Najib's victory in Cameron Highlands - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, January 28, 2019
Malaysiakini : "No one except him could stitch all the component parties
together, even though the PAS president Hadi Awang had previously said
that Muslims should choose a Muslim leader over any non-Muslim leader,
as a corrupt Muslim leader is better than a clean and honest non-Muslim
leader." – Lim Kit Siang
| Was last Saturday’s by-election in Cameron Highlands some sort of
bellwether? Who knows? Pakatan Harapan did everything in its power to
snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Harapan ran a BN- style
campaign, while attempting to provide a veneer of independence as far as
“government” machinery was concerned. They had an unlikeable candidate
who began with his foot in his mouth and proceeded to demonstrate how
not to win friends and influence people.
The big winner was former
prime minister Najib Abdul Razak. He used this opportunity to remain
relevant and the Harapan establishment gave him ample opportunity to highlight the amateur hour, which seems the only way the Harapan
politburo knows how to do things.
Lim Kit Siang proclaimed: ““The
first national objective of the Cameron Highlands by-election is
therefore for the Cameron Highlands voters to represent the nation to
say three "Noes, viz No to Najib, No to Najib's political comeback and
No to Najib returning to Putrajaya as prime minister” – which now sounds
like a self-fulfilling prophesy. All politics is local and the
fact that Harapan's politburo strategy was employing the same BN tactics
making of promises – that only the federal government could “help” the people – and then having to defend such statements against people who
spoke out against such practices was as misguided as the attempts to
outdo PAS and Umno in the race and religion game.
So, does this
mean that the people of Cameron Highlands have said: "Yes to Najib, Yes
to Najib's political comeback and Yes to Najib returning to Putrajaya as
prime minister"? Of course, PAS has claimed that this victory is a
rejection of DAP’s so-called divisive politics and, considering the
candidate in question, I would have voted for the BN candidate.
yes this was about race and it boggles the mind why the DAP did not
think (first) of getting behind an Orang Asal candidate in the first
place. Why give such a symbolic moment away to Umno?
likes to claim he is the king of trolls but what he has demonstrated so
far is that he is a far more insightful critic of the Harapan regime
than some critics who justify every mistake, slip-up and backpedalling
that Harapan does. In other words, Harapan and its supporters are
providing Najib will all the ammo he will ever need.
Every time Najib says something, Lim Kit Siang (photo, above)
– most often – and various other minions of the Harapan regime will
respond, chronicling Najib's malfeasance which everyone knows about but,
with continued replays, gives the impression that he is being
persecuted by the non-Malays and reinforces a sense of victimhood among
the Malay political class.
Instead of addressing the points in his
troll posts – which I do not think are particularly trollish – what
Harapan does is dredging up issues of the failings of the previous
regime. Do you people not understand? Beyond the partisans who are
slowly losing interest in the wrongs that BN did, the demographic (that
Harapan needs to secure) is more interested in how Harapan can help them
with their problems now, and not replaying the worst excesses of the
former Umno regime.
Najib rebranding himself as some sort of
populist figure, aided and abetted by the intelligentsia in PAS and
Umno, demonstrates that the Malay opposition is slowly coalescing around
a theme that appeals to the far-right and centrist Malays who are
rethinking their support for this neo-BN regime.
Some people are
already downplaying the Najib factor in this by-election. Think about
this really hard, Harapan. Here, you have a former prime minister facing
several high-profile criminal charges and what he has managed to do is
become the face of the BN campaign – even when getting brickbats from
certain quarters of his own party.
On the other hand, Harapan,
which has the government propaganda machinery at its disposal –
battle-tested grassroots level activists and, of course, Dr Mahathir
Mohamad (who some claimed secured the Harapan victory in the last
election) – is still trying to define itself nine months into the new
few Umno insiders who had written Najib off called to express surprise
that Najib had managed to “reform” himself on the campaign trail.
Conventional Umno wisdom was that Najib was a liability. But, as long as
he did not embarrass Umno further, they would consider this a win, even
if they had lost. Look, no matter how some pundits were downplaying the
DAP's chances, a few Umno strategists I spoke to were extremely worried
about this by-election.
Bereft of the machinery of the state, how
could Umno win this fight when it was supposed to be theirs for the
taking? Nine months into the game, Umno has still not got into the
opposition mode – that PAS finds extremely easy to get into, even though
they shared state power when they were in Pakatan Rakyat. As one Umno
political operative told me, it would be a miracle if "we won
considering the big guns Harapan is bringing in".
was the star of the show. As one Umno grassroots level activist said,
“He interacts with people better now than he did when he was PM." He is
putting forth this idea that he is a folk Malay hero who is being
crushed by the Malay establishment, which is being hoodwinked by the
Chinese, evangelical DAP, another Umno Youth leader says.
Umno consider this a turning point for it, I asked one political
operative. He said that despite what some pundits and analysts claim,
the Orang Asal vote was not always in the bag. However, if Umno managed
to get their votes, the Malay vote would be easier to handle in the
rural heartland, going forward.
This was also a victory for PAS.
The scandal surrounding Najib has also left a stink on PAS. Najib
walking around and being embraced by the rural Orang Asal community is a
powerful symbol to the more conservative PAS-inclined communities. It
demonstrates some form of redemption, which is a narrative that PAS has
been pushing ever since it hooked up with Umno.
What this election demonstrated, no matter what some people will claim, is that Najib is back in play.