua himself, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, PKR vice-president R. Sivarasa and Parti Keadilan Rakyat strategic director Tian Chua.
In his speech, Chua, who not too long ago had adamantly said he would never leave the MCA for PKR, said such a sight was enough to convince him he had indeed made the right move to leave.
“I woke up on Merdeka morning and told my wife who was lying down beside me — I feel good and so young today — and I knew what made me feel that way.
“When I joined the PKR, it was after a long struggle for me. It was not easy to leave and join a new pathway.
“But after that decision, I suddenly began to feel…like how you felt when you voted for the Opposition… I felt free,” he said, to thunderous applause.
The former MCA man claimed he had never before experienced such “heart-warming” and overwhelming response for any political function in his political career until the day he joined PKR.
“I was in Permatang Pasir, helping with the by-elections and it was so amazing, so overwhelming to see the crowd come together.
“It is so heart-warming to see people of different races actually sitting together and working together and getting along — and they all want change,” he said in a press conference after the function.
His eyes lit up when reporters asked if he would be instrumental in the coming by-election for the Bagan Pinang state seat in Negeri Sembilan.
“Yes, yes, I will be there to contribute. Definitely,” he firmly said.
In fact, Chua is also confident that more would follow in his footsteps and leave the MCA to join a Pakatan Rakyat component party.
During the function earlier, a total of 600 applications for PKR memberships, signed by Barisan Nasional members, were handed over to Anwar.
Of the lot, at least 400 were from MCA, and officials claimed they comprised a former elected representative, a former division deputy chairman, scores of central delegates, divisional party post holders and members.
“It is no surprise that so many would join us from MCA. We expect that this wave is only just the beginning,” said Chua.
He added that the crossovers only mirrored the fact the party members were finally waking up to see that MCA was only a space-filler in the Barisan Nasional structure.
“We are only there to say yes and to take up some spots in the Cabinet and in the Government.
“MCA does not rule the nation. In the end, it is Umno that leads Malaysia, under the name of the BN,” he said.
Chua said that MCA could probably stand a better chance of survival if it abandoned the coalition and stood on its own.
During the function, Umno strongman Datuk Dr Abdul Malek Md Hanafiah, who is a former Perak state executive councillor, former Kamunting assemblyman and former Taiping Umno division chairman, was also seen confidently strolling into the temple hall shortly after Anwar’s arrival, to loud applause from the people.
Anwar however said that Abdul Malek was “yet to make any crossover announcement.”