AFTER the 26 Aug 2008 landmark victory for Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the Permatang Pauh by-election, most of the major Malay dailies focused on analysing where the Barisan Nasional (BN) machinery went wrong.
In an Utusan Malaysia article by Sobri Sudin on 28 Aug titled Pengajaran Dari Permatang Pauh, the writer wrote: “In truth, the curse of Permatang Pauh continues, to the point that the constituency has become synonymous with Anwar Ibrahim.”
Sobri observed of the BN campaign: “Use any strategy, tactic, approach, developmental politics, incentive or even media propaganda to attack from all sides… What is clear is that all these elements result in a backlash to the BN’s efforts.”
He said the lack of internal cohesion within the BN also affected its campaign. “Some of it may be attributed to the tsunami of the 12th general election on 8 March. And some may be attributed to the bickering at branch meetings and divisional elections, and lobbying for positions in the executive council.
“Can the Permatang Pauh voters’ rejection of the BN provide some kind of a wake-up call that the popularity of the national leadership is beginning to wane? What are the implications of all this?”
Warning to the BN
Sinar Harian published an article by Dr Aisar Yee Abdullah on 28 Aug titled Amaran Lampu Merah Untuk BN, which recounted the various tactics employed by the BN and why they failed.
“The sodomy issue was the main issue played by the BN. Each night, a private TV station would air this issue, and various accusations were made to attack Anwar’s character. On the eve of polling day, ‘DNA evidence’, allegedly involving Anwar, was aired.
“Another main issue played up by the BN was that Anwar was a traitor to the Malays.
“TV news replayed the pig-farming project in Sepang, as well as (Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri) Khalid (Ibrahim)’s suggestion to allow a 10% quota of non-Malay students in UiTM. Such news was aired to inspire hatred for Anwar among Malays, not just in Permatang Pauh, but in Malaysia.”
Dr Aisar concluded: “The BN’s insistence on these issues to raise the ire of the Malays against Anwar was seen as an acknowledgment that it no longer needed the non-Malay votes. The BN has already conceded that the non-Malays have ‘abandoned’ them. The BN can only have hope in the Malays.
“Strangely, the BN is not aware of what is happening on the ground. While they were heatedly playing up Malay sentiments, could it be that Malays today no longer see things that way? Is ‘ketuanan Melayu’ still so sensitive for the Malays today? Even if it were, would such a view be applicable to all Malays?”
The writer ended with a warning to the BN: “The results of this by-election is a red warning sign to the BN that six months after the last general election, voters have yet to see any reforms. In fact, it appears that the administration has lost direction and needs prompt correction.”
On polling day itself, Utusan Malaysia carried various articles telling people, specifically the Pakatan Rakyat, not to contest Malay rights.
In an article titled Jangan ‘Jolok Sarang Tebuan’, Selangor Umno information chief Datuk Abdul Rahman Palil was reported to have said that “opposition-front efforts, particularly by the DAP and PKR, to create ethnic and religious equality should be seen as an irresponsible act.”
Abdul Rahman Palil was then quoted as saying: “Should the opposition continue to be so hard-headed, I won’t discount the possibility that the Malays will rise and fight this to the end.”
On the same day, Utusan Malaysia also published a report titled Jangan Pertikai Hak Melayu, where it quoted the Raja Muda of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail, as saying that “all parties should not contest Article 153 of the Federal Constitution on the position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the special rights of the Malays.”
The royalty was further quoted as saying: “Why should we hide behind the principle of equality, which has consequences that can be calculated and reasoned out? If Article 153 has been able to maintain unity for the past 51 years, there is no reason why it should be changed…”
In its editorial on the same day, titled Jangan Biarkan Bangsa Lain Rampas Hak Melayu, Utusan Malaysia attempted to review PAS’s relationship within the Pakatan Rakyat vis-à -vis the formation of a Pakatan federal government.
“What will happen should the opposition front succeed in forming the federal government? What is clear is that there will no Islamic state, and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will be elected prime minister based on the previous agreement among the opposition parties.
“When there is no Islamic state, it means the Malays will not know their future, because the opposition front’s vision is a multicultural and multi-religious country that does not favour any particular group.
“Because of that, there are those who question PAS’s position in the opposition front, as the party’s struggles are very different from those of its two partners.”
The editorial ends by saying: “Our worry is that behind all the opposition’s talk of setting up a federal government, Malay-Muslims will become more fractured, distracted by promises that may lead nowhere.
“This worry should be viewed seriously by all parties who do not wish for their religion and race to disappear one day. Among those who should be aware [of this consequence] is the PAS leadership.”