Lest we forget …

Wong Chun Wai

We are a secular and liberal country. It is vital for national leaders to make clear to voters at the next campaign trail that theirs is a moderate party. The Sarawak polls has taught us that.

Wong Chun Wai, The Star

THE opposition could not get their act together in the Sarawak elections and the result was that the Barisan Nasional won by a massive landslide.

In a nutshell, the Opposition got walloped. The DAP lost five of their seats, a clear indicator that the urban Chinese votes, their traditional stronghold, had swung back to the Barisan. As for PKR and PAS, they got clobbered.

In some areas where the DAP and PKR took on each other, even their combined votes were far off those garnered by the Barisan Nasional.

As for PAS, it is a wonder that they even want to contest in Sarawak, where the Islamist party sticks out like a sore thumb.

The results have gone through enough analysis by various commentators but the bottom line is that the electorate cannot be expected to cast their votes for the opposition if they are busy killing off each other.

One video clip that has gone viral has foul-mouthed DAP politician Hew Kuan Yau, in his race-laced speech, telling voters to reject PKR, and in the same breath he also called for the people of Batu Kitang to vote for DAP candidate Abdul Aziz Isa so that Aziz could screw the Malay people.

No matter how the DAP leaders try to explain Hew’s behaviour, the damage has been done.

In Penang, the state government has its hands full trying to control the five assemblymen – four from PKR and one from DAP – from staging a revolt.

Not many want to hear this in urban Malaysia but the opposition isn’t in very good shape at the moment.

Sarawak is already yesterday’s news. Let’s look at the two by-elections that are coming up, namely Sungai Besar in Selangor and Kuala Kangsar in Perak.

The Election Commission has fixed June 18 for the two by-elections, which means that campaigning would be carried out during the fasting period. Nomination is on June 5.

The polls are being called after the MPs died in a helicopter crash on May 5 during the Sarawak elections campaign trail. Plantation Industries and Commodities Deputy Minister Datuk Noriah Kasnon and Datuk Wan Mohammad Khair-il Anuar Wan Ahmad were the victims.

In the 2013 general election, the Sungai Besar seat was won by Noriah with 18,695 votes, only 399 more than PAS’ Mohamed Salleh M. Husin.

Kuala Kangsar was secured with a bigger 1,082 vote majority from Barisan’s Wan Mohammad Khair-il Anuar, who also went up against a PAS candidate.

Last week, Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) senior leader Khalid Samad hinted that the forthcoming Sungai Besar by-election may see a three-cornered clash, with Pakatan Harapan joining in the projected PAS-BN clash.

Khalid said there is a chance that Harapan would put in a candidate, either from PKR, DAP or his own party Amanah, but we know the DAP is out of the running as this is a Malay majority area. The 42,837 electorate comprises 66% Malays, 31% Chinese and 2% Indians.

In 2008, Noriah won in Sungai Besar with 16,069 votes while her opponent from PAS, Osman Sabran obtained 11,060 votes.

Noriah’s majority that year was 5,009, in a constituency which consisted of 67.90% Malays, 30.3% Chinese and 1.78% Indians.

The Chinese votes are crucial this time but if PAS hopes to secure the community’s votes, they can forget it. Neither will the DAP help PAS as their relationship has ended. If Amanah or PKR is to be fielded, it would mean a minimum of a three-cornered fight.

The consolation for the Pakatan Harapan is that the DAP stronghold of Sekinchan is nestled in Sungai Besar and the Umno division chief Datuk Jamal Yunos isn’t the most popular man with the Chinese community.

His participation in racist-toned protests hasn’t been forgotten and he must have realised his foolishness by now. Reports that he recently adopted a Chinese boy have been met with cynicism because of his track record.

He has to try harder. Maintaining a low profile and leaving the work to Wanita Umno which is likely to field its candidate would be much more strategic.

The opposition vote is as good as split, a lower voter turnout would be expected and in the end it would reinforce the perception that the opposition is not fit to rule Malaysia.

In the case of Kuala Kangsar, the constituency used to be the stronghold of former Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz. In the 2008 polls, she retained her seat against PAS with a majority of 1,458.

Rafidah, who was contesting in her last general election that year received 10,735 votes while her opponent, Dr Khairuddin Abdul Malik of PAS garnered 9,277.

Kuala Kangsar then had 66.3% Malays, 25.99% Chinese and 7.39% Indians.

In 2013, the late Wan Mohd Khairil won by a smaller majority of 1,082, polling 14,218 votes ahead of PAS’ Khalil Idham Lim Abdullah (13,136) and former Wanita Umno deputy chief Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim, who contested as an independent candidate.

Voters in Kuala Kangsar increased from 28,325 in 2008 to 33,540 in 2013 with the percentage of Malays increasing to 67.96% as compared to Chinese (23.94%) and Indians (6.96%).

As in Kuala Selangor, we can expect PAS to stake its claim on Kuala Kangsar as well. We can expect the same spoiler reaction from Amanah, unless the latter concedes that it is not able to fight for this predominantly Malay seat.

If Amanah decides to contest in these two seats, it would also put PKR in a spot because it has attempted to keep its line open with PAS, unlike the DAP.

As for the Umno candidates, it is important that the national leaders who show up at the campaign trail tell the voters that it is a moderate party. It is time that its leaders come out to show that it is entirely different from PAS, which wants to set up an Islamic state.

This is a secular and liberal country, as clearly stipulated in the Federal Constitution and the Rukunegara, and certainly the kind of politics advocated by PAS will be disastrous to the future of Malaysia.

A large segment of the Chinese voters gave their votes to PAS in the 2013 polls. They have learned their lesson. The Sarawakians in the urban seats have got it right, it is time to send the same message to PAS.