KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional’s strategy of fielding Ramli Mohd Noor, who is both an orang asli and former police Assistant Commissioner, as their candidate for Cameron Highlands by-election may pull in more votes for the coalition.
But political analysts believed it’s still going be an uphill battle for Barisan which no longer holds federal power.
The orang asli community, which made up 22% of voters in Cameron Highlands, are being regarded as kingmakers in the by-election and Barisan is targeting to get the lion’s share of these votes.
Ramli is not from Umno but a direct Barisan member.
“Certainly all the chips are on the table for Barisan but the coalition, after losing the 14th general election (GE14), has to win and retain the seat at all costs.
On top of that, Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail is the assemblyman for Jelai, which is within the Cameron Highlands parliamentary seat.
Dr Sivamurugan also said Barisan was also taking a further risk by not allowing MIC to contest the seat.
“This is certainly a gamble that they are taking, when they depart from the traditional strategy of letting MIC contest the seat,” he said.
Pakatan Harapan has named DAP’s M. Manogaran as its candidate while Tan Sri M. Kayveas has also stated his intention to contest.
Dr Sivamurugan also said it is unclear if voter fatigue would lead to lower turnout, like other by-elections post GE14, and how this would impact the outcome.
Land rights activist Tijah Tok Chopli, chairman of the Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli Villages Network, said land matters will play a big factor.
Tijah, an orang asli from Pahang, said her community was now more aware of their rights as voters.
She pointed out that there are many unfulfilled promises made by Barisan in the past, when they still held the Federal Government.
“If Barisan really wants to win this by election, the Pahang state government should gazette the many native villages right now as NCR land.
“Do not promise anymore, but do it now. That way, the orang asli will vote for you,” she said.
She said in Jelai, there is also the issue of the multi-million ringgit road which was built into the orang asli villages. The road is in dire need of repair despite it being only a few years old.
The nearest clinic, which caters only to mothers and children, is also 10km away, she said.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia analyst Dr Mazlan Ali said Barisan is not confident of getting the support of Indian and Chinese voters.
Although it is supposed to be multi-racial, Barisan seems to be targeting only the orang asli and Malays, he said.
Dr Mazlan believes this strategy will fail.
The Chinese majority along with Indian voters, who are disappointed that MIC is not contesting, could vote overwhelmingly for Pakatan.
Penang Institute analyst Wong Chin Huat said voters will also have the impression that Umno had taken the seat away from MIC. –THE STAR
And now, Gerakan too may contest in Cameron Highlands
Gerakan, which describes itself as an independent political party since leaving BN in June last year, is likely to contest in the coming Cameron Highlands by-election.
A party source said Gerakan may field its Cameron Highlands deputy division chairperson Dr Eddie Edward Tharmaraj as the candidate in the by-election, as he had expressed interest in standing for the polls.
Gerakan president Dominic Lau (photo, above) had earlier purportedly not allowed him to do, according to the source.
“Eddie tendered his resignation (from the party) after the president refused to allow him to contest,” the source told Malaysiakini.
Malaysiakini sighted the resignation letter, dated Jan 8 in which Eddie stated that he is resigning from the party with immediate effect, as well as relinquishing all his party posts, including his post as an appointed central committee member.
However, Eddie sent another letter shortly after, dated Jan 10 informing the party that he is withdrawing his resignation letter.
“I, upon discussion with senior party members and also the president of party Gerakan, am withdrawing (my resignation) letter from the party dated Jan 8.
“(I am) also withdrawing the resignation from the various posts entrusted to me by the party and pledge to serve and contribute to Gerakan more dedicatedly in order to serve the rakyat in these trying times,” he said in the letter, which was also sighted by Malaysiakini.
Reason for sudden withdrawal
The sudden withdrawal of Eddie’s resignation letter, the source said, is probably because the party president had agreed to field him as a candidate in the Cameron Highlands by-election.
BN had yesterday announced its candidate, former top police officer Ramli Mohd Nor, an Orang Asli from Cameron Highlands. He will be contesting as a BN direct candidate.
DAP, meanwhile, will be fielding M Manogaran in the by-election. This will be Manogaran’s third time contesting the seat.
Disputed MyPPP president M Kayveas had also announced he would be contesting the seat.
The Cameron Highlands parliamentary constituency comprises 22 percent Orang Asli voters and 34 percent Malays, Chinese 30 percent and Indians 15 percent.
The seat was won in the 14th general election by MIC’s C Sivarraajh, with a slim 597-vote majority.
However, the seat was declared vacant by the Election Court in November last year, after it was determined that corrupt practices led to BN’s win.
Although MIC did not appeal the Election Court’s declaration of the seat as vacant, Sivaraajh challenged the Election Commission’s (EC) decision to disallow him from contesting there again and disallowing him from voting in any election for the next five years.
In its ruling yesterday, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur dismissedSivarraajh’s challenge against the both the EC’s orders.
Nomination day for the by-election is this Saturday. Early voting is on Jan 22 while polling day is Jan 26. – MKINI
THE STAR / MKINI