Najib was practically on cloud nine when he was mobbed by supporters during his campaign in the Semenyih by-election in February. He was advised by his highly-paid marketing guru to visit budget-friendly places like Giant hypermarket. His “Malu Apa Bossku (Why The Shame, Boss)” campaign was a success. For a while, he looked invincible and incredibly popular.
The cooperation between UMNO Malay Nationalist Party and PAS Islamist Party seemed like a formidable force. The partnership would win three by-elections consecutively – in Cameron HIghlands, Semenyih and Rantau. The racism campaign ran by UMNO and extremism campaign trumpeted by PAS managed to attract the hearts of the Malay Muslim voters.
So, when the former Prime Minister Najib Razak flew to Sandakan on Friday (May 10), he figured he could hoodwink the people of Sabah Borneo with the same gimmick. He put up his usual drama, wheeling a shopping trolley at the Giant Supermarket in Bandar Utama, knowing well in advance that his errand boy, Bung Moktar, had arranged or tipped supporters to greet him.
He had bought a pack of rice, oil, eggs, and “dates” during his shopping drama in the supermarket. Seriously? He must have forgotten that East Malaysia and Peninsular Malaysia (West Malaysia) are separated by the South China Sea. If he had bought those groceries while campaigning in Semenyih or Rantau, it may make perfect sense.
Najib must have had gone cuckoo to think his cheap trick of buying daily essentials like rice, oil and eggs some 1,850-km away would transform him as a caring, humble and kind leader. After leaving the supermarket, the former Malaysian leader who knows no shame even after he had stolen billions of dollars, had started singing and dancing, much to the amusement of his “fans”.
But Najib’s drama – singsong and talk-c@@k – had failed to convert his fans into votes. In fact, his campaign had done more harm than good to PBS (Parti Bersatu Sabah) candidate, Linda Tsen. DAP’s Vivian Wong has emerged victorious in the Sandakan by-election, grabbing 16,012 votes against PBS’s Linda Tsen’s 4,491 votes. But the stunning victory didn’t end there.
Vivian Wong Shir Yee’s majority of 11,521 is so massive that it had even surpassed her late father, Stephen Wong Tien Fatt’s record, who won with a majority of 10,098 votes in the 14th General Election on May 9 last year. Not only Vivian secured a whopping 74.18% of the votes, she won it under a low turnout of only 54.44%. Her father only secured 67.97% of the votes despite a higher turnout of 72.07%.
To add insult to the injury, Najib’s celebrity persona also failed to stop a swing of postal votes (policemen) for DAP. After 61 years of brainwashing, policemen would typically vote for Barisan Nasional, the old regime under Najib Razak. This round, DAP happily bagged 70.2% of the postal votes, up from 19.44% previously secured by Vivian’s late father.
Heck, even Muslim-majority areas like Kampung Sim Sim and Pulau Berhala saw a swing of 12% and 13% respectively in favour of DAP, a component party of ruling Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) government. This is absolutely unbelievable considering UMNO strongman, Acting President Mohamad Hasan, had been whining, moaning and bitching about DAP in the Muslim districts.
So, what had gone wrong that not even two big guns – Najib Razak and Mohamad Hasan – could at least reduce the majority for DAP, let alone defeat the daughter of Stephen Wong? Once known as “Little Hong Kong”, Sandakan’s registered voters are 49% Chinese, 44% Muslim Bumiputra and 6% non-Muslim Bumiputra.
On paper, the composition of ethnicity shows that PBS, with support from UMNO and PAS, could win the seat, if the turnout of ethnic Chinese voters is low, at least that was what the opposition thought. So Mohamad Hasan ran a racist campaign in Sandakan, the same way he had done in Peninsular Malaysia. He told all and sundry that DAP was the “most racist party” in the country.
Najib, on the other hand, ran his popular “Bossku” campaign in Sandakan, the same way he had done back home. The plan was for Najib and Hasan to deliver 80%-90% of Sabah Muslim votes for PBS candidate, Linda Tsen. They wanted to replicate the success of Semenyih and Rantau by-elections in Sandakan. If the plan succeeded, Mahathir government will be in trouble.
Unfortunately to the racist UMNO, Sabah is a different animal altogether. UMNO’s campaigning style and race politics – cursing and accusing DAP of being anti-Malay, anti-Muslim and anti-Islam – are not acceptable in the Borneo. In Sandakan, and Sabah for that matter, Chinese, Bugis, Suluk, Bajau, Muslim Bumiputra actually live harmoniously and peacefully for ages.
The “Malaya style politics” promoted by Najib Razak and Mohamad Hasan were not only unwelcome, but was also despised by the local ethnics entirely. Sabah UMNO Chief Bung Moktar Radin had promised to deliver 9,700 UMNO votes for PBS. The corrupt and disgraced Mr. Bung might have even promised free cash to mobilize the crowd to greet Najib at Giant hypermarket.
But judging by Linda’s pathetic 4,491 votes, it appeared that the people of Sabah are smarter than Najib Razak, Mohamad Hasan and Bung Moktar combined. To be fair, the real hero who had contributed to the landslide victory for DAP is none other than Sabah Chief Minister Mohd Shafie Apdal. There’s a reason why Vivian thanked his late father and Shafie after the victory.
Without Mr. Shafie and his Parti Warisan Sabah’s effective campaign, some of the Muslim Bumiputra in Sabah could have fallen prey to UMNO racism and PAS extremism campaigns. Yes, in a way, the Sandakan by-election was apersonal war between Najib Razak and Shafie Apdal, whom the former premier had sacked and even made to wear the MACC orange suits.
After Shafie was fired as UMNO Vice President for questioning Najib’s 1MDB scandal, he was arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on Oct 19, 2017 – under Najib administration. The former rural and regional development minister’s house was subsequently raided for alleged misappropriation of RM1.5 billion. However, no money was found.
In comparison, US$681 million (RM2.6 billion) was found in Najib’s personal account. But he was never arrested, until the Barisan Nasional government was toppled last May. When his children’s luxury Pavilion Residences condominiums were raided, an eye-popping RM117 million cash together with RM1 billion worth of 12,000 pieces of jewellery, 567 handbags, 423 watches and 234 sunglasses were found.
Perhaps Bugis, Suluk, Bajau, Muslim Bumiputra and other natives in Sabah have dignity and understood the meaning of shame, unlike UMNO-Malays and PAS-Malays who continue worship Najib Razak despite his ongoing trials. The Sabahan may be poorer and extremely concerned about security and money issues. But they hate race politics and radicalized Islamist even more.
Perhaps Najib and Hasan didn’t get the memo. UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi lost 21 of the 25 UMNO division heads, nine of 10 of its assemblymen, five of six MPs and two senators in the state of Sabah last December, reducing UMNO’s 54 MPs to just 43. They quit just four days after the anti-ICERD demonstration, obviously disgusted and angered by UMNO Peninsular’s excessive racism and extremism.
The fabulous victory in Sandakan for DAP is indeed a sweet revenge for Shafie Apdal. He has proven that in Sabah, he’s the real boss, not the fake “boss” Najib. It was a slap in the face for Najib’s online moniker “Bossku”, despite the amazing fact that the phrase actually originated in Sabah. More importantly, Sabah has become the fixed deposit of Pakatan Harapan.