By Wong Choon Mei [Updated]
Four candidates led by Pakatan Rakyat’s Mansor Othman will battle it out at the Penanti by-election due to be polled next Sunday, May 31.
Pakatan’s Mansor was the first to arrive at the Youth Skills Development Institute, but waited outside the nomination centre with a drove of supporters.
A crowd of more than 5,000 built up, waving flags and banners, as they pushed to catch a glimpse of the Pakatan top brass, who did not disappoint them.
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim was among early birds. The reform icon was accompanied by Pakatan Menteri Besar for Perak Nizar Jamaluddin, Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and PKR leaders including vice-president Azmin Ali, Saifuddin Nasution and Tian Chua.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang also arrived to show their support, drawing loud cheers and fanfare.
Mansor vs three Independents after one was disqualified
Four Independent candidates had registered to contest. They were former PKR Wanita member Aminah Abdullah, businessman Mohd Saberi Othman, surprise aspirant Kamarul Ramizu Idris and Gerakan’s Nai-Khan.
However, Mohd Saberi was later disqualified for ‘technical error’.
Aminah came with her family members, while Mohd Saberi was accompanied by about 20 supporters, who shouted ‘Hidup Bebas’ as they entered the compound.
Kamarul had lost in the Bukit Gantang parliamentary by-election in Perak last month. His Penang outing was initially in doubt after a local businessman protested that his proposer was not from Penanti. However, the returning officer cleared his candidacy but rejected Mohd Saberi’s.
Among Independents, it was 41-year old Nai and the 49-year old Mohd Saberi who sparked the most interest. Saberi, who says he is a businessman, was formerly an aide to ex-premier Abdullah Badawi. Whilst Nai had told reporters he resigned as Youth chief of Gerakan Teluk Wang branch on May 19 just so that he could contest as an Independent!
That either could be unaligned to the BN is hard to believe and that both Umno and Gerakan – once mighty in Penang – could stoop so low as to try winning a seat through the backdoor is a telling sign of their political deterioration.
“The BN symbol has become so unmarketable, it is now the trend to go in as Independent if you can’t run for the Pakatan. Your chances would be better, the dacing (BN’s trademark) would be a sure loss anywhere in Malaysia now,” said PKR strategic affairs director Tian Chua.
Disown Najib. He no longer deserves to be the country’s PM
In fact, just days ago, Anwar had warned that a desperate Umno-BN could resort to any move – no matter how foul or underhanded – just to cling to power in the country.
The democracy icon said Prime Minister Najib Razak was likely to back an Independent so as to roil the Pakatan’s chances, while at the same time shielding himself from the political consequences of yet another electoral defeat.
Having lost in four of the past five by-elections, Najib is keen to avoid election at any cost. He has systematically abused the country’s system, federal apparatus and institutions to fix outcomes that favour himself.
On Friday, the Court of Appeal helped him rubber-stamp his political will on the Perak people. Forsaking justice and neutrality, the court quashed a ruling that PAS’s Nizar was the rightful MB of the northwestern state, which shares mainland Penang’s southern border.
Civil society and Pakatan leaders warned that if this could still happen in Malaysia, then Malaysians must take the next logical step – which is the only proper one or forever lose their democratic freedom.
Najib does not deserve to be this country’s PM. The most powerful post in the country is a privilege, not a right.
“Civil disobedience is the only form of expression Malaysians are left with. Everything else has failed them. They must from now on ignore Najib. Boycott him – tell everyone he is not your PM, he has he lost the right to be respected.
“He can cling to power, let him. But it will have to be by brute force. Let us be very clear about it, this is Najib. It is his 1Malaysia, not our ours. He has got nothing to do with us. We do not acknowledge him as our PM,” said Pakatan leader.
Small but just as precious
Penanti is located on the mainland. Padi fields, rubber and palm oil plantations dot the small constituency, made up of little villages with a smattering of commercial activities.
Penanti is a Malay heartland. Most of the folk are industrial workers and small businessmen. Some 73 percent or 11,296 voters are Malay, 24 percent or 3,732 are Chinese, and 2 percent or 371 are Indian.
It is also part of the Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency, Anwar’s stronghold. Another reason why Najib has insisted on not contesting, although many within Umno had urged him to be braver and to go for it.
In the 2008 general election, former Penang deputy chief minister Fairus Khairuddin thumped Umno’s Abdul Jalil with a majority of 2,219 votes. The PKR leader obtained 7,346 votes versus Jalil’s 5,127. However, he resigned last month amid huge harassment from the press and his political rivals.
His replacement – the 56-Mansor – is a popular figure in Penang. Mansor is also PKR state deputy chief. A former Universiti Sains Malaysia lecturer, he stands to be appointed the new DCM (I) if he wins at Penanti.
“Pakatan has always upheld the concept of free and fair elections. The electorate expect us to practice and I tend to fulfil their wish,” Mansor has said.