Commentary Politics

In between the veterans there was a Cikgu Jabar and lawyer Razak

PRE GE13

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

One has contested in the same seat 11 times, another doesn’t seem to know where to settle down  while yet another went party-hopping but contested in the same seat.

There was also an untouchable independent, a candidate who won after quitting an established party in protest and surviving the 2013 Chinese tsunami and an opponent who didn’t know what giving up meant.


KUALA LUMPUR – March 25, 2018: Malaysia will be having its 14th general elections possibly within the next two months but since its first in 1955, the country’s political environment has had its fair share of colour and characters worth remembering and honouring.

Ku Li's record of 11 straight wins since 1969 in the same constituency may never be equalled or surpassed but the senior politician hasn't said that he'll be retiring soon.

Ku Li’s record of 11 straight wins since 1969 in the same constituency may never be equalled or surpassed but the senior politician hasn’t said that he’ll be retiring soon.

How many, for example, can claim to have come close to the achievements of Umno heavyweight Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who has won the Gua Musang parliamentary seat in 11 general elections since 1969?

The Kelantan prince, popularly referred to as Ku Li, will be 81 in April this year and first won Gua Musang when it was known as Ulu Kelantan Barat. He is now the country’s oldest elected official but has not firmly stated his intention to retire.

Such has been his hold on the seat that he also won it after leaving Umno and contesting under its splinter party, Semangat 46, in 1990 and 1995, following the Umno Team A – Team B acrimonious infighting against the Mahathir Mohamad leadership in 1987.

He rejoined Umno and contested in 1999 but his best electoral performance was in 1990 when he earned the support of 76.28 per cent of the constituents.

But where Ku Li knows how to sit still, it hasn’t been so with another veteran.

The DAP’s Lim Kit Siang started his parliamentary career in Bandar Melaka in 1969 and then went to Kota Melaka in 1974, Petaling in 1978, only to return to Kota Melaka in 1982.

Where Ku Li has stayed put in one constituency since 1969 Lim has made a habit of moving from one seat to the other.

Where Ku Li has stayed put in one constituency since 1969 Lim has made a habit of moving from one seat to the other.

Lim then moved to Tanjong in 1986 but unlike Razaleigh’s winning streak, the former was bested by Gerakan’s Chia Kwang Chye in Bukit Bendera in 1999.

Lim however staged a comeback in 2004 by scoring an easy victory in Ipoh Timor over MCA’s Thong Fah Chong.

If Lim moved from seat to seat, Datuk Ibrahim Ali hopped parties while contesting only in his home town of Pasir Mas. His party-hopping caused people to simply give him the uncomplimentary label of a frog.

He started in politics in Berjasa in 1978 but joined Umno three years later and contested in Pasir Mas in 1986 where he beat Zakaria Ismail of PAS.

Ibrahim hopped from Berjasa, to Umno, to Semangat 46, to Pas before finally forming Perkasa.

Ibrahim hopped from Berjasa, to Umno, to Semangat 46, to Umno again and then Pas before finally forming Perkasa.

Similar to Razaleigh, Ibrahim left Umno for S46 in 1988 and won big time, securing 20,066 votes or 65.06 per cent support.

But everything went downhill after he hopped back to Umno in 1991 and failed to retain Pasir Mas against S46’s Zainudin Mohamad Nor in 1995.

Ibrahim suffered another loss in 1999. He then quit Umno and contested as an independent in 2004 but his winning percentage slumped further.

It was not until he joined PAS and contested in 2008 did he manage to win again, securing 28,673 votes to beat BN’s Ahmad Rosdi Mahmad. A fallout with PAS led him to quit, after which he formed the right-wing Malay group Perkasa.

Such a stunt cost him dearly in 2013 when where he was defeated by Nik Abduh Nik Aziz of PAS.

Where Ibrahim fared badly as an independent, the late Batu Laut assemblyman Abdul Jabar Mohd. Yusof, also known as Cikgu Jabar, was the complete opposite.

Cikgu Jabar was untouchable as independent three elections in a row but lost it the moment he joined a party.

Cikgu Jabar was untouchable as independent three elections in a row but lost it the moment he joined a party.

The former Selangor Umno member was said to have decided to contest in his home turf in protest against Umno’s treatment of then Selangor mentri besar Datuk Harun Idris. 

Cikgu Jabar won Batu Laut – which was redelineated as Tanjong Sepat in 2004 – as an independent three times in a row — in 1974, 1978 and 1982. This was a feat that has yet to be equalled or surpassed by any independent until today.

His political career though ended after he joined the now-defunct Malaysian Nationalist Party or Nasma in 1986, losing badly to BN’s Sairun Abdul Hamid.

Another Umno man who contested as an independent in protest was Johor Bahru’s outspoken MP Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad, who did so in 1988.

Shahrir was one who went against the tide to win as an independent in 1988 and then triumphed again in 2013 despite the so-called Chinese tsunami.

Shahrir was one who went against the tide to win as an independent in 1988 and then triumphed again in 2013 despite the so-called Chinese tsunami.

Shahrir, who was a political secretary to Tun Musa Hitam when he was a junior minister in 1973 and then-prime minister Tun Abdul Razak in 1976, resigned and contested in a by-election following a fallout with then Umno president Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. And he won big time, securing 23,581 votes or 64.06 per cent in a multiple-cornered fight.

The result was not entirely surprising considering that Shahrir has never once lost the Johor Bahru seat since his electoral debut in 1978. Shahrir even managed to weather the so-called Chinese tsunami in the last general elections.

Of course when one talks about Shahrir, there must also be mention on his most frequent challenger, the late Abdul Razak Ahmad of the now-defunct Malaysia’s People Socialist Party.

The two went against each other three times — in 1982, 1986 and 1988, with Razak losing badly except in 1986, when Shahrir won by about six per cent support.

Razak contested in many general elections since the 1970s but never tasted victory.

Razak contested in many general elections since the 1970s but never tasted victory.

Razak, who had a cult-like following in Johor, contested in virtually every general election from the 1970s but never tasted success.

The closest he came to winning was in 1986 when he lost to a BN candidate in the Tanjung Puteri state constituency by just 22 votes.

Razak, who died in August 2007, had a radical streak in him. In 1986 he decided to lie on the railway track in Johor Bahru in an attempt to stop a Singapore-bound train in protest against the visit of then Israeli president Chaim Herzog to Singapore.

Singapore banished him in 1966 for allegedly inciting student riots at the University of Singapore, where he was studying law.

A popular opposition politician many years ago was Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, who became the country’s youngest elected representative when he was 23 years old by beating MCA’s Loong Poh Pin in 1969 for the Bukit Nanas state seat.

I never thought of amassing money and enriching myself when I became one. I only thought about serving the people.... that’s all there was to it,” said Lee.

“I never thought of amassing money and enriching myself when I became one. I only thought about serving the people…. that’s all there was to it,” said Lee.

(Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was slightly younger when he became the MP for Pekan left vacant after his father Tun Abdul Razak’s death in 1976 but he won it uncontested when a potential challenger opted out after the  Sultan of Pahang stated that he would want Najib to take over from his father.)

The Bukit Nanas seat was absorbed into the Bukit Bintang parliamentary constituency after Kuala Lumpur became a federal territory in 1974.

In his first parliamentary election in 1974, Lee, who was with the DAP, won big against Gerakan’s Yap Fook Hing, scoring 37,393 votes or 83.76 per cent support.

Lee was said to be immensely popular in Bukit Bintang, especially amongst the underprivileged, petty traders and hawkers.

Some recalled that it was normal to see Lee with a member of the community at a coffee shop or hawker stall, with the politician composing an appeal letter or recommendation on his manual typewriter. He was also well-liked by journalists, particularly those who covered the KL beat.

In fact, Lee was so well-liked by everyone regardless of race that some said that “Kalau Lee Lam Thye lawan di Kampung Baru pun dia boleh menang!” (If Lee Lam Thye contests in Kampung Baru (a Malay enclave) he will still win.”)

“I have always wanted to be a wakil rakyat (elected official) since I was in school. I came from a very poor family so I thought it was only through being a wakil rakyat that I can help the people.

“I never thought of amassing money and enrich myself when I became one. I only thought about serving the people that’s all there was to it,” Lee told The Mole.

Lee’s stint in politics however was cut short after he left DAP in 1990 and retired from politics to be a non-partisan social activists.

Although, Lee never explicitly disclosed why he left DAP, press reports indicated that he was coerced to quit because DAP leaderships saw him as being too friendly with the establishment.

He was succeeded by Wee Choo Keong who won Bukit Bintang with a lower winning percentage in 1990.

Similar to Lee, Wee was booted out from DAP in 1998 after being accused of damaging the party’s image.


Information gathered also by Ahirul Ahirudin and Nadhirah Sofea.

 

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at [email protected]