GE13: Ghani taking on Kit Siang 

(The Star) – Titanic fights are looming on the horizon, barely a day after the dissolution of Parliament with challenges being thrown to some of the biggest names in Malaysian politics.

In Johor, speculation is mounting that DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang may not have the easy passage he is expecting in Gelang Patah.

Several state Umno leaders have taken the radical step of asking Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman to square off with Lim.

In Perak, Barisan Nasional leaders say they will make sure that PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim loses if he contests in the state.

The main attention, however, is on the DAP bid for Gelang Patah, which is key to the Pakatan Rakyat campaign strategy in Johor, which it regards as a frontline state.

Johor Barisan MPs believe that Ghani is the ideal and most credible candidate to fight the DAP heavyweight in what has been deemed “the hottest seat in Johor”.

Datuk Puad Zarkashi of Batu Pahat said Ghani would be the game-changer needed in Barisan’s defence of Gelang Patah and Johor in the 13th general election. He said the contest would allow Ghani to defend his legacy in Johor.

Puad, who is Deputy Education Minister, noted that Gelang Patah is the site of Iskandar Malaysia, the country’s most prestigious development project which was launched under Ghani’s watch. The new state capital in Nusajaya is also within Gelang Patah.

“We hope he will consider it (contesting in Gelang Patah) because he pioneered all these projects. He is the most suitable person to defend what we have in Johor,” Puad said.

The 66-year-old Ghani has been Mentri Besar since 1995. It is understood that he had informed the Prime Minister that he did not mind offering himself as the Gelang Patah candidate.

Gelang Patah is an MCA seat but a party insider said the proposal could be discussed even though MCA division chief Datuk Jason Teoh has been forwarded as the candidate.

The insider agreed that the Mentri Besar was popular among the Chinese and had a good chance of winning the seat, which has 53% Chinese voters, 34% Malays and 13% Indians.

Johor Baru MP Tan Sri Shahrir Samad said Ghani’s style of politics reflected the “Johor way” of doing things. “DAP’s racial politics and divisiveness are not going to be good for Johor. Voters should be given the choice whether they want the Johor way or DAP’s racial way.

“It is important for Johor to maintain and protect what has been Johor’s trademark in race relations. We have been able to depoliticise issues like Chinese education.

“Our Chingay festival goes back 150 years and soon the Foon Yew High School will celebrate its 100th anniversary. We are proud of these traditions,” said Shahrir.

The idea also had the support of Nusajaya assemblyman Datuk Aziz Sapian who said that Ghani had always enjoyed a warm relationship with the Chinese in Johor. He said Ghani also had good working ties with the Johor Chinese groups and associations which looked up to his leadership.

However, Deputy Defence Minister and Mersing MP Datuk Dr Latif Ahmad said there was no need to make Lim look so important.

Meanwhile, reports that Anwar was likely to contest in Perak met with swift response from Barisan, with Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi declaring that the coalition would “bury” the PKR leader in the state.

Ahmad Zahid, who is Bagan Datoh MP, said Anwar’s intention to contest in Perak would not scare anyone in Umno and that it would be lawan tetap lawan (fight to the end), regardless of whether it is Anwar or anyone else who takes on Umno in Perak.

Anwar’s plan to quit Permatang Pauh for another seat in Perak has sparked speculation that he was not confident of holding on to his old constituency, which has more than 71% Malay voters, and that he was looking for a Perak seat with Chinese voters to carry him through.

Officially though, his reason for moving south is to lend his weight to Pakatan Rakyat in Perak now that Lim is moving to Johor.

Ahmad Zahid said Anwar would not dare to contest in any of the Umno seats in Perak because “we will make sure he is defeated”.