WITH the 17 Jan 2009 Kuala Terengganu parliamentary by-election about two months before the March 2009 Umno polls, the Malay dailies have picked up on the efforts by some Umno leaders to boost their chances in the party polls.
Besides this, the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English, and the discovery of the carcass of a wild boar’s head in a largely Muslim community were among the headlines in the Malay press from 15 to 19 Dec 2008.
Hobnobbing in KT
On 19 Dec, Utusan Malaysia ran a news analysis on the concern that some Umno leaders may be focusing on the wrong thing in the Kuala Terengganu by-election. The article, The culture of trying to be seen with top leaders needs to stop, said whenever there were by-elections, Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders — namely Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Razak — would be surrounded by various Umno folk. It said most of them merely wanted to be seen publicly with the top two leaders when they visited the grassroots during the election campaign.
The article observed that it would be fine if it was merely to greet the two leaders at the airport and stick around to listen to a briefing on their itinerary. However, the hangers-on showed up in droves, tailing the leaders wherever they went, from one operation or polling centre to another.
This would have a negative effect on the campaign, the article observed, as party members should instead be spreading out to attend to “black” and “grey” areas (where the BN is not popular among voters).
“It’s alright if they are following the two leaders in a small group, but there’s something wrong when there’s a long convoy,” a Terengganu Umno division head was quoted as saying.
He did not name any culprit but anticipated that there would be such Umno leaders doing exactly this in Kuala Terengganu because it was just before the party polls.
Anwar campaigning in Permatang Pauh
“I was campaigning in [the] Permatang Pauh [by-election in August 2008] and did not see such a culture among the opposition parties. Even when a chief minister or a Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leader was visiting the area, the party workers there were focused on their tasks, distributing flyers, putting up posters on trees and lamp posts,” he said.
The division head said the 11 days of campaigning for the Kuala Terengganu by-election was not the time for these Umno leaders to promote themselves, curry favour with the top two or steal the limelight. He pointed out that the priority should be to ensure the BN candidate wins.
Lessons from Permatang Pauh
An earlier feature by Utusan Malaysia on 17 Dec said as Umno faces the Kuala Terengganu by-election, it should not repeat some of the mistakes of Permatang Pauh.
The feature, titled Lessons from Permatang Pauh, said Umno should ensure there was no jealousy and spite among party members, so that the candidate who is selected to contest can win.
It noted that in Permatang Pauh, everyone could see there was a strain in the relationship between the leadership of that Umno division and BN candidate Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah.
Arif Shah and his family were often seen campaigning on their own and did not get much support from the division. As a result, the article said, the BN not only had to face the opposition in the by-election but also struggled with internal problems.
Arif Shah lost by 15,671 votes to PKR advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in Permatang Pauh.
The article said Umno’s election machinery must ensure that the internal conflict that plagued the Permatang Pauh by-election was not repeated in Kuala Terengganu. It cautioned that another opposition victory would give the Pakatan Rakyat more ammunition to claim that the electorate rejected the BN.
Maths and Science in English
The seven options proposed by the Roundtable Conference on Teaching Maths and Science in English (PPSMI in the Bahasa Malaysia acronym) have received mixed reactions from different quarters.
On 16 Dec, Utusan Malaysia carried an article titled Examining the teaching of Maths and Science in English, which argued that it was not legal.
The writer, lawyer Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, said Article 152 of the Federal Constitution states that Malay is the national language. It also states that except for official purposes, no one can be barred from using, teaching and learning other languages.
He said the term “official” refers to government matters and includes the education system and syllabi managed by the Education Ministry.
He further argued that the Education Act 1996 states that the national language should be the main medium of instruction in national schools, and that this applies to Maths and Science.
In Berita Harian‘s report on 17 Dec, titled PPSMI’s options receive different reactions, former education director-general Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad said the government must consider the future of the younger generation in a holistic way. At the same time, it must ensure that the national language does not become extinct.
He said the government should consider whether the teaching of Maths and Science in English would really raise the proficiency among primary school students, or if it would only work for a group of students.
He pointed out that if the authority was serious about improving proficiency, efforts should be made to strengthen and even revamp the English language syllabus and teacher training institutions. He did not think teaching Maths and Science in English alone would necessarily improve proficiency.
Folks in Masjid Tanah, near Alor Gajah, Malacca, had another rude shock when the head of a wild boar was found at a local school, the third time in recent months, the Malay dailies reported.
A Berita Harian report on 18 Dec, titled A boar’s head in front of a school gate, said the head was found the previous day, hanging on a piece of banner put up on the gate of Sekolah Kebangsaan Pengkalan Balak.
The report noted that there were two similar incidents recently. It said that on 17 Oct, the carcass of a boar’s head was found on the Padang Kemunting beach. On 13 Nov, a Kampung Ujong Padang resident found a similar carcass hanging on the gate of his house.
Harian Metro‘s report, Boar’s head hanging, on 18 Dec, said the banner was an announcement inviting Muslims to a gathering by Majlis Pemuafakatan Ummah (council on Muslim solidarity) on 20 Dec.
The report quoted the chairperson of the Bumiputera Chalet Association, Zakaria Othman, as saying the perpetrator was deliberately doing it to offend the local Muslims.
The report suggested that the three gruesome finds could be related to the Muslim community being unhappy about the pollution caused by pig farming in the area.