THE children play dress up just as the sun rises upon the Kuala Terengganu coast, raising the heat to a near-unbearable level at Pantai Tok Jembal in Kuala Nerus.
Sweat stains form on the getups, the most popular one being that of a doctor, complete with a plastic stethoscope, for the best costume contest for six to 12-year-olds.
Their older brothers and sisters, some in niqab, look on.
“‘Si cilik, si cilik, tengok sini’ (Little one, look here),” a proud parent calls out to the child posing on the over-sized main stage where PAS leaders will make their appearance tonight.
Behind the stage, along the coast, the men are angling for the biggest catch prize of RM7,000 in the fishing competition.
Refuse piles up as the lines lengthen at the 400-odd food and trinket stalls.
The crowd at the PAS-organised Fastaqim 2.0 visibly swells as tens of thousands of supporters stream into what appears to have become a commercial event.
Lucky draw prizes are intermittently doled out. Prices of wares are slashed as vendors seek to to clear the stock before sundown.
There are no longer sermons but stage events are briefly halted for Zohor prayers. Some kneel in submission. Most continue about their business.
Mujahidin, a volunteer from a local PAS chapter, doesn’t know how many are inside the compound, which is patrolled by over 3,000 security personnel from the party.
“But we are confident it will exceed 200,000 tonight. For sure,” he said.
The sheer number of people now are already choking up the wireless bandwidth.
“We have to drive out for internet access,” said Khairol Azli Mohamad, is helping with media relations.
Reporters, photographers and videographers promptly fan out in search of a spot with signal.
Khairol, a policy consultant officer at the state housing and rural development exco office, is riding out for bandwidth.
He is surely better off on a motorcycle in the traffic nightmare out there, where thousands of vehicles are stuck in a jam that extends all the way to the Sultan Mahmud airport.
Tonight, PAS is expected to make some announcements that could guarantee there will be multi-cornered fights for nearly half of the seats in the next general election, which will tilt the odds in favour of Barisan Nasional.
Another rumour making the rounds is that former Selangor MB Khalid Ibrahim may sign on as a PAS member.
Mohd Nordin, a lifelong party member who traveled from Kuantan with a friend, is not confident of PAS’ chances in a tri-cornered fight.
“It’s fifty-fifty,” he said.
“The national economy is not doing well and with the GST issue, PAS may get the vote.”
“But so could the other party (Pakatan Harapan).”
On Khalid’s possible induction into the party, Nordin says there are “kelebihan” (advantages) to be had.
“Khalid is popular. It’s a positive thing. Maybe there are other surprises too,” Nordin said, referring to PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s midnight address.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT