Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A ‘Monsoon Wedding’? Maybe Not

I sense there’s an ominous feeling of discomfort and uneasiness starting to blanket the UMNO/Barisan Nasional posse regarding the situation in Kuala Terengganu. Seems to me this anxiety and discomfort is turning into a palpable case of panic about the way the wind is blowing in Kuala Terengganu. No, the BN posse is not looking nervous because the monsoon winds are keeping the local fisherman somewhat grounded. And since the Monsoon Cup is also over, this panic has nothing to do with the festivities associated with the Monsoon Cup gala.

These winds in Kuala Terengganu are signalling something else which has to do with the by-election that is now only days away.

Apparently the prime minister-in-waiting is “zipping from one location to another” to drum up support for his party’s candidate. Quite a telling sign it is that Najib has to invest so much time in Kuala Terengganu to shore up support. Of course this is on top of all the Ang Pows and other hefty and handsome pre-election goodies that have also been doled out to entice voters.

And you can just imagine the atmosphere behind the scenes when the BN strategists gather around to mull over the kind of news about what voters in Kuala Terengganu have expressed in a recent survey by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research. Well, the results reported are fairly self-explanatory so I’ll leave it to you to see for yourself. But it warrants noting that a whopping “74 percent of Malay respondents…felt that ‘corrupt and self-serving leaders’ were weakening Malay political power.”

Now, isn’t this ironic and interesting? On the one hand, as I mentioned above and as has been widely reported, BN has been showering voters with bundles of cash, contracts and such - much like one marriage partner whose family doles out a dowry to another as part of consummating a marriage - not unlike putting fish in someone's net. Now of course we’ve seen that the Election Commission thinks nothing of such practices; certainly it doesn’t regard these sorts of enticements as unethical, corrupt or illegal. But we all know how this game is played by the UMNO/BN machinery – it has been going on for years. Yet, as the above survey results suggest, voters are concerned about 'self-serving leaders.' If the above survey finding was not bad enough news for BN, “75 percent of Chinese respondents ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘somewhat agreed’ that electing a non-Barisan candidate could send a strong signal to the Barisan government.”

Aiyo, yo!! This must surely be worrying to Najib, no? I suppose he and others in the BN must have suspected that this by-election would not be a cakewalk. Oops! Wrong metaphor, la. I suppose I should say: they must have suspected that holding on to the seat in Kuala Terengganu was not going to be smooth sailing! (Yes, that’s more like it. With the monsoon, winds, and fisherman references and all, the “smooth sailing” analogy sounds better, doesn’t it?)

If 74 percent of Malay respondents are troubled with ‘corrupt and self-serving leaders,’ perhaps voters ought to be troubled by politicians who “bait” them when they want votes and conveniently put 'fish in the net' of voters, but otherwise could not be bothered with the needs of the people through genuine improvements in their quality of life, and are indifferent about the long-term development of our communities.

Now, I do have one suggestion for Najib and UMN O on how to shore up more support in Kuala Terengganu where apparently the race between the two candidates is quite close. Simply put, it’s Samy Vellu! (Wink, wink) After all, I understand Raja Petra Kamarudin has been in Kuala Terengganu to lend support to PAS/Pakatan Rakyat. Well, who better for the BN than Samy Vellu to add some spark and personality – not to mention celebrity image to the BN camp! Besides, the MIC has had a lot of notoriety for allegedly putting ‘fish in the net’ of certain people.

I recall in Permatang Pauh, the BN brought in Samy Vellu to help get out the Indian voters. Now if this race in Kuala Terengganu is as competitive as most seem to think, maybe the few Indian voters in Kuala Terengganu could after all make some difference in the outcome, right? And as I recall, Samy Vellu was quite pleased with the MIC’s impact in Permatang Pauh. I suppose you could say had it not been for the Indian voters who supported the BN candidate Anwar’s margin of victory might have been even greater! See, that’s how Samy Vellu and his MIC were so instrumental in Permatang Pauh. It could be argued that in this highly competitive by-election in Kuala Terengganu now, Samy Vellu could really make a big difference. But I’m rather surprised that the BN has not seen it prudent to call in Samy’s cavalry in full force. Too bad, la! Imagine the wonders he could do for the BN’s image in Kuala Terengganu. Well, I guess if the BN loses this seat, they certainly can’t fault Samy!

Anyway, while Najib is having to zig-zag around in Kuala Terengganu handing out ‘dowry’ to court voters, these voters are instead having some serious trepidation about tying the knot with UMNO/BN. Instead of UMNO long having firmed up this marriage with the voters, what we are seeing here is an altogether different picture emerging.

Seems to me the voters are questioning whether it’s prudent to tie the knot with ‘a marriage partner’ whose boat has gone adrift and is off-course in rough monsoon waters. Could they be thinking, “forget this UMNO wedding party, time to put on the life jacket and get off this boat!”?

G. Krishnan