The Johor town of Muar was flooded with red hibiscus flags last night as Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) celebrated its first birthday at a private hall there.

The venue was filled with activities starting 11am, such as cooking demonstrations, an online marketing workshop and street soccer to liven up the celebrations before the evening’s climax of speeches from the party’s founders.

Amid the activities and celebrations, there were also booths selling food and wares lined up, one of which was operated by Terengganu Bersatu chief Razali Idris.

The 51-year-old was selling 100 pieces of golden woven Malay sampin emblazoned with Bersatu’s logo. Each piece, costing RM500, contributes to his state’s fund for daily operations, he said.

This is something unimaginable in their former party Umno, as their state chiefs – who are usually federal ministers, menteri besar or chief ministers – would be more likely mingling with high-level guests in VIP rooms at such a big event instead of peddling goods.

Razali recalled the privileges he had enjoyed before when he attended Umno national annual general meetings at the party headquarters at Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur.

“Umno has allocations for the event, they will provide a bus. The division chief would give some funds to pay for the bus, hotel and food.

“Normally, no Umno representatives would pay out of their own pocket. Instead, you would receive more than RM100 in pocket money,” the former Terengganu Umno Youth chief told Malaysiakini when met at his sampin booth last night.

After quitting Umno, Razali said he had to drive seven hours from his hometown Kuala Nerus to Muar just to participate in the celebrations.

And the datuk had to bear his own costs as well, including RM300 petrol and RM200 toll for a nearly 950km return trip.

Around 200 Terengganu Bersatu representatives made the same journey as he, just to attend the event, he added.

“We never give a single cent, not a single cent (even for) fuel costs. They came on their own initiative,” he said, adding this is part of their struggle to fight against Umno.

Happy to pay own way

Similarly, Negeri Sembilan Bersatu chief Kamarulzaman Kamdias (photo) noticed there is a huge difference between the sang saka bangsa party and the red hibiscus party.

“In Umno, everything is cash. But now with Bersatu, we pay for expenses ourselves… (Previously) in the bus (heading to an event), they (Umno) would pay RM20 to RM50 in pocket money.

“But we don’t have such a thing now. And those who came here did not ask for anything, but are here just because they want to be together with the party,” the ex-Umno Youth exco said.

He said the Negeri Sembilan chapter has mobilised 11 buses, ferrying over 440 Bersatu members from eight divisions to Muar.

All the members shared the total rental cost of RM9,900, he said.

For Kamarulzaman, who hails from Kuala Pilah, such ardent participation is a small wave to create a Malay tsunami to sweep away Umno.

“I am confident that with such high spirits, the BN government will be feeling the pressure.”

Determined to change the government, Batu Bersatu Women’s Youth chief Sarra Sulaiman (photo) said she had volunteered to come to the Johor royal town to join her party’s first year birthday event.

“Our Women’s Youth division got four cars and we shared the cost. In Malay, we call it dongdong…sometime the division chief will sponsor a little bit.”

She recalled how during their time in Umno, she could get at least a free T-shirt just by working for the party.

“But (now) we have sincerity. This is a fight, we are brave because we are right,” the 53-year-old said.

Party deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir, president Muhyiddin Yassin and chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad each gave a speech at last night’s event.

They urged Bersatu members to equip themselves well to prepare for the upcoming general election, and to end Umno’s over 60-year rule.

The event ended at 12am after Mahathir cut the party’s first birthday cake.

– M’kini