Mah touches base, Dyana stumbles and falls


This is exactly the way DAP leaders speak about Umno leaders. But when it comes out of the mouth of a young Malay woman, it can sound very wrong.

Joceline Tan, The Star

DATUK Seri Mah Siew Keong was still in the navy blue shirt that he wore to cast his vote when his car arrived at the Gerakan base camp at about 11pm to jubilant cheers.

The fact that he voted in the by-election spoke of his ties to Teluk Intan – the Barisan Nasional man was born and bred there and he had continued to serve the constituency even when he was out in the political wilderness.

In contrast, DAP’s Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud could not even vote for herself because she had parachuted into town on the eve of the polls.

Yet, everyone had thought she would win. It was somewhat like love at first sight except that the infatuation faded rather too quickly.

The first to fall out of love were the journalists covering her.

They realised after a few days that Dyana’s intellect did not quite measure up to her looks.

She kept to a few well-rehearsed lines beyond which senior DAP leaders such as Lim Kit Siang would reach for the microphone to answer on her behalf.

Dyana has potential but she does not have a sharp learning curve and some reporters even joked that Lim was the real candidate.

One spunky reporter decided to corner her while she was campaigning in town.

Dyana dodged the reporter, who in her frustration, asked why she was afraid to answer the question.

The beautiful face slipped briefly and the reporter was rewarded with a scowl. It was not even a tough question, just something about electricity tariff rates in Perak given that Dyana had pledged to speak out on cost of living issues.

There have been all kinds of discussion out there claiming that Dyana lost because of race-based voting. Her race and religion were definitely factors – that is the reality of Malaysian politics.

But it is much more likely that a large number who voted for Barisan Nasional could see that Mah was more capable of delivering what Teluk Intan folk need – local jobs, better municipal services, business incentives and facilities for the young.

While Dyana went on national issues such as opposing GST, corruption and hudud, Mah went for issues that locals could relate to such as promoting tourism and making the town’s “leaning tower” or Menara Condong a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The last two MPs from DAP had survived largely on anti-Umno rhetoric and local folk told Wanita Umno campaigners that they were “fed-up with empty talk”.

Dyana was well received wherever she went and everyone raved about how she was making waves among the young voters. But where were the young voters on polling day?

The choice of Dyana was a bold DAP experiment that was aimed at burnishing its claims as a multi-racial party and to show its critics that the Malays do not reject it.

But it was obvious DAP leaders are quite clueless about Malay customs and thinking. How could they have thought that they could get Malay support with a candidate who vows to vote against hudud?

It offended PAS members and some of them have been sending out SMSes, attributing the loss to her objection to hudud and implying that she has been punished not only by voters but by Allah.

Her opening salvo against the Malay policies of her alma mater UiTM was also in poor taste. As the Chinese say, it was like someone trying to poison the well from where they had quenched their thirst.

Running down Wanita Umno leader Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil as having done nothing for women was another mistake. Shahrizat is the head of a women’s movement with 1.3 million members and Dyana came across as rather arrogant for her outlandish claim.

Actually, this is exactly the way DAP leaders speak about Umno leaders. But when it comes out of the mouth of a young Malay woman, it can sound very wrong.

Her attempt to cover up her mother’s ties with Perkasa cast aspersions on her integrity and this will come back to haunt her in future.

DAP had demonised Perkasa and condemned anyone remotely connected to Datuk Ibrahim Ali. Yet, DAP said that Dyana’s mother’s ultra-Malay connections was a “small matter”.

It is mind-boggling how politicians say one thing yesterday, another thing today and God knows what else tomorrow.

Dyana has potential but Teluk Intan was too ambitious a stage for her. The pressure piled up, especially after she was accused of lying about her mother’s ultra-Malay connections. She had a meltdown at a ceramah during the final stretch.

She told her audience that her mind was blank and she did not know what to say. She thanked them in a brief speech, went down the stage and she broke down, covering her face with both hands.

Mah, 53, was seen as an old horse but he is a workhorse that is now galloping towards a Cabinet post.

He won with a small majority of 238 votes but it was a big win for Barisan because it involved wresting a seat from the most powerful party in Pakatan Rakyat.

The previous by-elections have been about parties defending and holding on to their turf.

Teluk Intan is the first time since the general election that one side has won a seat belonging to the incumbent and that is why Barisan politicians are celebrating.