November 16, 2019
A commentary by Zaidi Azmi
FIERY rhetoric and excitable sound bites are a trite mainstay in all political rally and this precisely why a low-key talk on November 12 in a sleepy village called Kampung Parit Rambai Hulu, Tanjung Piai, was refreshing.
Instead of harping solely on Pakatan Harapan’s blunders, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan wove a soberingly humble take on Barisan Nasional’s defeat in last year’s May 9 national poll during his ‘ceramah’ for the Tanjung Piai by-election with the villagers there.
He did not delve into specifics. Just bits and bobs of hints that anyone who listened would have eventually understood the point that he was trying to get across — that it was over the arrogance, opulence and big-headedness of Umno and Barisan.
“We didn’t lose because Pakatan was strong. We lost because God wanted to teach us, Barisan, a lesson,” Mohamad reflected, adding that the coalition that ruled Malaysia for 60 years was partly to be blamed for its unprecedented loss.
A pregnant pause. None of his audience made any sound. They just nodded in agreement and continued to look at Mohamad attentively, as if they were waiting for more rounds of reality checks.
Mohamad, the deputy president of Umno, is probably the only high-ranking leader in the party to have ever admitted that Pakatan’s supposed lies against Barisan were not the sole factor that had caused the latter’s defeat.
“There was an Umno MP from Kedah who lives in TTDI (when BN was still the government). I asked him how often he goes back to his constituency, he answered: ‘kadang-kadang’ (sometimes). This is wrong, it should not be the way,” Mohamad continued.
While it had suffered a trouncing defeat in 2018, Barisan’s popularity has surged since early this year where it won three of four by-elections after it partnered Pas – the Islamist party that used to be its archrival.
Today, Barisan is contesting in its fifth electoral bout; a six-way-battle of which its real competitor is the incumbent coalition –Pakatan– that had wrested the constituency from Barisan with a razor-thin majority of 500 votes in last year’s national poll.
As it is, the voters seemed to prefer Barisan’s candidate, Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng given his proven track record of manning the Tanjung Piai constituency since he won it in the 2008 and 2013 general elections.
Pakatan, on the other hand, has been bogged down with its gaffes where Barisan had a field day reminding voters here of the ruling coalition’s incompetence as a government.
Flying cars, a spoonful of palm oil a day, soft-tissue injury, hotel debts and black school shoes were the frequent ammunitions that Barisan has been deploying in every political rally in Tanjung Piai which resonated well with the locals.
“Our aviation standard was recently downgraded from category 1 to 2. Ladies and gentlemen, do you know what this mean? We are now on the same level with Bangladesh, Ghana and Costa Rica,” said former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak at Barisan’s final rally last night.
But whether cherry-picking Pakatan’s flaw is enough to woo voters into voting Barisan again is still anybody’s guess because Pakatan has been upping its game ever since a series of embarrassing incidences that the DAP had endured during last week’s campaigns.
Few turned up at a rally which featured high-profile DAP leaders such as Gobind Singh Deo, Teo Nie Ching and Lim Kit Siang. Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng was even heckled at one rally where the locals even had the audacity to wave the MCA flag right in front of him.
Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong had it worst.
“Backdoor minister!” was the chant shouted by the majority of the Chinese locals during a DAP walkabout here last week, referring to Liew who became minister by virtue of being a senator instead of an elected parliamentarian.
It was an ironically apt jeer given Liew had once called MCA’s Chong Sin Woon the very same thing when the latter was made a deputy minister courtesy of his senatorship instead of winning the 2013 general election.
But the locals – especially the Chinese – most eyebrow-raising supposed act of defiance against Pakatan throughout the campaign period was the Wednesday-night walkout during Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s keynote address at Pakatan’s so-called mega rally.
“They sat through all the speakers except Dr Mahathir’s, which was the closing number. It is as if they purposely did that to send the old man a message right smack in his face,” said a party worker from Pribumi Bersatu who had witnessed the incident.