I received the invitation quite a while ago. Kee Thuan Chye, and old classmate from my secondary school days, had emailed to invite me to the official launch of his latest book, "Ask for no bullshit, get some more." I promised him that I would be there at the refurbished Loke Thye Kee at the corner of Penang Road and Burmah Road.
So when 6.30p.m. (the appointed time) came around yesterday, I duly made my way to the Loke Thye Kee, climbed the flight of stairs and ... squeezed into a hall already filled with people. I wasn't even the first few on the scene. Scores of people had already taken up the best seats in the house and I had to pick my way gingerly to the front where I could spy some still empty seats.
Looked around and noticed a few familiar faces. There, right in front of me were Kah Theang and Andrew, while further away were Teik Wah and his wife, Jo, and Oon Hup. Also mingling in the hall were Philip, Teck Chye and Esther, Swee Heng and his wife, Soo Hay, Ban Seang and Boo Yeang.
Boo Yeang was instrumental in getting the book's official launch going again after the embarrassing fiasco at the Penang Club. He saw the injustice and started looking for another venue for the launch. It helped that Ban Seang was the main man behind Food People and could offer the Loke Thye Kee as the alternative venue.
But what was this fiasco that I had just mentioned? Well, it was last month that we got to know that the Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, had agreed to launch Thuan Chye's book at the Penang Club premises on 28 Feb. The launch would be followed by a forum titled "After GE13, where to, Malaysia?"
All arrangements had been finalised but then, two days before the event, the Club's management developed cold feet and told Thuan Chye that he could no longer use their premises. According to Thuan Chye, the club would no longer allow the Chief Minister to officially launch the book at their premises.
This about-turn has many implications but the most serious among them was the disrespect that the Penang Club had shown to the office of the state's chief executive. Even the Chief Minister himself had said later that this was a serious error of judgment that can never been forgotten.
Anyway, the Penang Club's loss was now the Loke Thye Kee's gain. The place was quite filled with well-wishers that had come for the launch, as can be seen from the picture below, taken at about 6.45p.m.
Everybody was expecting the Chief Minister to arrive at 7p.m. but a call came to say that his arrival would be delayed by about 15 minutes because his car had broken down. He was somewhere along Perak Road then. Here's me with Thuan Chye soon afterwards.
By then, the crowd was getting a bit impatient and in order to fill in the time before the Chief Minister's arrival, Thuan Chye decided to do some readings from his book. His favourite fall guy was, of course, the former Prime Minister. Everytime he spoke of him, I could feel the sarcasm oozing out from every syllable he uttered. The crowd loved it, by the way, judging from the responses to his readings.
Ah, so finally, at 7.25p.m. the Chief Minister arrived. Strange, no stains on his clothes. No dirt on his fingers. I guess somebody else must have repaired the car for him. Ha ha...
With the CM now present, the programme finally got on its way. I was holding on to my breath when Thuan Chye gave his speech. Would he, or won't he? Those who were there at his last official book launch at Clove Hall in Penang last year would remember that he had let rip with an expletive aimed at Guan Eng's direction. All in good, clean fun, but still he managed to shock everyone, including his guest. But there was no repetition here. Thuan Chye kept his speech very tame, I must say, perhaps leaving it to the CM to provide the fireworks. And at last, Guan Eng spoke. I think he was less prepared to speak at this book launch as compared to last year. But he did speak well off-the-cuff and he made quite a lot of mention of the Penang Club fiasco. The crowd hung onto every word he said.
And as can be seen, the crowd had swelled until it was only standing room at the back of the Loke Thye Kee. My estimate: about a 200-strong presence. Oh, by the way, Ban Seang, the air-conditioning was not powerful enough. Maybe you should consider installing more powerful units if you plan to have more functions like this in the future.
And this was the moment of the launch. The unveiling of the red cloth by the book's publisher, and watched by Guan Eng, Thuan Chye's wife and the members of the forum. That's Liew Chin Tong in the picture. He confirmed the already known fact that he would be contesting in a Johor parliamentary seat in the coming General Elections.
Nothing much to say about this last picture, is there?