This invited laughter and some jeers from the nearly 2,000 people who filled the muddy field in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur.
“But today, I have decided to come down to the ground with you because I can no longer bear to see the electoral system being manipulated for the sake of maintaining power,” he added.
Tamrin claimed that it was his first time speaking on stage since 1986. He was last spotted in 2010 with Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim at a ceramah, but he was then a guest and made no speech.
Last night’s rally, marking the 10-day countdown to the massive protest expected on April 28, saw several participants clad in the trademark yellow Bersih T-shirt sitting on makeshift mats on wet grass to listen to speeches by some 31 activists, student leaders and politicians.
Drawing contrast to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s administration, Tamrin said the premier’s father who in 1969 had absolute authority as de facto prime minister under the National Operations Council following the May 13 riots, had willingly surrendered his power.
“But today, I am saddened to see our country can simply be sold to foreigners for the sake of winning (the general election),” he said.
Pointing to media reports that tens of thousands of foreigners were being granted instant citizenship in exchange for votes, Thamrin related that he too, had come across a Pakistani taxi driver, who was in fact a Malaysian citizen.
The Umno member also conveyed a message to the crowd from Umno veteran and Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah or more popularly known as Ku Li.
“Ku Li has clearly said that he supports what Bersih is doing and he is also supportive of calls by Anwar and allies for PTPTN to be abolished in favour of free education, this is the best investment for our country,” he said.
Don’t let them steal the election
Another surprise guest was former information minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir who urged the audience not to allow BN to “steal the election”.
“I was an Umno member for 56 years and it was a party owned by the members, the leaders were clean. But as time passed, it appeared that it had become their (selected few) fathers’ party.
“They stole this and stole that, I could no longer tolerate it and quit as a minister at the peak of my career.
“After I quit, I remained silent but the stealing became worse. Millions were no longer enough, its now in the billions, in the end I could no longer take it and quit the party,” said Abdul Kadir.
The former Umno veteran added that elections cannot be called until the government provides fair access to the media and stops abusing government machinery, police and the army to give it an upper hand in the polls.
“Don’t forget that 48 percent of people voted for Pakatan Rakyat in 2008 without media access, half of the country was being blacked out... this is not a democracy,” he hit out.
Abdul Kadir who claimed that he had secretly supported the two Bersih rallies in 2007 and 2011, pledged to show up on April 28. He was then handed a Bersih T-shirt which he put on.
Among others who spoke at the rally were PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu, PKR deputy presidents Nurul Izzah and Tian Chua, PSM secretary-general S Arulchelvan, former Perak menteri besar Nizar Jamaluddin, Bersih steering committee members Maria Chin Abdullah and Hishammuddin Rais, Himpunan Hijau steering committee member Clement Chin and Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia chief Safwan Anang.
Also to grace the event was Anne Ooi who shot to fame during the Bersih rally last July when she was photographed standing in front a phalanx of Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) officers holding a yellow flower and drenched in acid laced water.
The retiree, accompanied by Kota Raja state assemblyperson Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud, cheekily told the crowd to give Najib “a headache”.
“Are afraid of the police? Are you afraid of Umno? Are you afraid of the Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL)?” she asked, to which the crowd roared “no.”
Dataran Merdeka, the main venue for Bersih 3.0 which is also expected to be simultaneously staged in more than 50 cities locally and globally, comes under the jurisdiction of DBKL.
Rally for justice, no more deaths
Meanwhile, Azhar Mohd Kassim the newphew of Baharuddin Ahmad who had passed away amid the chaos of police crackdown in the last Bersih rally, appealed to the crowd to fulfill his late uncle’s last wish.
“When my uncle left for the protest, he said he was doing it for justice... I hope that you can join the rally to uphold justice,” he said.
However, Azhar said he hoped the rally this time would not face similar police crackdown and result in injuries and deaths.
As Bersih co-chairperson A Samad Said or more fondly known as Pak Samad took the stage, marking the final lap of the night’s rally, the audience huddled around in the mud to listen to the 77-year-old national laureatte.
“We have received hurtful answers from the Election Commission that constantly favours those in power... it is time for everyone to take responsibility if our democracy is tainted.
“April 28 will be an important day to voice our dissatisfaction for what has happened in the last 54 years,” he said.
Pak Samad also commended the student activists who have taken a two-week head start to camp at Dataran Merdeka albeit harassment from DBKL authorities.
“If they (authorities) insist on evicting you from Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), then it is Dataran Penjajah (Colonialists Square), therefore anyone that stop our rights from gathering at Dataran Merdeka are colonialists,” he said.
Later, some 300 people visited the students at Dataran Merdeka as they entered the fifth day of camping there.
Police and DBKL officers have remained mum so far on whether Bersih will be allowed to hold its rally at Dataran Merdeka. However, the organisers say they will go ahead with the rally with or without the authorities’ consent.
HOPE TO SEE YOU AT DATARAN MERDEKA ON 28 APRIL 2012