PONTIAN – November 14, 2019: The sea breeze was a tad colder than usual and the cloudy skies atop the Kukup Laut small seaside town was rumbling throughout Pakatan Harapan’s so-called mega-rally last night for the Tanjung Piai by-election.
The occasional droplet of water seemed to indicate that it might rain but fortunately for Pakatan there was no downpour by the time its chairman Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad walked to the rostrum to deliver his speech.
At first all was well but several minutes later an eyebrow-raising incident happened. Scores of locals, mostly Chinese, were seen leaving.
Some were noted leaving with a scowl on their face as Mahathir was pleading on stage for people to vote for Pakatan candidate Karmaine Sardini this Saturday.
“We need more time. Five years. Pakatan needs five years to rectify the damage [done by Barisan Nasional]. The opposition cannot give you anything, it is better to pick those who have strong ties with the establishment,” Mahathir implored as more started making their exit.
The locals’ early exit was a tell-tale sign of Mahathir’s weakening gravitas and Pakatan’s deteriorating popularity and momentum.
For the Chinese community in Tanjung Piai, the issue that seemed to have caused them much dismay was the government’s refusal to allocate funds for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College so long as the MCA does not sever ties with the institution.
To those unfamiliar, Tar UC along with Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman were founded by the MCA. It is to the Chinese what Universiti Teknologi Mara is to the Malays.
“The poor and underprivileged need an education institution such as Tar UC and Utar. The government should not politicise this issue. These are the few institutes of higher learning which offer tuition fees that are 30 per cent cheaper than other places,” said Barisan Nasional candidate Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng of the MCA.
Despite being responsible over the matter, the allocation issue was a topic that Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng – who is also DAP’s secretary-general – did not speak about at last night’s rally.
Instead it was Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Minister Datuk Saifuddin Nasution of PKR who directed the crowd’s attention on how the two institutions will receive government allocation if half of its boards of trustees were non-political individuals.
“Tian Chua (a PKR politician who is also the special adviser to the Works Minister) and I already met the board of trustees to ask them to comply with the ruling… they just simply refused to do it,” Saifuddin told the crowd.
Amidst the usual electoral sales pitches by the other speakers, fliers that attempted to clarify the purported misinformation over the appalling current performance of Malaysia’s palm oil sector were also disseminated to the crowd.
The price of palm oil is a hot topic in Tanjung Piai, even more so given the commodity’s prolonged low price has badly hit the predominantly agricultural constituency.
Pakatan had courted intense flak last week after Karmaine told smallholders to be grateful when palm oil fruits were priced at RM270 per tonne. The price has already gone down to RM240.
The fliers at last night’s rally claimed that the price of palm oil and exports to Malaysia’s biggest palm oil buyers — India and China — have increased since 2018. It however did not mention where it sourced the facts and figures from.
Such a claim was odd as it contradicted data by Malaysian Palm Oil Board and the Ministry of International Trade and Investments which stated that palm oil export to India has dropped by 60 per cent between last August and October.
“If all is indeed well why did Teresa Kok (Primary Industries Minister) tell us to also plant pineapples?” was the rhetorical poser of a smallholder from Pekan Nanas.