Nizar: Malays are back with us

Perak’s former menteri besar says that PAS is gradually reeling in the Malay votes there.

(Free Malaysia Today) – Malay majority areas in Perak have been fierce battlegrounds for Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat for the past three years.

With most of the 24 marginal state seats located in these areas the Malay electorate’s support is vital for the opposition coalition to reclaim the government that it lost in February 2009.

Pakatan suffered not only an excruciating handing back of the state to BN but also a sharp blow to the reputation of its menteri besar, Nizar Jamaluddin, who was scorned as a “DAP puppet” and a “traitor” to the Perak sultan for refusing a royal order to vacate his post.

Pakatan scrambled to get back on its feet but a year later Nizar admitted that both he and the coalition were unable to enter remote Malay areas where they most needed to set the record straight.

At the time Pakatan gauged that its popularity among rural Malay voters had dipped 7-8 % from the 40% it had enjoyed in the previous general election.

In February last year, PAS state treasurer Abdul Rahim Ariff was quoted in a Wikileaks report as saying that if elections were held there and then, Malay votes would split evenly between Umno and PAS unlike in March 2008 when there was a clear swing of Malay votes towards PAS and PKR.

Tide is changing again

But the tide appeared to be changing yet again. In an interview with FMT last week, Nizar said that PAS’ steady groundwork was paying off with Malay electorate support flowing back in its direction.

The Bukit Gantang MP and his party had finally broken the seal on the doors into Felda and Felcra where they were going all out to keep it open.

“There is a taskforce within PAS and PKR focusing solely on Felda issues and working closely with the Felda central committee,” Nizar said.

“We’ve been working on six Felda sites so far and are slowly inching deeper into the region. And what we’ve found is that the objection towards PAS isn’t as strong as before.”

Three elements lie behind this shift. The first is the relationship PAS had forged with the second generation of Felda settlers who were currently living outside their settlement and exposed to news sources beyond the mainstream spectrum.

“These youth are those who are bringing back our messages to their parents and convincing them to take a different point of view,” Nizar said.

The second element is the redemption of PAS and Nizar’s image through the re-telling of the coup d’etat through Pakatan’s eyes.

“Umno’s justification was that I represented a Chinese government and it would retain a Malay one,” Nizar stated. “Remote Malay village communities agreed and condoned Umno’s actions.”

“Over time they forgot about it but we have been reminding them through VCDs, flyers and ceramahs. And when we explained it in their language they began to understand. So this issue would continue to be the prime agenda of all our ceramahs.”