Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The battle of Kuala Terengganu

by Raja Petra Kamarudin

Tuesday, 06 January 2009 15:52

At 5.00pm today, some of us Bloggers will be meeting the PAS leaders at their HQ in Kuala Terengganu to discuss how we can assist in the by-election campaign.

Nomination Day, thus far, shows that PAS appears to have the solid support of the locals. However, we shall be cautioning the PAS leaders in ensuring that we don’t menang sorak, kampung tergadai. This translates to winning the cheering but losing your home, or, more accurately: winning the battle but losing the war.Whatever the mainstream newspapers reported today, don’t you believe it! PAS saw a crowd of 30,000 to 40,000 supporters. And the crowd was wall-to-wall -- from the Stadium Negeri, where the nomination papers were filed, right up to the old penyu round-a-bout, where the penyu no longer lives. Most importantly, the crowd was mostly local folks and their dressing, sarong just below the knee, and Terengganu slang was so distinct there was no doubt about them being locals. I mean, only locals would shout “Hancur, hancur…….hancur bee eng” and “Menang, menang……menang Pakatang.”

Umno, however, saw a crowd of only 5,000 or so, plus-minus. In fact, there were more police stationed in Kuala Terengganu -- 6,000 according to what was reported -- than Umno supporters. Sources from inside the Umno operations centre put the figure at 7,000 supporters at the most and, according to these same inside sources, 80% were from outstation. We were told Umno brought in their supporters in 80 buses -- so these figures would certainly tally. At least Umno and we agree on this issue.

It was heart-warming to see the PAS supporters carrying DAP flags. And the Chinese, in turn, were carrying PAS flags. Even the Chinese ‘dragon’ had a PAS flag in its mouth. If you were to say that PAS supporters have feelings of animosity with DAP with regards to the Hudud issue, and that the Chinese are unhappy with PAS about this same issue, you could have fooled me. Whatever the top leadership of the two parties may be saying, the mood on the ground is that the Hudud issue is a non-issue.

Sirens were wailing non-stop as the Barisan Nasional ministers zoomed all over town escorted by police outriders. You would not be faulted for thinking that the US President was in town. In contrast to this, the Pakatan Rakyat ministers -- like the Menteri Besar of Selangor, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim-- humbly made their rounds without any fanfare and walked the streets to shake hands with all and sundry.

It seems the Umno people have some old scores to settle with their party. I was told, in the last election, a lot of money was promised. However, as soon as the election results came in, the person holding the money disappeared and those promised this money were never paid. I will not reveal the name of the place or else Umno may quickly go there to settle their old debts from March 2008.

I met some Umno people last night to feel them out and it looks like they are not too happy with the choice of candidate, Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh. They feel he is the wrong choice of candidate and is carrying too much baggage. He and his brother’s links with Patrick Lim and the scandals involving the oil royalty or Wang Ehsan are a huge handicap and something they are unable to counter.

The PAS candidate, Abdul Wahid Endut, however, has no issues and Umno is hard-pressed in coming out with something to use against him. He is too clean, lamented the Umno chaps, so there is nothing we can use against him. How to defeat him when he is squeaky clean and our candidate is so tainted, sighed the Umno chaps.

The Kuala Terengganu by-election is no longer just a by-election. It is not about choosing the Member of Parliament for Kuala Terengganu. It is a proxy war between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat. It is a national-level battle being brought down to the ground to the streets and villages of Kuala Terengganu. The Kuala Terengganu by-election is also about making sure that Najib Tun Razak meets his Waterloo in Kuala Terengganu. Many Umno people feel, if Barisan Nasional loses Kuala Terengganu, it will reflect on Najib and raise the question of whether the people have rejected him as the next Prime Minister. It is almost like Najib’s career will be made or broken depending on how Umno performs in Kuala Terengganu.

The Public Prosecutor’s office in Kuala Terengganu has been put on a 24-hour alert and some prosecutors have been told to sleep in the office. According to what we have been told, they expect to arrest some opposition people over the next 12 days, and if that happens they want to speedily charge them for whatever crimes the police may say they have committed. This is not about speedy justice but more to get them off the streets and remanded for two weeks until after the election when they can no longer do harm to Umno.

More from Kuala Terengganu later as and when new developments unfold. Meanwhile, stay tuned as we bring you the latest from ground zero. Your Blogging team based here in Kuala Terengganu will be hitting the streets later today to meet the voters and to talk to them about what we are all in Kuala Terengganu for. We shall impress upon them the need to send a message to Barisan Nasional that the 8 March 2008 Tsunami, and the repeat performance in the Permatang Pauh by-election, is still strong and still very much alive.

Yes, we are not facing a by-election in Kuala Terengganu. It is a national-level battle fought by proxy in the once sleepy town of Kuala Terengganu but now bustling with activity. And, just like in Permatang Pauh where the voters gave Anwar Ibrahim two out of three votes or 66.66% of the votes to demonstrate their next choice of Prime Minister, the Kuala Terengganu voters will be asked to do the same thing to send Abdullah Ahmad Badawi a ‘no to Najib as the next Prime Minister’ message.

Currently, I still stand by my earlier forecast of PAS winning the Kuala Terengganu by-election with a majority of at least 5,000 votes. I will let you know as we go along if this forecast changes.

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