PAKATAN Harapan must take the battle for seats in Sabah and Sarawak to rural voters, said opposition supporters who likened the coalition’s ceramah and political events in cities like Kuching to “preaching to the converted”.
PH’s first “New deal, new hope” ceramah in Kuching last night attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd, who roared their approval of opposition leaders like DAP’s Lim Kit Siang and former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Like most of the attendees, radio technician Petrus Igai said he was convinced that Prime Minister Najib Razak needed to be removed from power.
However, he said merely convincing urbanites such as himself was not going to help PH achieve its goals.
“PH holding this ceramah in an urban area and firing their supporters up on why they should remove Najb is like preaching to the converted.
“They already have made up their mind,” Petrus said of the crowd which numbered almost 2,000 yesterday.
“The real fight for PH is out there in the rural areas.”
Of the 31 parliamentary seats contested in Sarawak in the last general election, the opposition won only six and they are all predominantly Chinese-majority urban seats.
The seats are Bandar Kuching, Stampin, Lanang, Bandar Sibu, Sarikei, which were won by DAP, and Miri which was won by PKR.
Petrus said until and unless PH can make inroads in the rural areas, only the Sarawak urban folks will be rooting for the removal of Najib.
“That would not help PH’s cause,” he said.
The spot that PH picked for the ceramah, the first in a series of events lined up over the next few weeks, lies in a DAP stronghold – its Stampin parliamentary constituency.
PH supporter Nawawi Saadi believes that the opposition has a chance at unseating Najib, but said the message was still not reaching Barisan Nasional’s hardcore supporters.
He said that most Malays in Kuching’s semi-urban areas and Dayaks in the longhouses were still fiercely loyal to Sarawak-based parties like Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) and Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), which are part of Najib’s BN coalition.
“It might be hard but not impossible,” the civil engineer said of PH’s dream of defeating BN.
He said the chances for a PH victory in Borneo would greatly increase if Sarawak-based parties in BN joined the opposition coalition.
“I’ve heard of such talks floating around and I hope they become a reality.”
The majority of the crowd yesterday were, as expected, riled up to hear Dr Mahathir and other PH leaders in the coalition’s first-ever ceramah in Kuching.
The downpour earlier did not dampen Halimaton Ismail’s spirit and excitement to “meet my idol”, she told The Malaysian Insight, referring to Dr Mahathir.
“I came only for Dr Mahathir,” said the housewife, who drove 16km from her home in Kg Semariang in Petra Jaya to the sprawling upper middle-class residential estate of Taman BDC near the Kuching international airport.
She was not disappointed. Dr Mahathir, who has become the opposition’s strongest weapon to unseat Najib, was in his element last night as he fired up the crowd’s resolve to end BN’s reign.
“Yes, there is hope. Najib must go. What I heard tonight convinced me of that,” said Halimaton, who came for the ceramah with her husband, a sister-in-law and another relative.
“All that he said, Najib’s theft of public money, theft from 1MDB (the strategic development fund 1Malaysia Development Board), from KWSP (the Employees Provident Fund).
“All these convinced me that Najib must go.”