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The Bukit Gantang by-election

I arrived in Bukit Gantang at 5 in the morning of March 29. Headed straight for the Taiping mosque as suggested by a friend. It was full, overflowing at the seams. It looked as though we had taken over the mosque, with many of “the faithful” wearing T-shirts and vests with clear Pas and PR political colours and slogans written on them.

When the early morning or dawn prayers started, many were still queueing to go to the loo as well as waiting their turn to do the ritual ablutions. The mosque was so packed that many were unable to get in to pray together with the “first batch”. I was later told there were three “batches” before everyone present got to perform their prayers.

At 7.30am special “hajat” prayers were held for the victory of Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin. Political loyalties were clear and the carrying out of such prayers at any “establishment” mosque was unheard of a year or so ago.

By 8am everyone was ready to march on from the mosque to the nomination centre about a kilometre away. I did not see any of the party leaders but I saw the main banner at the front of the procession and followed. I was later informed the main procession came from another gathering point, Air Kuning, on the other side of town. The party leaders, together with Nizar, were with the other procession.

When the two processions merged at the nomination centre, it was like the meeting of two rivers. The area allocated was too small and the crowd “overflowed”, with many people climbing up the hill adjacent to the nomination centre overlooking the open field.

They filled the hill slope while holding banners and flags. It was a sight that I will remember for some time.

The Kelab Penyokong Pas was well represented. The Indian members of KPP played their tabla continuously and made their presence felt. There were side shows in the form of mini ceramahs at various locations to keep the crowd “entertained”.

The DAP leaders, members and supporters came in their numbers and they waved both DAP and Pas flags. PKR leaders were also present but fewer in number due to the by-elections in Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai.

I saw many wearing Nizar face masks and there were even a few wearing Altantuya face masks showing her with a bandana on which was written “Who killed me”?

When the nomination process was over, it was announced that there were three candidates, one of whom was an independent from Pekida, an Umno-backed Malay nationalist religious NGO. Seems like a contradiction in terms besides being a mouthful.

At least it was not like Bukit Selambau which was seemingly an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of Records! May the independent Pekida candidate take away the Umno votes.

Seemed like everyone present understood the importance attached to this by-election. For Pas and the PR, it is virtually a referendum on the issue of the take over of the Perak State government by the BN.

A victory for Nizar would constitute concrete proof of the Perak rakyat’s rejection of BN’s politics and their attempt to demonise Nizar as a DAP puppet and a betrayer of the Malays. It would give Nizar and the PR of Perak a strong basis to challenge the BN yet again for another showdown at the state level to prove who has the rakyat’s support.

A victory for BN on the other hand would silence the Perak PR who would then be forced to admit a decreasing support from amongst the rakyat since March 2008. Datuk Seri Najib Razak would also be able to pounce on the victory as proof of the people’s acceptance of his new line-up and his proclaimed intentions for change.

Then the parties got into gear and started their activities. Pas has its party workers assigned to all the three state constituencies based on the states from where they came. This was further broken down to the respective voting centres based on the respective divisions or kawasans.

Selangor Pas was assigned to the state constituency of Trong and within that, Shah Alam was assigned to the Air Terjun voting centre. Trong was the one constituency, out of three in Bukit Gantang, that we lost.

As always, the mornings were for distribution of pamphlets and house-to-house campaigning, the nights for the ceramahs.

After three days of semi-intense campaigning, a familiar pattern emerged. The PR campaigners and leaflets were well received and the ceramahs brought in the locals by the hundreds. The ceramahs are attended by a multi-racial crowd and the votes of the Chinese and Indians seem “in hand”.

This is a far cry from the empty tents during BN’s ceramahs. It looks like an uphill task for the BN from where we stand but then again, their desperation for a victory may lead to desperate measures.

During this period there was already news of the police preventing some ceramahs, the Election Commission stopping a ceramah well before the normal midnight deadline on the flimsiest of excuses and Umno members harassing the Muslimat who were on a house-to-house campaign. These tactics will hopefully only turn Perakians further against the BN.

The word on the ground is that our votes in the Trong constituency will increase in our favour. As a result the BN is already talking about enlisting the help of the father of all Umno heroes, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to help them in their campaign. Talk about desperation!

The old man may be able to swing some votes their way, particularly that of the older folks, but he will definitely swing many more our way as well.

Whatever it is, the situation only promises to heat up the political temperatures in the country as all talk of “unity government” is drowned out by the battle cries of the by-election.

WaLlahu 'Alam
*this article was originally published in The Malaysian Insider (02/04/2009)


Anonymous said…
I am Chinese and Christian by faith. However, I give my full backing and prayers to the PAS candidate to win the Bkt. Gantang by-election. Based on my observations UMNO has NEVER been honest and sincere in their proclaimations of fair and equal treatment of all Malaysians. Some of my Chinese business contacts in Kota Bahru told me that they will ALWAYS be with PAS because they have always been given fair treatment in their business dealings with the PAS Govt. in Kelantan.

Let's pray that voters will have the necessary wisdom
To elect those they want to lead them in this earthly kingdom
With all the God given strength and true freedom
And no longer under unwanted political fiefdom

(C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng - 030409
Fri. 3rd Apr. 2009.

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