THE sun rose over Taiping’s famous Maxwell Hill on 29 March 2009 and cast a pink glow on the hundreds of police and Federal Reserve Unit personnel who took up positions around the large sports field in front of the Taiping Municipal Council building. This was where nominations for the Bukit Gantang parliamentary by-election would be filed.
The middle of the field was to be no-person’s land. On two opposite sides, rolls of barbed wire had been put in place to keep Barisan Nasional (BN) and PAS supporters apart.
At 7.30am, only police and journalists could be seen milling outside the nomination centre. But just around the corner, a crowd of blues and whites — the BN camp — was steadfastly waiting for the BN candidate, Ismail Saffian, to march with him to the nomination centre.
Around another corner on the other side of the municipal hall was the PAS camp, boisterous despite the early hour. They shouted “Reformasi!”, “Hancur BN!” and other taunts at the BN supporters, who at that hour comprised mostly women.
A man weaved among the BN supporters with a big plastic bag, dishing out yellow button badges bearing the Sultan of Perak’s image that read “Daulat Tuanku” and “Setia Kepada Raja”.
Barbed wire separating the two rival parties, with FRU personnel on guard (Pic by Raj Kumar, courtesy of theSun)
The rival groups soon descended on the field in front of the nomination centre, taking up positions behind the barbed wire to chant and sing slogans. At one point, as BN leaders walked up to the nomination centre gates, the PAS crowd roared, “Rasuah! Rasuah! Rasuah!”
Among the sea of green, an inflatable and cylindrical-shaped item floated. “Oh, it’s supposed to be a submarine!” gasped one reporter in revelation. It was the opposition’s dig at Umno’s new president Datuk Seri Najib Razak over alleged corruption in the purchase of submarines while he was defence minister.
The early bird to the nomination centre was PAS’s Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin who arrived at 8.45am, a good 15 minutes before nomination opened. The embattled Perak menteri besar squeezed through the crowd of PAS supporters, all smiles and confident, setting the PAS crowd off in a frenzy of cheers.
The BN’s Ismail, who is a good head taller than most people, arrived at 9:05am. Linking arms with Umno’s new deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, they strode to the nomination centre.
Kamarul Ramizu Idris (Pic by Raj Kumar,
courtesy of theSun) Reporters couldn’t recognise independent candidate Kamarul Ramizu Idris when he arrived. He slipped into the nomination centre without a media scrum packed around him. He was unveiled later after Election Commission returning officer Datuk Mahmud Morshidi announced all three as confirmed candidates.
Interviewed later, Kamarul Ramizu said he felt a calling to contest the by-election “to fix the problems of society.”
“I want to establish a spiritual society, my concept of politics is ‘politik beriman’,” he said, never once taking off the sunglasses he wore. He also had on a velvet songkok despite the blazing mid-morning heat.
The Perak-born entrepreneur, who is in the business of organising motivational talks, has only a Form Five education from Taiping’s Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan King Edward VII. “Never mind that I’m only Form Five-educated. Allah will help those who are on His side,” he said.
Kamarul Ramizu denied rumours that he was being sponsored to stand in the by-election as a spoiler. “I’m using my own money. I have about 1,000 helpers.”
The battle royale
Kamarul Ramizu may be an intriguing candidate with his “Malay rocker” appearance — the dark glasses, the mullet hairstyle — but everyone knows where the real battle lies.
Nizar told reporters later that the Bukit Gantang by-election would be a referendum on the Perak constitutional crisis.
PAS’s Nizar (left) and the BN’s Ismail (Pic by Raj Kumar, courtesy of
theSun) “It’s for the people to say they don’t want an administration that does not follow the rule of law. What is happening in Perak is a conflict between truth and falsehood. The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) represents the truth, and falsehood is those who seized power and abuse power,” he said.
But Nizar’s rival menteri besar, Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, cautioned: “Pakatan has to be extremely careful in playing up Perak issues, because it will all boil down to the issue of the Sultan.”
In other words, don’t use the royalty in the by-election campaign. But that could also straitjacket Umno just as much.
However, the PR is looking at a rejuvenated Umno following the party’s general assembly and election of new leaders.
Zambry observed that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s presence on the last day of the assembly was a big boost that would revive the spirits of party workers and the electorate in Bukit Gantang.
Indeed, Umno bigwigs, even those who lost in the party polls, made an appearance in Bukit Gantang today. Losers like Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, Tan Sri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib and Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir mingled in the BN crowd to send signals of a united Umno.
Bukit Gantang is too crucial for the party, and the BN/Umno under a new leadership, to lose.
See also: Turning up in full force in Bkt Gantang