I can still remember when I was in the early teen, I used to hang around the famous Pekan Rabu in my home town Alor Setar. Back then, Pekan Rabu was an old dilapated building with coroded zinc roof but was very popular with the Kedah folks to do their shopping. Of course there were no such thing as supermakets or shopping centers as it is today. So, places like Pekan Rabu, the White Palace and Pasar yaakob were the focal points for the Kedah folks to converge especially if it is a sataurday.
2. Adjacent to the building, right in front of The Empire Cinema, there was an open space which I used to hang around after my cheap matineee show at the Royal Cinema. (cheap matinee show will cost you only 25 cents and as a schoolboy, this is the only show that I can afford). This open space will provide you with free entertainment in the form of performances by various medicine peddlers.Their performance were sometimes spectacular to say the least. The crowd,sometimes amounting to a few hundreds, will gather around in a big circle, were always mesmerised, me included, with the antiques of these medicine peddlers, especially their fiery rhetorics and comical interludes. It seemed that their meidcine will solved all your ailments, be it the common cold to the problematic ED. Their pills will cure your ED and will turn you into a sexual tiger. This will normally do the trick and the crowd will be everwilling to part with their hard earn dollar for those miracle pills. One particular fact that I noticed was that the crowd was 99% malay.
3. Those were the simple life of my townfolks of the early 60s- easily entertained and easily influenced by powerful rhetorics and I still think that this trait remains untill today. You can sell anything to the malays- even lies- if you you are gifted with the oratory talent. You can shove a white lie into their face and they will believe you if you have the oratory talent with a touch of simple comical jokes in between.
4. 1969 was a historical year for Malaysia. I was 17 then. Political testestrone was beginning to infect my bloodstreams. Naive as I was ( due to overexposure to the medicine pedlers's rhetorics),my inclination was, of course, towards the opposition i.e. PAS (the symbols then t was the cresent moon and the star). They have so many fantastic speakers and their rhetorics really fascinated me especially when racial issues were touched.The substances in their speech were not important. It was their presentations that matters. You can Lie, you can condemn, you can asssinate somebody's character and you can falsely accuse anybody, but make sure you say it in the fiery manner which will definately received with agreeable applause from your audience( the takbiiiiir was not yet practiced during those time). The likes of Abu Bakar hamzah, Dato' Asri, Khatijah Sidek were among my favorites. These speakers would attract thousands in their campaign and without proper venue, the audience would gather among bushes, even in the nearby Terusan Wan Mat Saman which happen to dry up due to the drought season.
5. Yes, those were the days when words and character assasination were essential parts in winning the malay votes. I can still remember how the pictures of T.Sri khir Johari (Minister of education) and his wife wearing the costume of the chinese Emperor and Empress just before general election, can easily swing pro-govt.(Perikatan) supporters to the opposition side. It provide a major boost for PAS and they had a field day labelling all malay cabinet ministers including the PM as pro-chinese.And, yes, PAS manage to secure a lot of state and parliment seats in that GE, including the constituency I live in. So were the other opposition parties- DAP, Gerakan and The Socialist Front. We were rejoicing and I remember my uncle giving a thanksgiving kenduri in his houseto commerate this historic event.
6. Then the infamous 13th.May incident exploded. It changed a lot of things as far as the Malaysian's political scenario is concern, including my own political perspective. Barisan Nasional was formed. PAS was included in the coalition and some of those prolific speakers/leaders I mentioned were made ministers.
7. What happened after this historic event baffled me. The leaders from PAS who were elected ministers and holding important portfolios seemed to be lost in the aftermath of their victory. Suddenly they have the power they have been dreaming of for so long- handed to them on silver plates. I was eagerly waiting for them to deliver their promises, so were the rakyat. Our hope were high because based on thier fiery speaches, we believed they can flatten Gunung Jerai in a single day if they want to. Their promises never come. One of my favourite 'leader' even spent most of his term touring countries in Central Asia and have the gut to write his travelling experiences in his weekly coloum in Utusan Zaman (jawi version of MIngguan Malaysia), while back home, Tun Razak and his UMNO collegues were cracking their heads formulating policies for the nation. Slowly, I began to realise the hypocracy of these people. They can talk and talk, but when it's time for action, these people will sheepishly fade into oblivion. Only then we realised that their so called grand ideas mentioned in their campaign simply could not be translated into actions. Like the miracle pills of the medicine peddlers, the cure that we were hoping for never happened. Only then that we realised,it is only real medical doctors who can and should prescribe medicine for any ailment that we suffer. And our PAS heroes that we looked up so much, were no different from those smooth-talking, snivelling medicine peddlers.
End Part I