One victory for Barisan Nasional (BN) in Cameron Highlands, and already the prophets of doom are at their keyboards. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, be it the victorious BN or the vanquished Pakatan Harapan (PH) and their supporters.
But before anyone gets carried away by the hype of this by-election result, remember this: Cameron Highlands is in Pahang which remains a BN stronghold. It has always been and will continue to be just that.
PH did not lose the seat this time around. It wasn’t their seat in the first place and never had been in the past three general elections when they went up against BN.
It would have been a feather in the cap for PH had they wrested the seat from BN, but it didn’t happen. The voters have spoken and it’s best to move on from here.
Making up excuses for the defeat does nothing at all for PH.
You could look for every excuse to justify it, including the result of the opposition playing up the broken promises made by PH at GE14, or the choice of candidate, to the rising cost of living. You could even put it down to the same old ruse of using race and religion to win, but what good does it do for the vanquished PH?
It would be better to be magnanimous in defeat and get on with the business of governing the country. You have four years plus to convince voters of your ability to govern the country efficiently. You still have time to prove that you are a clean government and will make fighting corruption your number one priority.
As for the victorious BN, they can certainly gloat over this win and make the most of it by claiming that this is the start of better things to come for the Umno-led BN. They can even start believing that Cameron Highlands is the launching pad for BN’s return to power come GE15. That would be their right. Whether it is nothing more than wishful thinking, merely a fool’s paradise, we shall see.
But one thing is for certain. The popularity of the PH government in their stronghold of Selangor will be put to the test shortly in the Semenyih by-election. Lose in this by-election and you can no longer claim you were up against a ruling state government as with the case of Cameron Highlands in Pahang, nor can you look for any excuse whatsoever.
A win for BN will add to their momentum and solidify their belief that together with PAS and with a minute role by MCA and MIC, they are well on the road to becoming a returning government come GE15.
They could even be counting their chickens before they are hatched. That, again, would be their right. It is the hope they must provide to their supporters and followers to keep their spirits up. Hope is all they have to get by for now, nothing else. Like dreams, hopes are also free.
Politics, it is said, is the art of the impossible. Dr Mahathir Mohamad is living proof of this. It was simply unthinkable that someday he would work with his nemesis Lim Kit Siang and return as our seventh prime minister. But it happened.
By the same token, we could also see the return of Najib Razak, Zahid Hamidi, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and the likes, not forgetting MCA and MIC. Nothing is cast in stone and no one can really tell the future. Only time will tell. But before anyone rushes off with yet another salvo of PH being a one-term government, there is a question that must be put to the voters at large.
The answer, I believe, lies in the song by the Spice Girls: “Is this what you want, what you really, really want?”
NAJIB, THE COMEBACK KID IN CAMERON HIGHLANDS
While Pakatan Harapan (PH) has been going around the country like a group of headless chickens, former prime minister Najib Razak has been calmly and methodically going about his business, doing all the things he should have done when he was in charge.
He has reached out to the public and been very approachable, unlike his conduct when he was prime minister. Then, one would have to circumvent several obstacles created by policemen, political aides and special advisers in order to meet him.
As the underdog, Najib has been speaking to the poor, visiting them in their homes and sitting cross-legged on their floors, not, as in previous years, on a specially provided, throne-like seat.
He found time to criticise PH’s policies and appeared on social media to remind people that he had been the victim of lies spread by the PH administration.
BN’s victory in Cameron Highlands may have ushered in the first Orang Asli MP in Malaysian history, but in truth it was more about Najib. The 61-year-old Semai-Temiar BN candidate, Ramli Mohd Nor, may have been the face of the party but he was also the vehicle which brought about Najib’s victory.
Najib needed to win, to show PH that he is still a force to be reckoned with. More importantly, however, he needed to prove to the more gullible members of the public, especially the rural folk who still hero-worship Umno-BN, that he is still powerful.
Only by BN winning could he influence hearts and minds, and tell them that he had been wronged by PH’s lies and the corruption which others accuse him of is untrue.
Umno, the underdog party, has seen its ranks and leadership decimated. Many of its leaders are under investigation or have been charged in court. Its party members are unashamedly moving to PPBM, to the consternation of the other PH coalition partners.
On Monday, Najib was charged with three more counts of money-laundering. Last month, we saw him shuttling back and forth from Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission offices, but he has bounced back – with Ramli’s help.
Malaysia should celebrate Ramli’s win. He will be able to help his community, as he understands them best. But it also begs the question of what happened to the aid which should have been disbursed by the previous government?
Orang Asli issues have never really been properly resolved. There is no infrastructure in the villages. Their schools are inadequate. The parents of schoolchildren are not assisted. Aid that should have been channelled to the Orang Asli is allegedly squandered on kickbacks and commissions by unscrupulous companies working in cahoots with a few tainted people in authority. If Ramli can solve even a fraction of these problems, he will be an asset to the Cameron Highlands community.
PH’s M Manogaran may moan that BN ran a dirty, racist campaign, but why didn’t PH beat them at their own game and field its own Orang Asli candidate, like Bah Tony aka Anthony Williams-Hunt? Perhaps there were other Orang Asli capable of becoming candidates, so why weren’t they given a chance for a bite at the cherry?
Najib went for broke and PH was too complacent. PH forgot that its fortunes are held by the people.
One does not need a PhD to be humble. Najib learnt his lesson in GE14 and today, he has rebranded himself.
PH personalities, on the other hand, appeared arrogant and dismissive of rules. PKR senator Bob Manolan Mohd mocked the Orang Asli leaders, and Manogaran arrived at the polling station wearing a shirt displaying the party logo.
PH can blame no one but themselves for this defeat.