PETALING JAYA — Nearly 10,000 Malaysians turned up at Padang Timur here last night to celebrate the release of PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
A sea of PKR flags filled the field, less than 12 hours after Anwar, 70, was granted a full royal pardon and released from his sodomy conviction.
Anwar, who had been in prison since February 2015, addressed his supporters at 11pm.
He arrived at the field around 9.30pm accompanied by his wife, PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and a slew of other Pakatan Harapan leaders, who all took turns to speak.
In his speech, Anwar reiterated his support for Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and said he had rejected an offer of a cabinet post in the latter’s administration.
“He said how do you want to be in my cabinet? I said I don’t need that, I’m fully behind your leadership,” Anwar said.
The PH campaign promised to make Anwar the next prime minister with Dr Mahathir stepping down at some point.
Anwar gave no indication as to his plans to return to politics immediately or run for an election, saying he would rest with his family, tour the country and also overseas to honour invitations by several world leaders.
He was quick to remind his PH colleagues who are now in power not to get “arrogant”.
“What we don’t want is an Umno 2.0. When they don’t perform, we will kick them out,” he said.
“Remember all those who started this fight for reform without any positions or rewards,” he added, warning the new government members not to squabble over positions.
The crowd started gathering here at 5.30pm for a double celebration of PH election victory and Anwar’s release.
As crews worked to set up marquees and carpets on the field, the first arrivals searched for dry places to sit. There, they waited patiently as others trickled in, with the noise of hawkers peddling their goods and vuvuzelas blowing in the background.
Those who spoke to Malay Mail eagerly expressed their joy.
Norhaezail Hashim, 38, was kept busy selling T-shirts and caps with Anwar’s image printed on them. He said he has participated in rallies over the last 20 years.
“I finished studying in 1997 and the following year, Reformasi happened. I was right there in the thick of it, and have been ever since. Bersih One to Five, you name it,” he said.
Dayang Nur Sarah Zulkiflee, 19, attended the rally with her sisters, 17-year-old Dayang Sofea and 21-year-old Dayang Shahira. For the siblings, this is their first rally.
“During the campaign, we watched the Facebook Live broadcasts of the ceramah. But my biggest regret is being too young to vote and make a difference in GE14,” Nur Sarah said.
For STPM leaver K. Elaveni, 20, the rally was tinged with a sense of hope and renewal.
“My parents will be joining me shortly, and we will hear what the man who has gone through hell and high water for this country’s sake has to say.
“I have never felt unity to this extent until GE14, how it brought us together. We did not experience Merdeka in 1957, so for many of us youths this is akin to Merdeka 2.0,” she said.