I have to admit, it is very hard not to talk about Kuala Terengganu by-election, especially when everyone back home in Malaysia seems to be talking about KT rather than atrocities caused by Israeli invasion in the holy land of Palestine. That’s why I try to flood myself with information on the situations in Gaza, write about Gaza and feel for the sufferings of the Palestinians in Gaza so that I will not write about KT. They say, politics is a disease, it’s chronic and highly contagious. And my attention is not excluded from being distracted by the hypes and sensations of KT by-election.
I’ve been following the build up to the KT by-election polling day from the nomination process through many lenses, mainly from blogs and newsportal, be it mainstream media, or independent (debatable) online newsportal. From the choices of candidates, the campaigns, the issues and the extra attention that the KT’s Tionghua community is getting display the dynamics process of Malaysia’s politic.
Candidate and timing factor
BN’s decision to announce Wan Farid as candidate two weeks earlier from nomination day permits the ruling party to assess any internal dissatisfactions, thus allowing the party to do a damage control drill. This strategy comes handy to BN this time, as to compare with Permatang Pauh’s blunder, which cost BN dearly. PAS, in the other hand, revealed it’s candidate a day before the nomination day, 4 days later from the promised date. Inevitably, the delay created gossips and talks which suggest that PAS leadership is having headache in choosing the most ‘acceptable’ candidate that pleases all pressure groups in the party, as we can boldly named ‘Erdogan’ fraction and PAS Terengganu team.
Hadi Awang, the current PAS President went for YB Wahid Endut, 5 terms Wakaf Mempelam State Assemblyman to run for KT MP, sidelining the favourite Syed Azman, Batu Buruk State Assemblyman. Certainly, the choice was a major surprise, as many eyebrows were raised at the night of announcement. Wahid Endut is claimed to be unpopular outside KT, but well-known to the locals, so they say.
Both parties, BN and PAS, face many difficulties with regards to their choice of candidate. Wan Farid of BN is reported or claimed by oppositions to be ‘sombong’ and very less generous with his smile. Tun Dr. Mahathir, not a member of any political party currently, in a statement said that Wan Farid is a bad choice, just to be quickly brushed aside by Pak Lah’s strong words claiming that what Tun think are irrelevant.
Meanwhile in PAS camp, there are talks on ‘Erdogan’ fraction, boycotting the campaign for Wahid Endut. Few PAS insiders broke the news, and further commented on Syed Azman’s half hearted ‘ceramah’ in one of many rallies. There are also talks about the disappearance of few leaders highly linked to Anwar Ibrahim in KT, in comparison to Permatang Pauh by-election, where the so-called Erdogan team leaders in PAS were everywhere to be found during the whole campaign duration of Permatang Pauh by election, Anwar’s home ground. Harakah, PAS media organ, has been ordered to minimize the damage by this ’cause’, however so far, it is not a major issue to PAS as they say that those who are dissatisfied are only limited to individuals, not groups.
In the end of the day, the decision is in the hand of the voters, they will pick the one that can be trusted to bring their voice to the Dewan Rakyat, and also bring a sustainable development to Kuala Terengganu, to suit its’ state capital status.
Internet as agent of news, lies and perceptions
Among the first step taken by pro-PR bloggers is to run a campaign to boycott Mainstream Media for the duration of the campaign for reasons such as to prevent voters from being misled by the likes of Utusan, TV3 and The Star, and to ensure people will only listen to them. I don’t know how successful is the campaign since I don’t know the total number of newspaper sales in KT, I suppose it will increase since the number of people in KT maybe double the original number by now, filled with BN and PR people.
Is it true that people are relying on Internet as their main source of information? Well, it certainly hold for places like KL and Penang, but in this case, maybe less than half of KT voters read Malaysiakini, and what more Raja Petra’s Malaysia-Today. I know it is my wild guess but I would think mainstream medias are still relevant and being highly used by people in KT.
We can write anything in Internet, as exampled by the blog that insult our beloved prophet Muhammad s.a.w and at the same time trying to implicate a Malay, Muslim Malaysian woman as the person behind the blog. And do you remember Surind? He is the chap who think Muslim is wasting our time by performing Hajj, of note, he is taking a ‘long holiday’ from blogging after creating such chaos in the cyberworld.
And I wrote an article about how picture can be doctored to at least thinly implicate someone with negative message, and guess who admitted of having doctored a picture of ‘dinner for three in Paris’, an Opposition Member of Parliament of Malaysia. How low could we go to spread perceptions into voters mind, to propagate lies so that people may believe you, and in return will vote for you. Is that how low you will go for a vote.
This picture is taken from Malaysian Insider news portal, and it also appears in Raja Petra’s Malaysia-Today latest posting (link). Raja Petra captioned this picture with this statement “Children are very much in the thick of the campaigning”.
However, Malaysian Insider clarified that the boys found the flags on the football field blowned by wind, and picked them up and flagged it on their bicycles. Raja Petra intentionally leave this clarification behind to implicate that BN is 1. exploiting children in their campaigns and 2. practicing double standard against children who cycled for Jerit few weeks back. It is undeniably true that no one can match Raja Petra’s ability in using words and imaginations as their strongest weapon. I can just compare and leave the deciding job to the readers.
Do I need to remind you about the article showing “Najib’s picture” performing a Hindu ritual published in that very Malaysia-Today? Read my article here.
In another report by BERNAMA, Friendly Khairy-Wahid Encounter, I quote few statements from the report.
Khairy was also heard telling Mohd Abdul Wahid that he hoped PAS would not resort to personal attacks and some of the others present responded with “Let the best man win”.
“It was a friendly encounter. He (Mohd Abdul Wahid) said BN’s approach and campaign were good because no personal attacks were made on the candidates. We also congratulate him because both campaigns are mature and conducted in a good manner.”
He said there were PAS supporters who were not comfortable with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s presence and strategy of using personal attacks in the campaign.
“Some found it unacceptable for Anwar to liken Umno to Israel,” he added.
That shows political maturity of PAS and UMNO, that goes along with the past half a century age for both parties. Both are matured enough not to resort to personal attacks, character assassination and cheap politics to win voters heart. And this is a sign of political maturity. Well, to some, the only signals that are remitting are signals of desperation. Attacks were concentrated to personal traits like ‘muka sombong‘ and also trying to drag candidate’s family member into the campaign to taint candidate’s image. And we all know who practices that and we all know them well.
Some also tried hard to put pictures of big houses in KT, and simply link the bungalow owner with corruptions and monsoon cup and compare it with houses of the poor and unfortunate in KT. I suggest you not too do much cherry picking, you might mistakenly put a picture of PAS leaders’ houses instead of UMNO. Most of them drive Mercedes too.
Chinese as kingmakers, and UMNO as Israel?
Since we just talked about some ‘act of desperations’, by some of the hopefuls or should I say PM aspirant, sometimes the true colour surfaces. They can no longer hide behind their sweet talks and pity faces. What kind of a leader it is to likened a Muslim Malay ex-comrades similar to the cruel, unforgiving regime of Zionist Israel. Or is it because you think this can boost your chance to be the numero uno in the country, you are willing to do or say anything in your favour? In his defence, his loyal warrior, Tian Chua (the guy who doctored threesome in Paris picture, and lied about Anwar’s crossover bid (got a warning from Sivaji the Boss for that)) later denied that Anwar did mention UMNO is like Israel. Of course he didn’t mention in verbatim UMNO is Israel, but come on, KT people are not stupid, Malaysians can read and think. At least we know you lied when you say Anwar is going to be the Prime Minister on 16th of September.
Attempting to touch a sensitive chord among the mainly Muslim constituency here, he accused Umno, the main party in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, of acting like Israel.
“The leadership is busy collecting wealth. While Israel is punishing the Palestinian people for choosing Hamas, it is no different from Umno punishing Malaysians for choosing the Pakatan Rakyat,” he told a ceramah here on the first day of campaigning for the Kuala Terengganu by-election.
The flag-waving crowd cheered loudly during Anwar’s speech, punctuated with shouts of “Allahu Akbar”, which translates as “God is Great,” the standard clarion cry of the Pas faithful.
And shortly after that….
Should I say more?
Speaking about Raja Petra’s harping on Tionghuas as the real kingmaker behind this by-election, and PAS concentrated campaign at Kampung Cina area, in Bandar State Assembly, I think this strategy might backfire, though it can also be working perfectly well too. It depends on campaign to win the hearts of the Malays too, since Hudud issue is not a non-issue among Malay community, especially when this debate on Hudud is widening the existing crack in PR to a point which may surpass a beyond repair point. DAP walked back on Barisan Alternatif, a coalition with PAS, after PAS announce it’s declaration on Hudud few years back. Will they do that again? It’s a little bit harder this time, much will be taken into consideration since doing so, they DAP (PR) will lose Perak and maybe Selangor. The question now is, who will sacrifice it’s fundamental principle (Islamic country vs Secular Democratic) in favour of taste of power.
PKR’s stand on Hudud is Karpal’s dissapointment. PKR as usual will try it’s best not to appear to be in favour of anyone, well didn’t I always say that this pact is a marriage of convenience, not fundamental agreement and trust.
I shall leave this Hudud debate for KT voters to decide, the way I see it is, well it might not be written in the constitution that such law can be implemented unilaterally i.e bypassing parliament, and I sincerely think that this debate is going to be for many many years to come. And there’s nothing wrong in having a debate, of course without unnecessary labeling one party or another as anti-Islam etc. At least this Hudud issue shows that there are more works needed to be done by PR in order to be seen as a viable alternative to Barisan Nasional.
In few more days to come, there will be more signs of desperations displayed by both sides to win this battle. It may not be a do-or-die fight, but surely the result will bear a high implications on both winning and losing parties. Malaysia will change course post 17th January 2009. It’s either BN will regain people’s confidence and learn from the mistakes or PR’s continuing it’s distorted effort to topple the government to materialize ‘harapan baru’ of one man. A new hope after his previous hope to become PM was crushed by Dr. Mahathir Mohamed.
I’m critical of Anwar’s aspiration because I think he has a lot to answer to the people way before he ever think of taking over Putrajaya.
I know it’s such a unpopular move, especially in this world of blogs, but I am not a populist.