Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s return to Dewan Merdeka, World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur (WTCKL) today, making his speech as Malaysia’s 10th prime minister at the Unity Government National Convention, is a momentous occasion in itself.
The last time Anwar spoke publicly here was during the Umno General Assembly in 1997 – a full quarter of a century before – when he was the deputy president of the party.
Today, 25 years on, things have come full circle as he gave the keynote address to mark a historic event, a gathering of 19 political parties that have come together to support and become part of his administration.
Anwar, in his capacity of Unity Government Secretariat chairman, expressed his thanks for having been given the opportunity to return to the hallowed hall.
“Today I’m here, in high spirits and bursting with so much emotion because after 25 years, I’m giving a speech in Dewan Merdeka. Thank you for giving me the chance to come back here. Such is history,” he said as he delivered the convention’s keynote address.
Anwar had previously been in the building to chair the Unity Government Secretariat meeting in Menara Dato’ Onn, WTCKL and also for a breaking fast with media practitioners and local artists but had not delivered a speech.
He had earlier entered the hall to thunderous applause and cheers from over 3,500 attendees, including leaders and delegates of the 19 political parties that make up the Unity Government, along with other supporters.
Never before in the history of the country have so many leaders and delegates representing almost the entire political spectrum gathered and spoken in Dewan Merdeka, a location so intimately associated with Umno.
Among them were political heavyweights such as PKR secretary-general Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke, Gabungan Parti Sarawak chairman Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah chairman Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.
The vast array of political leaders, first during the Women’s National Convention and the Pemuda Puteri National Convention in the morning, then at the Bicara Rakyat programme, coupled with the atmosphere of friendly camaraderie, have prompted many to describe the gathering as a fitting way of putting longstanding rivalries between the political parties to rest finally.
“Dulu lawan, kini kawan” is now the catchphrase of choice used by convention delegates, serving as an apt analogy of how these 19 political parties managed to set their differences aside and come together in a consensus to form a stable Unity Government at the federal and state levels.
Those present at this remarkable event seem to agree that this inaugural convention will serve as a basis for all 19 political parties under the Unity Government to build a strong and stable country for the continued prosperity of all its people.