Pakatan hoping sailors swing their way in Lumut

Clara Chooi, TMI

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s visit to the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) base here this week might have boosted the MCA’s Datuk Seri Kong Cha Ha’s chances but the incumbent is feeling the heat from PKR’s Mohamad Imran Abd Hamid, a just-retired navy first admiral who once commanded a fleet of 2,000 sailors in the base.

Fielding the former PAS member in Lumut was a strategic move by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR and according to party insiders last night, the sharp-tongued Mohamad Imran’s entry into the fray has helped increase PR’s support here, especially in the military vote.

“Our numbers indicate Lumut is good,” party strategist Rafizi Ramli told The Malaysian Insider. “I think Lumut is in the bag if we continue like this.”

In Election 2008, Kong scraped through in Lumut by a hair’s breadth, with a razor-thin majority of just 298 votes.

Many said it was the coastal constituency’s large number of postal votes — nearly 13,000 or 14 per cent of the 88,473-strong electorate — that had saved the then deputy minister and Barisan Nasional (BN) from an upset defeat.

But today, Kong is facing an even more formidable opponent in the stern 59-year-old Mohamad Imran, who served a lengthy 37 years in the naval base until his retirement on April 1, 2010.

When met at a function yesterday in Pasir Panjang, a state seat in Lumut, Kong did not repeat his reported criticism of Mohamad Imran for being a parachute candidate.

Instead, he told The Malaysian Insider that the Klang-born Mohamad Imran is a formidable enough opponent, having stayed in Sitiawan for over two decades since his time in the navy.

“Not really,” he said when pointed out that Mohamad Imran is not local. “He has stayed here for more than 20 years.”

Kong, always a man of few words, had also recently admitted to The Malaysian Insider that the Lumut contest would not be an easy one, but would not say why.

“Every fight is difficult,” he said.

Kong’s cold feet and fraying nerves in the BN camp have seen the ruling pact in a bit of a fluster.

Dr Mahathir, BN’s de facto chief campaigner, was sent into the naval base yesterday to calm the storm, while Mohamad Imran found himself blocked at the gates later that night when he attempted to perform prayers at the mosque within the base.

Political campaigns are forbidden within the naval base. Under their standing instructions, navy personnel are allowed to attend political events outside camp but cannot hold party memberships or be actively involved in any party activity.

According to news reports on Dr Mahathir’s visit, the former prime minister trumpeted BN’s successes to some 2,000 navy officers before warning them that the country’s budget for the military would be cut under Pakatan Rakyat (PR) rule.

But Mohamad Imran said the alleged attempts at spreading fear of PR to these voters would not work.

“I am convinced… not this time. From the programmes they (BN) have done in the base, there is an indication of protest.

“They know it’s not their job to listen to Perkasa speak,” he told The Malaysian Insider during a brief interview when met while on his ceramah circuit in Kampung Serdang last night.

He lamented that his “boys” from the camp have been forbidden from attending his ceramahs by their superiors, although they are allowed to do so.

“These two-stars, three-star superiors… right up to the Defence Ministry. And now, they are treating me like the enemy saying — Oh, he’s joining PAS, Pakatan is the enemy.

“They are doing a lot of things, talking bad about me. But I say, my boys can think,” he said.

“I was the commanding officer for one unit. Under me, there was about 2,000 people.

“They know me. I was fair to them. I facilitated them to be promoted. I did not simply charge them but punished them sometimes based on Muslim law,” he continued.