It was an exciting Tuesday, April 7, 2009 for me. And I had earlier predicted a sure win for PR at Bukit Gantang, and a win for BN at Batang Ai. And that makes it one – one, a draw. But I was a bit doubtful as to which party wins at Bukit Selembau. And if either one party wins, it will be two - one. That was what I predicted the final tally to be, and it could go either way; BN or PR.
It surprised me, that despite the assurance by Samy Vellu that his candidate will come out the undisputed winner, the reverse happened and PR won, surprisingly with an increased majority. As usual, Samy blamed others except himself for the defeat. He claimed that the support for the BN candidate was good initially, but it waned later for no obvious reason. Some said that the reason for the sudden loss of support for the BN candidate was caused by Samy himself. They say that he should not have showed himself up at Bukit Selembau at all. The Indians there are just fed-up of him.
To most, be they UMNO or non UNMO members, Bukit Gantang was an uphill task for the BN. The reception towards PR candidate Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin during the nomination day was in itself an indication of his popularity with the voters. Had the BN fielded Zambry as its candidate, it was no guarantee that he could win. Many had said that the BN’s loss would be even larger if Zambry was fielded, as the tide of anger towards him (though no fault of his), for being a party to the prevailing political crisis in Perak, has yet to subside.
Batang Ai was undoubtedly a clear win for the BN from the start. The interior of Sarawak has always had a strong following for being pro-government, and the presence of the opposition party in these areas have not been felt. This has always been so, because even before the existence of PR, other state opposition parties were deemed insignificant to be of any threat to the ruling party.
Furthermore, the awareness towards politics in rural Sarawak is still in its ‘infancy’, and the various agencies of government that operates in the interior are sometimes seen as being synonymous with the ruling party. There is therefore no clear distinction between the agencies of government and political parties.
The two – one win in favour of PR must have surprised the BN, and this despite the pro-BN stance of all the mainstream media, and the last minute appearance of Tun Dr. Mahathir to boost support for the BN candidate in Bukit Gantang. Najib’s appointment as the new Prime Minister, and his immediate release of some ISA detainees and the reinstatement of the printing license for Harakah and Suara Keadilan dailies, did little to garner support for the BN.
BN’s successive losses in the by-elections at Permatang Pauh, Kuala Trengganu, Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selembau ought not to be taken too lightly by the BN. There has to be something serious that voters have distance themselves from the ruling party. It is pointless for BN leaders to claim that the people have misunderstood the party. It is also pointless to say that UMNO leaders must change, without actually stating in no uncertain terms what the changes are.
And if I were to be asked what is actually wrong with UMNO leaders today, my immediate response is that they all ought to improve their public relation image, mannerism and public speaking. Some don’t even want to smile when answering questions from the public. They look at the questioner as a threat, hence their reaction to the questioner is to show them a sullen and angry face.
The more serious change is to prove to the public that UMNO leaders are free of corruption, and this is about the most difficult thing to do. For as long as UMNO politicians are not able to shed this ugly perception of them, then they will continue to be despised and rejected by the public. Najib must have the will and courage to sack anyone from within his party, regardless of his/her position, that is known to be corrupt. He must quickly relieve them of their duties, and never to say the famous quote that ‘they are innocent until proven guilty’. Isn’t these the words uttered by some UMNO leaders recently?
I hope the losses suffered by the BN/UMNO in the recently held by-elections, serves as a lesson to all, and it is left to BN/UMNO leaders now to made serious amends, if they seriously want to see the party win the next general elections.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION
Posted at 9.45 pm on April 8, 2009