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The Aminah enigma


AMINAH Abdullah apologises a lot. She apologises for even slightly raising her voice, for not providing food and drink to reporters, for arriving late at her own press conferences, and even for not being “highly educated”, as she puts it.

The former Penang Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Wanita chief is contesting the Penanti state by-election as an independent candidate. She has been in the headlines since campaigning started for “exposing” alleged bribes offered to her by two PKR leaders — supreme council member Cheah Kah Peng, and Lim Eng Nam, the special assistant to PKR’s Penang exco Law Choo Kiang.

Her more than three-hour audio recording of the alleged bribe is now being investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and is hotly discussed in the media and blogosphere.

This is an Aminah who is easy to portray as ruthless, calculating and misguided. But though her quotes carried in the media are accurate, what the media cannot adequately capture is her self-effacing personality. She is not the most articulate of politicians, and even her official statements are handwritten on ruled exercise books.

But just because the 57-year-old wife and mother of four is soft-spoken does not mean she is not a political strategist. And yet, just because her heart and soul are in politics, it doesn’t mean that she fully comprehends the full import of her actions.

Aminah with her husband behind her
Aminah with husband, Rofi

“From the beginning, it has been my eldest daughter Hernanie who has been convincing me to contest,” she says. Apparently, it is also Hernanie who advised Aminah to “protect” herself from allegedly being played out by the party that she had quit in 2007. Hence, that audio recording.

Serving the rakyat?

Aminah speaks slowly and her voice trembles even at the best of times. At her press conferences, she shifts between the bravado of “I will expose PKR’s wrongdoings!” to “Please stop writing — I think I shouldn’t have said that.”

This could be a ploy on her part to manipulate the media, but on the whole her statements are frustrating to process. In a typical exchange with reporters, when asked why she wants to contest the by-election, she says, “To serve the rakyat.”

How does she plan to serve the rakyat? “By exposing PKR’s lies and internal rot,” she replies. How is that going to serve the rakyat? “Oh, but I have other points in my manifesto as well to help the rakyat,” she then says.

And it goes on. When asked later why she is betraying the trust of her long-time friends, she says, “I care for Cheah and Lim, but I am sick of the party.” And yet when she is asked about the wrongdoings in the party, she mentions only one name — Penang PKR chief Datuk Zahrain Mohamed Hashim.

Aminah holding a CD
Aminah has a CD again!

Even then she seems to be running rings around the media. On 27 May, she tells the press she has “damning evidence” that implicates Zahrain, and challenges him to respond. On 28 May, she reveals that this “damning evidence” is of Zahrain “attacking and humiliating” her at a party meeting between 2006 and 2007.

Reporters ask her, “But surely ‘attacking and humiliating’ you do not constitute a crime?”

“But I have strong evidence; I have a CD,” she says.

“Then why do you not bring the evidence to the police or to other independent bodies and let them investigate?” reporters try to clarify.

“Because actually I only want to run my campaign smoothly, I don’t really want to reveal any of this,” she replies.

But then why does she go ahead and reveal it in bits and pieces? “Because I have been challenged by Zahrain,” she says.

With Aminah, everything seems to lead back to Zahrain. Nevertheless, she is adamant that this is not a personal vendetta. “It’s about Zahrain bringing in his Umno culture into the party, and so it’s a party issue,” she stresses.

“I didn’t expect this”

Aminah in press conference, photographers surround her
Aminah’s main gripe appears to be Zahrain
In a post-press conference conversation at the Penang Election Commission in Komtar, 26 May, Aminah confesses to the press that she did not expect the MACC to call her so soon to investigate her allegations.

“I didn’t expect it to come to this,” she says, and implores the media to report responsibly.

But this begs the question — what else did she expect by accusing her former party of bribing her? It appears that even she does not know. Does she want to destroy the party? It doesn’t appear that way, at least on the surface — she laments publicly and in the audio recording that she misses Parti Keadilan Nasional (KeAdilan). She misses the camaraderie, she misses the struggle, and she even tells reporters, “My nine-year-old daughter Herna Natasya’s first words was ‘Reformasi’. Only she couldn’t pronounce it and used to say ‘Aci! Aci!'”

Her main gripe, it seems, is and always has been with Zahrain and those who enable him to remain in power. The question is, are personal vendettas reason enough to contest in by-elections?

“[Cheah and Lim] asked me to rejoin and change the party from the inside, but I am sick of them. They are all rotten,” she says. But she says, “I don’t mean Cheah and Lim — they are not like the others.”

Aminah in front of a Chinese sundry shop
Aminah canvassing for votes

Ultimately, it is the Penanti voters who will decide on whether Aminah is a legitimate contender. But until then, it is hard to decipher what exactly drives her. Is she the bitter medicine that some say PKR needs? Is she naive and way in over her head? Or is she a schemer who will turn around and surprise us all come polling day on 31 May? Favicon

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14 Responses to “The Aminah enigma”

  1. maozi says:

    Funny contestant. What do you offer to rakyat of your (possible) future constituency? Juicy gossip about political scandals?

    Aminah tried to play as a victim, being “insulted” by Zahrain, being “offered” bribery etc, but the way we see it, she seems “surprisingly” well-armed against these so-called “insults/offers”, by providing video+photo+voice recordings. Now you tell me, who seems more like the victim?

  2. pilocarpine says:

    Her winning Penanti won’t cause any rippled. Neither will her winning benefit the people.

  3. Arion Yeow says:

    Confusing! I feel sorry for the reporters who have to cover her press conferences.

  4. Dhanen Mahes says:

    I certainly don’t agree with corruption, but does she have a platform other than ‘the other guys are bad, let’s lynch Zahrain’?

  5. sino says:

    Voters in Penanti must teach her a lesson by giving her zero votes.

  6. Nicholas Aw says:

    Your article is food for thought. Honestly, I feel that Aminah is trying to get cheap publicity. If she were to campaign ordinarily, I am certain she would not be able to get much coverage from the media. By bringing up the issue of bribery and the possession of a video, etc, she has drawn the attention of the media. And this is precisely what she wants as the printed media as well as the electronic media have featured her on their front page. The media has been drawn to her like a swarm of bees.

    Frankly speaking, if I were a Penanti voter, I would not even bother to vote for her as she is contesting for all the wrong reasons. Personally, I don’t think she is that capable as she is not even that articulate. There is more to it than meets the eye. In all probability, she has support from BN/Umno to run down the PKR so that the opposition votes will be substantially reduced. As a result, the BN/Umno can claim that the PKR is losing support and that the people are beginning to realise that only BN/Umno is able to serve the rakyat.

    Be wise!

  7. Ng says:

    Do the people in Penanti really want someone like Aminah representing them? Instead of focusing what she can do for the people, she issues threats, contradicts herself and resorts to gutter politics.

  8. I will not vote for her if she stands in my constituency as so far she does not have an agenda for and to serve the rakyat.

  9. Lionel says:

    I think this woman is just another disease that has to be stopped before it infects the people of Penanti.

  10. gary ravi says:

    She does not condemn the whole party but the party is going the same path as Umno. So she’s set off to make things right again for her people, not the party.. She is what she is…more important she resembles the rakyat. No pride and tunjuk wayang in front of the rakyat…I SUPPORT HER.

  11. adam says:

    Whatever…up to M’sians to vote/not.

  12. kwchap says:

    Agree with all the comments here … Cheap publicity … Is she contesting for a seat in Penang’s DUN or is she’s plotting a smear campaign against PR (PKR)? Only God knows…

  13. awangkassim says:

    And to think she was Penang PKR’s wanita chief?

    PKR seems to get shoddy coandidates for leadership! Reformasi PKR, reformasi!

  14. Antares says:

    Read somewhere that Aminah was very close to Ezam Mohd Nor in the early days of Reformasi. After Ezam turned toxic against Anwar he could have infected Aminah. She certainly seems to be doing an Ezam against Zahrain. All those silly hints about revealing what happened at a hotel … turns out Zahrain hurt her feelings …

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