PONTIAN – November 13, 2019: A dark brown antique Raleigh bicycle hangs on a concrete beam of the exhibition hall of what is claimed to be Malaysia’s only Bugis museum and it being there is odd and seems out of place given its British-origin.
But the museum’s owner and curator Abdullah Ahmad had chosen to display the rustic bicycle simply because of the Bugis ancestry of its late owner, Datuk Onn Jaafar – the founder of Umno.
“It is still usable. See, the wheels and chain still click when moved,” said Abdullah amidst an echo of mechanical ticking that filled the hall as he gently spun the rear wheel into motion.
The museum, which sits next to the Sungai Rambah estuary and faces the Straits of Malacca, is Abdullah’s labour of love for his Bugis ancestry. It holds an array of Bugis trinkets, weapons, farming tools and earthen wares.
Initially started out as a private venture, the management of Abdullah’s museum is assisted by the Johor government.
The 75-year-old historian said this was a welcomed change given its increasingly costly upkeep.
While all seem well now, there was a time when Abdullah was ill-at-ease over the fate of his museum and it happened a week after Pakatan Harapan won last year’s national elections.
He related how one day after the elections two men in suits who parked their posh cars in front of the museum were discussing how to relocate it.
One of the duo was a well-known politician who Abdullah declined to name.
“They didn’t realise that I was within earshot. Can you imagine it? It was only a week after they won and they were already planning these kinds of shenanigans,” Abdullah recalls.
In GE14, Johor was among the six states that Barisan Nasional had lost to Pakatan, which was an unprecedented defeat given BN’s previous stranglehold of the three southern states of Melaka, Negri Sembilan and Johor.
Pakatan won 36 of the 56 state seats in Johor and parties that never had any foothold in the state, such as PKR and Pribumi Bersatu, made significant inroads.
This Saturday, voters in Tanjung Piai, one of Pakatan’s 18 parliamentary seats in Johor, will go to the polls, the fifth by-election this year.
This by-election comes on the back of Pakatan’s three defeats in Cameron Highlands, Semenyih and Rantau, which indicates the coalition’s loss of political momentum and popularity.
While six candidates are contesting, the real contest is expected to be between Pakatan’s Karmaine Sardini and BN’s Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng – an old hand who won the seat in 2008 and 2013.
And as it is, Wee seems to have a considerable competitive advantage given his previous track record with the locals whereas Karmaine is being bogged down by an array of blunders that Pakatan had committed since it formed the government.
“The Malay support for BN is solid this time around, whereas the Chinese are unhappy and are planning to stage a protest vote against Pakatan. They have nothing to lose as this election isn’t going to change the government,” said a Johor-based journalist who has been covering the Tanjung Piai campaign trail since day one.
Malays make-up 57 per cent of the electorate, with the majority appearing unhappy with Pakatan’s unfilled election promises and governance failures which has provided BN the ammunition at every campaign rally.
“Even the prime minister (Dr. Mahathir Mohamad) admitted that they did not expect to win when they made their election manifesto…that it was only done to add trouble to BN,” said Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan at a rally last night.
The villagers who attended the rally listened attentively to Mohamad’s simplified explanation of the mega sale of the country’s national assets, the 300-point crash of Malaysia’s share market which resulted in RM200 billion being wiped out and how the national debt had increased by over RM100 billion in just 18 months.
But the sound bite that really resonated well with villagers was how the government had taken billions of ringgit from Tabung Haji and put it under a special purpose vehicle owned by the Ministry of Finance whose minister is DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng.
“DAP has waited for 60 years to be the government. They have been biding their time to splurge the money that BN had accrued. And, now their dream has come true,” said Mohamad.