The contest has not even begun but the two rival candidates for the Pandan parliamentary seat have been exchanging barbed remarks and calling each other names like ‘political opportunist’ and ‘conundrum’.
Joceline Tan (The Star)
THE date of the next general election is still a matter of speculation but the two would-be candidates for the Pandan parliamentary seat in Selangor are already at each other’s throats.
Barisan Nasional incumbent Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat was obviously not amused by news that PKR wonder boy Rafizi Ramli is being slated for the seat.
As a result, Ong has called Rafizi a “political opportunist”, accusing him of “bearing empty promises” and of trying to take Pandan voters for a ride.
Rafizi has fired back, calling Ong a “conundrum”, a rather polite way of saying that no one can quite figure out what Ong is about.
If the fight does happen, Pandan will have to choose between the “opportunist” and the “conundrum”. Opinion out there is divided about the two personalities but most agree that it will be the fight to watch.
On his side, Ong, 58, has experience and a long track record that was quite distinguished until his brief but stormy stint as MCA president.
Ong is regarded as a problematic personality in MCA but well-placed sources have confirmed that the Barisan intends to keep him on in Pandan because the feedback is that he is winnable.
But that was before Rafizi came into the picture and Barisan will now have to reassess the situation.
Ong made a spectacular political debut in 1989 by defeating Datuk Harun Idris of Semangat 46 in a by-election in Ampang Jaya, before it was redelineated into Pandan and Ampang.
He has not looked back since and was among the handful of Chinese politicians in Barisan to survive the 2008 political tsunami.
Pandan is one of those urban mixed seats comprising 49% Malays, 45% Chinese and 5% Indians and other groups.
Ong won with a 2,900 vote-majority, although Teratai and Chempaka, the state seats under Pandan, fell to DAP and PAS.
“He is still popular on the ground; people say he is a good MP. He has core supporters there but it will be tough this time, especially against someone like Rafizi,” said a political associate of Ong.
The Terengganu-born Rafizi, as a PKR insider noted, has nothing to lose even though he is a newbie.
He is up there in terms of brains and potential and has carved a name for himself after his exposé of the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) issue.
Not everything he has said about the NFCorp issue has been correct or true but he uncovered the biggest scandal of the year.
The 34-year-old politician’s private life used to be a matter of some gossip because the well-to-do bachelor used to live alone with some cats. But he recently got married and is said to be ready for primetime politics.
His chief advantage is that he is a fresh face with a brand name. If he wins, it will propel him into the senior ranks of PKR.
There have been suggestions that PKR is playing games with Ong and is not serious about putting Rafizi there. But that may just be wishful thinking on Barisan’s part.
Rafizi would know better than toy with the expectation of voters. He would not have agreed to dangle his name in Pandan unless he is serious about contesting.
Ong’s stars are no longer as bright as before. In 2008, he was contesting as a deputy minister and an MCA vice-president.
Today, he is standing on what one might call no man’s land in his own party. He was MCA president for only 17 months during which he made more enemies than he could handle.
Shortly before he was ousted as MCA president, the influential Sin Chew Daily described him as the “worst president in the history of MCA”.
He is a hard-headed politician, is not good at taking advice and has been some sort of a “Lone Ranger” for much of his career. It is said he is determined to stand in Pandan regardless of whether he is fielded by Barisan or not.
Talk of him crossing to another party will remain just talk because Ong is aware that the new politics does not take kindly to people who jump ship for political gains.
DAP is said to be wary of him after watching the havoc he wreaked in MCA during the short time that he was in charge.
His challenge in Pandan this round is not only from Pakatan Rakyat but also from within the party.
His own party folk have seen how erratic and destructive he can be and he is unlikely to get the organisational support that he will need to win.
There are lots of questions surrounding the fight shaping up between the “conundrum” and the “opportunist”.
Does Ong still has what it takes to hold on to Pandan after six terms as an MP? And is Rafizi, despite his hot-shot reputation in PKR, fantastic enough to finish off Ong?
The answer is blowing in the wind.