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Tanjung Piai, the burial ground for defeated elephant

  • Whichever side that loses will likely remain down and out for a long time to come, and Tanjung Piai could as well be the burial ground for the defeated.

Sin Chew Daily

Thanks to the by-election, Kukup played host to Tun Mahathir, which for a tiny fishing village is a huge thing.

Traffic along the main road from Pontian to Kukup is normally very smooth, but not for that evening. With the entire PPBM in town, coupled with supporters from the local village and elsewhere, the road leading to Kukup jetty was jam packed.

I went to the ceramah venue. There could be about a thousand people, 80% of whom Malays. These are the people PPBM is fighting very hard to win over.

Tents had been set up at the venue, and some 1,000 chairs were placed, with PPBM promotion leaflets on them.

I browsed through the leaflets and it was obvious that they targeted only Malay-Muslim voters. One of them with a picture of Tun Mahathir on it declared that Mahathir is the PH prime minster and that PH is the current government.

That looked amusing! Mahathir's BN/Umno image has been deeply planted inside the hearts of rural folks, and even though we have seen a change of federal government now, PPBM was still worried many pakcik and makcik might not be too sure about this and might a cross next to the BN logo.

Another had a “Buy Muslim” halal logo. It read, “In an election where there is a Muslim and a non-Muslim candidate, we go for the Muslim candidate no matter which party he comes from.” Then there was the picture of the party's candidate Karmaine Sardini.

Mahathir and Syed Saddiq later argued that it was a trick by rivals trying to sabotage PPBM. Anyway, it remains mysterious how these leaflets managed to sit on the chairs unnoticed.

Welcome to Kukup, the main battleground in the upcoming Tanjung Piai by-election. If you thought the fight was intense in Chinese-majority Pontian and Pekan Nenas, wait until you see Kukup.

There are two big elephants on the battleground: PPBM and Umno. As for MCA and DAP, they are not more than little mousedeers fighting alongside the two big monsters.

PPBM's big shots have been camping out here for over a month now, making house-to-house visits from the coast to the inland, and from fishing villages to the plantations.

But no one is more physically exhausted than the 66-year-old candidate Karmaine Sardini. He has to wake up a little past five in the morning to have prayers with the voters at a mosque or prayer room, before starting his daily walkabouts, followed by evening prayers with local residents again and then one after another ceramahs until late.

Where this is concerned, PPBM is actually no fight for Umno, which boasts a much more extensive and established grassroots organisation.

This time, Umno is mobilising its whole election machinery in pushing through its JR (Jalinan Rakyat) strategy to ensure that none of its supporters will swing to the wrong side.

Wanita Umno is deploying large numbers of cadres each responsible for ten households to identify the “white” voters (supporters) while trying hard to convince the “grey” (middle voters) and “black” (opponents).

The police have ruled that permits are required for door-to-door visits, and this is expected to hurt Umno most.

All of Umno's heavyweight leaders are in town, including those from rival factions. Almost everyone is in Tanjung Piai.

Umno has between 60 and 100 events a day, and this easily makes Tanjung Piai Umno's most intensely fought by-election war.

Meanwhile, PPBM, being a component of the government and indeed one that has the real powers and resources at its disposal, has its advantage. The party has thrown in a lot of resources in predominantly Malay areas in Tanjung Piai, in particular Kukup.

Among the already announced plans, the government will build jetties at three Malay fishing villages, provide RM1,000 allowances for each of the local fishermen, and build a hall for the local national primary school, on top of 17 other projects amounting to RM15 million.

In the meantime, the “vote Muslim” slogan is a psychological warfare that complements the monetary allocations set aside to ensure that the war is won.

An Umno leader who is orchestrating the war plan told me in private: “In the past we had the resources and and could roll over enemy territories like a tank. The manpower we are left with today is only sufficient for us to carry out guerrilla warfare.”

The Malay vote bank is 50:50, and to win the war, BN will need the support of the Chinese voters.

Tanjung Piai is PPBM's first by-election after GE14. The party must prove through this by-election to the Malay society that it is the dominant political force for the Malays, not Umno. Whether Mahathir's position will remain firm will depend on the outcome of the by-election.

Although Umno is not fielding any candidate in Tanjung Piai, it must ensure that PPBM will lose Tanjung Piai to check the latter's advances and to recoup the confidence of the Malays.

With endless resources at its disposal, PPBM will likely catch up and even overtake Umno despite a poor start.

By comparison, Umno, which is now an opposition party, suffers inadequate resources, not to mention the fact that BN's candidate is a non-Muslim. Umno can only do its utmost to retain PAS' supporters while pinning its hopes on Wee Jeck Seng's popularity among the local Malays to keep its fundamental support base largely intact.

Tanjung Piai will see the duel between these two elephants, and whichever side that loses will likely remain down and out for a long time to come. Tanjung Piai could as well be the burial ground for the defeated.


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