Despite some awkwardness, the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) led by influential blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin has pledged to help the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) campaign in the Tenang by-election.
The vocal editor of the Malaysia Today website has been at loggerheads with PR’s leadership lately but appears to have put their ideological differences on the backburner to focus on their common cause — prevent yet another Barisan Nasional (BN) win in the January 30 vote.
“The PAS Representative Council of UK & Eire, Friends of Pakatan Rakyat, and the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM), are jointly helping to raise funds for the Tenang by-election in Johor."
“MCLM will also be campaigning in the by-election,” the London-based movement’s chief announced today in his “No Holds Barred” column.
RPK, as he is popularly called, added the group’s campaign on the ground will be headed by fellow blogger, Bernard Khoo.
The MCLM was registered in London two months ago and is widely seen as a “Third Force” in Malaysia’s fledgling two-party political system.
RPK was silent on whether the MCLM’s two named candidates for the next general elections, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar and Sreekant Pillai, would be going down to the ground as well.
Malik told The Malaysian Insider he had not been included in the campaign and had no plans to turn up in Tenang to support the PR candidate.
“I’m not in MCLM. I think MCLM can deal with it,” the lawyer and human rights activist said.
But he did not rule out the chance of getting involved later on.
“It’s a possibility,” Malik said.
Khoo — who blogs on the website “Zorro Unmasked” — dismissed the view that existing tensions between his grassroots’ group and the opposition pact would cripple the campaign from the get-go.
“All along, we’ve always aligned ourselves to Pakatan. We’ve always said we’ll back them and we want to go by what we have always said since the beginning,” he told The Malaysian Insider today.
“The main thing is to gear up for GE13,” he added, when asked why PR would willingly team-up with the grassroots’ group that had exposed its biggest weaknesses and provided fodder to its political rivals.
“When the time comes, we’ll talk about it,” he said repeatedly, when asked how MCLM would be able to convince Tenang voters that the PR candidate would be the better choice to represent them than anyone fielded by the ruling coalition.
He stressed that it was “very important to show numbers on nomination day” if PR was to make any headway in Tenang, considered a BN stronghold.
Tenang is one of two state seats in the Labis parliamentary constituency; the other is Bekok, held by Tan Kok Hong who is also from BN.
The MP is Chua Tee Yong, son of MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
The Tenang seat fell vacant following the death of its BN assemblyman, Datuk Sulaiman Taha, on December 17.
Khoo said he had put together a team of 10 people so far who would be focusing to win support from the sizeable Chinese community through house-to-house visits.
Figures from the Election Commission show that the Chinese make up 39 per cent of the 14,753 voter population.
The Malay voters form 47.5 per cent while Indians account for 12 per cent; a minute 1.5 per cent of voters consist of other races.
The MCLM members who are mostly members of the online alternative news community will be busy uploading local news once the candidates are named to counter the news supplied by the mainstream media, Khoo said.
“It’ll be just like in Kuala Terengganu,” Khoo remarked.
The Tenang by-election marks the 14th time voters return to the ballot box since the 2008 general elections. Nomination day is on January 22.