I trust this letter finds you in good health. You probably already know why I am writing to you. So please allow me to dispense with all the bullshit and cut to the chase, as much as this may appear extremely abrupt and not within Malay culture. I feel I should not labour too much on Malay, Chinese or Indian culture when our mission is to see the emergence of a new culture, a Malaysian culture, a melting pot of cultures if you like.
I am not a politician. I am not a political party member. Neither am I holding any position in any political party, association, movement, or whatever. I am just, what the government calls me, a Blogger. Why they call me a Blogger I do not really know. But I suppose it is because they view me as being behind Malaysia Today and they consider Malaysia Today a Blog.
Anyway, what the government chooses to label me as is not important because what I am going to say to you is not about me but about the future of this country. So, maybe what I would like to be called is a Malaysian. That’s right. I am a Malaysian, just like you, and I am addressing you as one Malaysian to another.
On January 17, 2009, you will be coming out to vote in the Kuala Terengganu by-election. Nevertheless, while you may view this as merely a by-election, it is not really a by-election as much as it is a proxy war between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat. Yes, it is an election to decide whether you, the Kuala Terengganu voters, are happy with the federal government or whether you would like to send a message to Barisan Nasional that you are not happy with the way Malaysians are being treated.
On March 8, 2008, half the Malaysian voters voted for Pakatan Rakyat. Granted, it was not a vote in support of Pakatan Rakyat as much as it was a vote against Barisan Nasional — a protest vote, as some would call it. But whether it was a vote in support of Pakatan Rakyat or a vote in protest of Barisan Nasional is not really the issue. The objective was to send a message to Barisan Nasional that the people are not happy. And the people demonstrated this by not voting for Barisan Nasional.
But did Barisan Nasional get the message? Did they take pains to change? No! What happened instead was that Barisan Nasional became even more arrogant. They did not understand that Malaysians have had enough of the arrogance of power and the result of the 8 March 2008 general election was meant as a medium to send a message to Barisan Nasional that 51 years was enough. No more arrogance! But the arrogance continued. Barisan Nasional did not repent. Instead, they demonstrated even more arrogance.
The Permatang Pauh by-election, again, proved that Barisan Nasional had not repented. The dirty tricks they pulled off managed to reduce Anwar Ibrahim’s majority from almost 20,000 to just 15,000. Okay, Anwar Ibrahim still performed better than Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail in the general election just five months before that. He still got two out of three votes or 66% of the votes. But what would have happened if the vote-majority had been razor-thin like what happened in Kuala Terengganu on March 8, 2008 where the UMNO candidate won by a mere 600 votes? The almost 5,000 votes that they robbed Anwar Ibrahim off would have turned victory into defeat.
I am aware that many of you have received RM300 over the last few days. Some have received RM500 and others as much as RM1,000. This money is aimed at buying your votes. They hope that once you take this money you will feel obligated to vote for Barisan Nasional and that you will feel guilty if, after taking the money, you vote for Pakatan Rakyat.
Well, don’t feel guilty. Take the money by all means. But you need not vote for Barisan Naisonal even if you do take the money. The money does not belong to Barisan Nasional. It belongs to the people. It is your money. So you are just taking back the money that was originally yours in the first place.
Do you really think Barisan Nasional would hand out money that belongs to them? No way! They took this money from you. Over 25 years, from 1974 to 1999, they siphoned out an estimated RM12 billion in Oil Royalty due to Terengganu. Then, from 2000 until 2008, they siphoned out another RM8 billion in the guise of Wang Ehsan. That comes to a total of RM20 billion. And how much are they throwing back at you in this January 17, 2009 by-election? Yes, that’s right, only RM80 million.
Okay, RM80 million sounds like a lot of money. It certainly is when you consider that the law says you must not spend more than RM200,000 in the election. So RM80 million is way above the allowed RM200,000. And that is just the Ang Pows they are going around town to hand out to the voters. What about the posters, flags, banners, balloons, T-shirts, caps, food and drinks, vehicles, helicopters, police outriders, salaries, etc., which you, the rakyat, are ultimately paying for? Don’t be surprised if I tell you that the total amount spent is going to touch at least RM250 million and that this is probably the most expensive by-election ever. And we are yet to calculate how much it costs to station 6,000 police personnel in Kuala Terengganu over the two-week period.
But whose money is all this? Why, yours of course. They are spending your money, or should I say, wasting your money, just to retain the Kuala Terengganu parliament seat. And why the need to spend what may come to RM500 million in the end– if we take into consideration the total mobilisation cost — just to win a by-election? Well, as I said earlier, it is because the Kuala Terengganu by-election is not just a by-election but a proxy war between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.
Malaysians from all over the country are hoping that you, the Kuala Terengganu voters, will do the right thing. And the ‘right thing’ here is to send a message to Barisan Nasional that you can’t be bought, especially with your own money — which they robbed from you in the first place. Also, send a message to Barisan Nasional that you have had enough of the arrogance, the threats, the rampant corruption and wastage of the rakyat’s money, the abuse of power, and whatnot. Tell Barisan Nasional on January 17, 2009 that 52 years is enough. After 52 years it is time for change.
With regards to the 6,000 police personnel based in Kuala Terengganu over these two weeks, don’t be too alarmed. Sure, it is partly meant to intimidate you and to give an impression that trouble may be brewing over the horizon, especially if Barisan Nasional does not win the by-election. But this is not the real reason. Remember, when they handed you the RM300, RM500 or RM1,000, they asked you for copies of your identity cards on the excuse they need this ‘for the record’? Well, it is not really ‘for the record’. They want to use these copies of your identity cards to create ‘phantom voters’. And don’t be surprised if on Polling Day many of the 6,000 police personnel turn up in ‘plain clothes’ to vote in your place.
They are hoping that at least 20,000 to 25,000 of you will not come out to vote. This is quite normal because in any election the best we can expect is a 70% or so voter turnout. 30% of 80,000, therefore, comes to roughly 20,000 to 25,000 ‘no show’ voters. They can then always ‘safely’ increase the voter turnout to 75% and no one will be the wiser. This means they can pad the ballot boxes with about 4,000 to 5,000 ‘additional’ votes with no problems whatsoever. Now can you see why they need 6,000 police personnel in Kuala Terengganu? Take a wild guess and no prize for the right guess.
I urge you, therefore, to come out and vote so that you can deny them the opportunity to vote in your place. And come out early. Come out as soon as the polling stations open. If you go and vote after lunch you might find you are not able to vote because you ‘already voted’ — as many found out in the Permatang Pauh by-election on 26 August 2008.
In the Permatang Pauh by-election, at least 600 voters could not vote because someone else had already voted in their place. And that is only what was reported. Many just silently went home without complaining that someone had voted in their place. We expect the incidences of ‘sudah undi’ to be very high on 17 January 2009. And if that happens lodge a protest. And make a police report as well. In Permatang Pauh, about 50 police reports were made — and of course no action was taken.
One issue they are playing up to the hilt is the issue of the Islamic State and Hudud laws. This is aimed at frightening the Chinese voters. Why don’t you turn the tables on them and, for once, place Barisan Nasional on the defensive. Ask UMNO what their stand on the Islamic State is. Instead of allowing them to demonise PAS, ask UMNO to declare that they are opposed to the Islamic State and will never agree to Islamic laws. Make this a condition before you decide whether you will vote for the Barisan Nasional candidate. If Umno refuses to do this then why are they demonising PAS? Will UMNO, therefore, not also be considered in support of the Islamic State and Islamic laws?
Then ask UMNO why they are giving so much problems to the Christians. The Christians are very unhappy with the UMNO-led government’s policy on churches and the Bible. But all this is happening at federal level and only in the UMNO-run states. The Christians face no problems in Pakatan Rakyat-run states, not even in Kelantan. Is it not Umno, rather than PAS, that is intolerant of the non-Muslims? This is the reality. And almost 20 years of PAS rule in Kelantan lies testimony to this.
So why are they demonising PAS when it is UMNO that causes so much problems for the non-Muslims? Many reject PAS because they fear Islam. But PAS has been very tolerant and helpful to the non-Muslims. Kelantan offers the non-Muslims permission to build places of worship even when they did not approach the state government for permission. UMNO repeatedly denies non-Muslims permission to set up places of worship.
Yes, it is time that UMNO be asked to state very clearly its stand on the Islamic State and Islamic laws. PAS is not in power. PAS can never be in power. PAS has only 23 seats in Parliament. Even if it wins the Kuala Terengganu by-election it will still only be 24 seats. PAS can never win more than 30 seats in Parliament. Even in the best of times, like in 1999, it won only 27 Parliament seats. PAS can never go beyond 30 seats. Anyway, every general election, PAS contests only 60 seats. So how can it win more than that?
It is UMNO that leads the federal government. And it is Umno that decides the policies and makes the rules. And it is UMNO that is giving the non-Muslims all these problems. So why is PAS being demonised? Why do the non-Muslims fear PAS? This, I can’t seem to understand. You fear PAS because of what it MAY do if it comes to power — even though it can never come to power, not without DAP and PKR. But you do not fear UMNO when it is already in power and is the one giving the non-Muslims all these problems. Is this logical?
It would be very nice if the Kuala Terengganu voters, once and for all, force UMNO to state its stand on Islam. Let UMNO declare its stand openly and before 17 January 2009, if they dare. I dare bet that they won’t. That is because, while they are demonising PAS on its Islamic State stand, Umno itself does not dare state its stand. At least PAS is honest about the matter. Can we say the same for UMNO? UMNO whacks PAS but it is not PAS that is the problem to the non-Muslims. It is UMNO.
I would like to end by saying I hope you, the Kuala Terengganu voters, will not let Malaysia down. We are depending on you to teach Barisan Nasional a lesson on January 17, 2009. A message needs to be sent to Barisan Nasional. And you have the opportunity to do this in the Kuala Terengganu by-election. Do this for Malaysia. And, more importantly, do it for the future generation, your children and grandchildren. You owe them this much.
Raja Petra Kamarudin