Saturday, November 02, 2013
Sungai Limau: The Lost Message of Poverty
Few friends had just returned from performing their Haj in Makkah and Medina and are at the height of their soulful bliss.
It inspires us to share the enlightenment experience a Cabinet Minister's upon his return from Haj as told to us by a friend.
Due to their busy schedule, Cabinet Ministers usually go for short Haj trips. Unlike the rest of us that usually go for as long as 45 days, their's could be less than 10 days.
However, his Haj had such a profound effect on him that it is worth sharing. It relates closely to the situation and by-election in Sungai Limau.
"I have failed you"
After Haj, the Minister totally refrained from alcohol. He is more attentive to his 5 times a day prayers. It made him more humble.
Most of Haj returnee would experience the humbled feeling upon their return from Haj. But, for the Minister, it exalted his senses for humanity.
The Cabinet Minister came from a constituency where there are still in existence pockets of poverty.
Upon his return from Haj, he went back to visit his 'kawasan' (area). While visiting the pekan (town centre), he stumbled upon a poor man. He took out some money and without counting, gave 'sadaqa' (donation).
As he was going about his affair in the constituency, he was kept reminded of the poor man. He returned to find the poor man and immediately, gave him few thousands. That is a lot to donate out of impulse. For the poor man, never in his wildest dream that he could suddenly get few thousands.
That night the Minister was still kept reminded of the poor man. He couldn't sleep and by next morning after breakfast, he went out to search for the poor man.
He managed to find him and invited the poor man for a meal in a nearby coffeeshop.
Out of the blue, the Minister apologised to the poor man.
Stunt to what is happening, the poor man could only say he has not done anything wrong. The poor man expressed his surprise and thank him dearly for the few thousand given yesterday. It had immensely helped eased his burden.
"No," replied the Minister. "I must apologise because I have failed you. I promise you I will find you a job and make you have a start in life."
Immediately, the Minister arranged for a job for the poor man and rented for him a temporary home. In the meanwhile, he raised some money and built for him and his family a proper home.
When the house was ready, the Minister brought the poor man to the house. Inside the house, while he gave the man his key, he repeated his apology.
"I have failed you. As a wakil rakyat and more so, a Cabinet Minister, I have failed when there are still people living in hardship in my constituency."
The Minister poured his soul to the man. And the poor man shared the misery of his life. In the end, both of them end up crying together.
Since then, he had called for his UMNO Division AJK for a meeting and gave them a thorough trashing. He told them to buck up and demanded that his AJK put aside politics to immediately address issues of poverty and people's life.
Alhamdulillah, he defended his Ketua Bahagian position in the recent party election.
Sungai Limau by-election
Now on Sungai Limau by-election and the lost message of poverty.
Since the past two weekend, we have been stuck up north for some work in Penang and Langkawi. Being in the vicinity, we dropped over few days ago to Sungai Limau to "observe" the by-election and help out where we could contribute and still needed.
They are about 27,000 voters and almost all are Malays but 1,800 Chinese voters. New voters constitute more than 5,000 of the voters.
The late Tan Sri Azizan Abdul Razak have been the state assemblymen for Sungai Limau (and previously known as Sala) for five terms plus few months after GE 2013 in early May.
It is pretty much PAS territory, so putting up banners and distributing pamphlets with unsavory content will be removed within hours. The mere entry into their "black area" will be met with Unit Amal or local PAS muscleman.
Any known members of their kampung known to be voting BN will be boycotted and ignored by the rest of the community. Unlike in an urban area where one hardly give a hoot to one's neighbour, being ignored by almost the whole kampong makes one feel like a leper.
He is respected for his politics of harmony. The PAS grassroot maybe adverserial, but his personal view of politics is hardly so and far from fanatical.
He comes from a big family and it is believed that some 5,000 voters, PAS or UMNO voters, are within his extended family. It may have formed his opinion on the difference between UMNO and PAS.
Unlike former Kelantan Menteri Besar, Dato Nik Aziz Nik Mat and PAS President, Dato Hadi Awang, Azizan does not believe in judging UMNO and it's members as kafir (non-believer). Azizan views UMNO and PAS as merely different political parties.
When Tan Sri Muhyiddin repeated Azizan's view in the early part of the campaign in Sungai Limau, Nik Aziz refuted swiftly. Known within PAS circle, Nik Aziz never came to do ceramah in Sungai Limau or within the vicinity of the district of Yan.
Azizan non adversarial approach to politics made him many friends among UMNO leaders. He is known to had dinners at Tun Dr Mahathir's home to seek advise on administration.
In the midst of the power struggle within PAS to topple him from his Menteri Besar position, Azizan comfortably appeared with the then UMNO Liaison Chief, Dato Ahmad Bashah for a 1M4U event with Dato Najib.
The attempt to oust Azizan have a lot to do with the Anwarinas faction in PAS Kedah.
The conspirators, namely Deputy President, Mat Sabu, current Election Director, Dato Mahfuz Omar, former exco, Dato Phahrolrazi and Dato Taulan, etc are all pro-Anwar.
Even though Dato Amiruddin Hamzah was with Azizan during the power struggle, his rather flexible stance made him seen as an Anwarinas too.
Azizan was never comfortable with Anwar.
This was long before PAS cooperated with PKR in Pakatan Rakyat. He was aware of Anwar's negative view on ulamak. He expressed his discomfort with Anwar's debate with Dato Shaberry Chik to Zam. [Read here.]
PAS Kedah did not used the Buku Jingga as campaign material in the last GE. To return the compliment, Anwar neither visited Azizan at the hospital nor paid respect upon his death.
The Anwarinas in PAS had few reasons to topple Azizan. Firstly, it had something to do with certain state government contract not given to their cronies. However, to the PAS grassroot, they were told that Azizan was giving state government contracts to UMNO members.
Secondly, Azizan had to go down to enable them to cover-up their own faults like the KUIN contracts in Kuala Ketil and failed investment in Papua New Guinea.
Ultimately, it was necessary to weaken the ulamak faction. Azizan is a key and influential player. The outcome will be seen in the upcoming PAS Muktamar immediately after the Sungai Limau by-election.
Azizan versus Azizan
The strong aura of the late Azizan in Sungai Limau remains. Both side seemed to campaign on the message of who are more Azizan than the others.
PAS wants to maintain that they are continuing on the legacy of Azizan, claiming to adhere to "politik damai" (peaceful politics) ala Azizan and as though PAS is still upholding to "kepimpinan ulamak" (ulamak leadership).
Unfortunately, UMNO managed to embarass PAS by exposing a superimposed picture of the candidate with Azizan on their official pamphlet. They also made an issue of the political and family links between the candidate and Azizan detrators, Mahfuz and Phahrolrazi, respectively.
Large number of Azizan supporters was hoping for a family member of Azizan or his former political secretary, Muzaini.
UMNO also seized on the Azizan aura. At several UMNO bilek gerakan, one can see banners asking passers-by to offer fatihah to the late Azizan.
It has withheld any attack on the former government. For one reason, it is because UMNO has recaptured Kedah thus pointless to harp on the past government.
Secondly, it is improper to criticise a deceased person and more so, he was respected for engaging with UMNO leaders.
The war of words in the Sg Limau by-election is about who is more Azizan than the others. Each side is careful not to touch wrongly on Azizan as Muhyiddin innocent comment on the amputation of Azizan's limbs almost became a local issue.
The campaign here is a 'touching game' of holding on to each side's existing supporters and winning over the big middle ground.
There is hardly any local issue played and issues played by both sides tend to be national and insignificant to the local agrarian community.
It is not without trying because PAS selectively raised issue on state matter involving KUIN and a certain Maahad. However, it only ricochet back to their past failures which had it's root in those former PAS state exco members. [Read The Unspinners here and here.]
The cut in subsidies for sugar had some traction for PAS. UMNO's reply is the raised BR1M amount.
Aggresive politics is also frown upon in Sungai Limau thus Anwar was giving a religious tazkirah on imarah (enliven) the masjid and strengthen aqidah (belief) through solat and zakat last night instead of his usually fiery speeches. [Read Minaq Jinggo here]
His open ceramah could hardly get locals to come, although few thousands outsiders were there.
Locals voters hardly attend political ceramah. They only learned this on the first night when Hadi was delivering ceramah to only 10 people.
Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng also could not attract Chinese for his ceramah. So they brought the PAS candidate for house to house campaign.
What is PAS without massively attended ceramah. So PAS had to bring comedian pendakwah without questionable learning and down and out singer and actress to attract the crowd.
Despite PAS's early lead as incumbent and earlier start to campaign, Mahfuz commented yesterday that PAS could only win by a thin 500 votes. Their internal projection expect a majority of 700 votes.
By understating it, he hope to be seen doing better than expected and could survive his removal as PAS Vice President.
UMNO is in a tough position to win from the start.
Despite "planting" two independent in the 2013 general election, UMNO only managed to reduce PAS majority from 3,200 votes to near 2,800 votes. To win, they have to turnaround more than 2,800 votes which translates to 1,400 voters.
Prior to Azizan, Sg Limau was usually a toss up between UMNO and PAS. The internal problem in PAS and sentiment against the poor treatment to late Azizan presents an opportunity for UMNO.
However, UMNO also has an internal problem. There is no sabotage but the losing former Ketua Bahagian, Dato Suhaimi and his supporters stayed out of the campaign.
He is still sore from Dato Jamil Khir's challenge.
Their side claimed Jamil defaulted on a gentlemen agreement where Dato Suhaimi made way for him to run for Parliament and allow him to stay unchallenged as Ketua Bahagian.
The campaign by both side is dominated and assisted by outside volunteers and the temperature is a wee bit higher than usual election in Sungai Limau.
Fresh from a "morale victory" in the UMNO Vice Presidency race, he is a crowd puller and his polite and humble ways appeals to even PAS voters.
Mukhriz had always maintain his respect for Azizan. When Azizan was hospitalised, Mukhriz was first to visit him. After his amputation, Mukhriz visit was frequent.
When Phahrolrazi and the Anwarinas wanted to blame Azizan for the KUIN fiasco during the state assembly proceeding, it was Mukhriz who defended him.
His sincerity can be appreciated and PAS treated him with Azizan-like aura that needs to be delicately neutralised.
PAS is appealing to their voters to give Sg Limau the seat since BN already has Kedah. The reason behind the appeal is that there is sentiment among PAS members and supporters as well as Chinese to give their votes to BN so that state and federal assistance can flow in and revive the economy.
Poverty and Neglect
That brings us to the real issue not sufficiently giiven attention and brought out into a campaign issue in Sungai Limau. There is widespread occurrence of poverty and neglect.
We must commend the attempt of Nadi Rakyat group of bloggers and Wanita UMNO for these posters. If only it was ready earlier than the four last days, it would have brought the debate on poverty and neglect on the centre stage.
It helps the urban public, policy makers and politicians understand, hopefully appreciate better the impact of increasing in prices of petrol and sugar on the common rural people.
Poverty and neglect in Sungai Limau should make us reflect on our policies for New Economic Model and subsidy rationalisation.
The perception on high income economy is that only PEMANDU, Talentcorp, Teraju and GLCs' CEOs and top management are getting the immediate benefit with salary and perks in the millions.
The increment in income to the lower level work force is limited in absolute term. The value increase made seemed to be shared by top guys and not shareholders and workers.
Subsidy rationalisation badly affect the common people like those in Sungai Limau. Whatever the rationale and justification, only the educated and those in the higher economic echeleon can understand and appreciate. But that is because it does not affect them.
Common people and voters do not react positively when their livelihood is affected. George Bush used to say, "The lifestyle of the American people is non-negotiable." It is definitely not negotiable to those living in or on the brinks of poverty.
Before the BN government still insist to further rationalise subsidies, ignore the plight of the lower end of society, and risk getting kicked out in the next general election, ask whether they have seriously make effort to cut "consumption and investment" wastage in Government and GLCs?
Have they made serious efforts to plug all leakages?
Have they done enough to deter corruption and catch those offenders? Not just the ikan puyu found in padi fields, but real big fishes.
PAS had neglected their constituency and resulted in the widespread occurrence of poverty and neglect. At least, there should be some difference made during Azizan's term as Menteri Besar.
Before returning any blame on the federal or state government before Azizan, Sungai Limau was never cut off from any federal or state assistance.
It is partly bureaucrasy and partly politics that hindered the flow of assistance to the rakyat.
PAS's local warlords are threatened by assistance from the government to their supporters and followers. Poverty and neglect justify their politics of "blame" and enable them to remain in power.
Any PAS members and voters seeking and receiving assistance from BN activists are condemned and ostracised. Yet PAS machinery make no effort to bring up community matters to the respective government departments and agencies.
After 5 terms under PAS, their influence on the community is strong.
Out of the 15 PDM (voting districts), 9 was won by PAS. So does BN and UMNO have any fighting chance to win?
Frankly yes, there is always that chance.
UMNO can win but UMNO must believe first that they can win and UMNO must be serious enough to want to win.
"No syok sendiri and hooray hooray events but those that have direct relevance with the voters.
To win, UMNO must penetrate the PAS's "black" area and meet the voters to win their heart. They need to gain some ground in this area. The green wants to give to the blue but they want to be reached.
UMNO must win the grey area and that include those disheartened UMNO members. Do not just discard them as black because they will make all the difference in a tight race where UMNO is on an up momentum and PAS has slowed down.
If the green can be blued, there is no excuse not to try.
Every old trick from Mahfuz's bag of tricks was read, revealed and replied. All the tricks used by PAS guised under "politik damai" image only points to one message.
PAS is desperate and working hard to "kepong" (block) instead of penetrating the UMNO voters. They have to bring all their big guns to just talk to small crowd in mini ceramah.
It is all left with UMNO.
To drive them towards victory, UMNO campaign workers must have the sense of mission that they are not merely working to win for their candidate but take it upon themselves as a responsiblity to salvage the rakyat from poverty and neglect.
* Edited 3/11/2013 8:30 AM
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