Saturday, April 24, 2010

ATM Machines in Hulu Selangor

You’ve all read reports of the ATM machines in Hulu Selangor, ya? No ,these are not the regular ATM machines you find in the lobby of a bank or in a shopping centre. These are a different kind of ATM machines, lah. You can get cash out of these machines even if you have no bank account or ATM card. No need to have your pin number either. Even better, you don’t have to go looking for the machine. It actually comes to you! They have legs, they have arms, and they look like regular people – just like you and me. And of course the most amazing thing is they just give out cash. We’re not talking kacang putih amounts; this is real money, you know!

Some of the poor people being confronted by these ATM machines are seeing amounts that they don’t even see in year, let alone a month. When you have a really big challenge – and a big name like Zaid Ibrahim to overcome, I suppose you also are forced to expand more of your resources to defeat him than might be otherwise necessary. The more I see how hard and desperately UMNO is sending out its foot soldiers - its human ATM machines - and how desperately they’re luring the voters in Hulu Selangor, I am wondering if this is not a good sign after all. Let me explain what I mean.

I know there are many – far more so than we might think - of us out there who find the UMNO money machine to be a despicable ploy that amounts to nothing more than vote buying. Those who understand that UMNO is hollow in principles and is devoid of ideas for moving the country forward understand very well that it has the money to splash, and hence manipulate the voters with cold hard cash. This is not a new UMNO method and it will also not be the last time we see it.

The fact that UMNO has not been able to assume an easy win in Hulu Selangor and is having to fight for ever single vote, its victory – if it wins in Hulu Selangor – would come at a heavy price. From all indications, UMNO has had to dole out a lot of cash. Call it what you may, but the fact remains that if UMNO wins this seat, it would have come at a much heavier price than many of its other so-called victories in the past. This UMNO victory, as much as they will gloat about it, will come at a huge cost to them.

And that will be a silver lining in this episode. If nothing else, it will again remind us all that Pakatan is here for the long haul and it is not going to be run over easily. There is no doubt that a Pakatan loss will be a blow to its progress and the in-roads it had made with voters in various parts of the country. It is also the case that Pakatan won the Hulu Selangor seat last time by only a few dozen votes. So this has been a tough, very divided and heavily contested seat. It is also the case that based on several previous elections, this was a very safe UMNO/BN seat.

Given how hard UMNO’s ATM machines have had to work, does it not suggest that UMNO not only cannot take this seat for granted anymore, but that it has to now fight for every conceivable vote and fight hard – and therefore spread more cold cash around to stand a chance at winning.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not suggesting this kind of money politics should be condoned or encouraged. But if UMNO is incapable of changing its ways, and is going to indulge in such practices anyway, why not make sure their ATM machines are having to work around the clock and be spitting out lots more cash to locals than has been the case in the past? As I see it, at least voters are getting something more substantial now than they might have ever had in the past.

Of course, I do like Anwar’s suggestion better that the voters take the money but vote for Pakatan instead. But what I’m addressing is a wider point. An UMNO victory in Hulu Selangor will essentially be a very costly victory, and maybe if this is the only way that many of the poor will ever see some cash in their hands from UMNO, so be it.

And just maybe, this means the days of UMNO taking the voter for granted are quite possible over for good.

Progress sometimes comes about in strange ways.

G. Krishnan