Big momentum for the rakyat

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

It was wet and cold but the thousands of PAS supporters who turned up in the football field fronting the town council near the Lake Gardens here last night were far from miserable.

They had been keeping tabs on the Bukit Gantang by-election results through mobile phones and knew their candidate had won. But they were not certain of the majority, and were simply impatient for the Election Commission to announce the official results of the by-election.

They kept their blood from freezing in the rain by singing Islamic religious songs, cheering and waving the “white moon” flags at the lone helicopter circling the night sky above the field.

Finally, the figure was announced: Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin from PAS had trumped Ismail Saffian the Barisan Nasional (BN) nominee by 2,789 votes, almost double the majority gained by his predecessor.

Fireworks lit up the inky darkness. The crowd roared in jubilation: “Nizar! Nizar! Nizar! Nizar! Allahuakbar! Takbir!”

Bukit Gantang had voted, and they had voted in favour of the Pakatan Rakyat (PR), whom they had elected into office in last year’s general election.

For many in the crowd that night, it was a “big momentum for the rakyat”, as one supporter shouted out while hurrying home in the quickening rain.

“This is a very strong signal from the people that they reject corruption, but they want democracy and they want a free and fair election,” Nizar had said in his victory speech last night.From the very beginning, Nizar and his PR team had pushed the by-election as a “referendum” for Perak. They had been elected into office on March 8 last year and ended up unceremoniously booted out of office by the BN after 10 months.

An Indian local, who wanted to be known only as Megan, affirmed Nizar’s statement. He hoped the Sultan of Perak would take this cue and reconsider dissolving the State legislature to pave the way for fresh elections, in the best interests of the public.

“We must make BN fall down already. The people have had enough already. 2009 is for the new government,” the 37-year-old told The Malaysian Insider as he wound his way home between the cars, bikes and SUVs tooting each other joyfully in greeting.

He scoffed at the promise of reforms from newly-installed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, which triggered Monday’s release of two Hindu Action Rights Force (HINDRAF) leaders who had been detained for over a year in the Kamunting camp nearby under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA).

“What promise?” he sneered, and criticised the release as an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the Indian community.

Megan said Najib may have realised the need for reform, but added the new premier will never be able to carry it out if he continues to retain people who are linked to corruption in his administration.

Mohd Ali from Tanjung Malim who had turned up to show his support for PAS said the results showed the younger public was no longer willing to tolerate corruption.

Full of conspiracy theories, he warned there would likely be repercussions from this latest round of election losses. But the rakyat would be ready to face them, he added.

The younger generation of voters were growing savvier about politics and better educated to filter out information, he said, pointing to the growing cyber network in support of PR.