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When the by-election dust settles…

RANDOM, general observations about covering by-elections since March 2008:

There has been a lack of substantive campaign issues. Umno always plays the race and religion card, and thinks prosperity and development are the only things that will make everyone happy. Of the eight by-elections in the past 18 months, I think the Kuala Terengganu by-election in January which PAS won was an exception because of the oil royalty deficit that the federal government owed the state.

The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is good at playing the underdog and empathising with the average citizen’s desire for fair treatment.

PAS’s ceramah rhetoric tends to focus on an Islam that stresses inner piety, in contrast with Umno’s portrayal of upholding Islam by building schools, mosques and providing funds for haj pilgrims.

Rural motorcyclists are leisurely riders to the point of being annoyingly slow. I always thought mat rempit came from the kampung. Instead, the ones who speed are motorists with outstation licence plates, most likely a journalist from Kuala Lumpur late for an assignment.

Strangers are kind. The surau where Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was going to break fast with Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was located in a small village with a tight warren of narrow paths. Parking space on the village’s only paved road had all been taken up. A villager let me park in his compound. “Quickly,” he said. “You don’t want to miss Anwar.”

Babies and young children stay up past bedtime to accompany their parents to ceramah. I wonder if rural youngsters grow up politicised at an early age.

Children playing on a slide while their parents listen to a BN ceramah in Tanjung Putus

When talking to the locals, Malay Malaysians are generally more willing to discuss their political affinities than Chinese Malaysians.

Telling people that your news organisation is internet-based draws two types of reactions depending on whether they are Barisan Nasional (BN) or PR supporters. BN-types will become cautious — “Tulis betul-betul ye” — while PR-types are more welcoming — “Oh, bagus, bagus. Kita tak percaya suratkhabar lagi.”

Few people understand the difference between blogs and online newspapers.

When lost and intending to ask a police officer for directions, expect him or her to say, “Saya pun tak tau. Saya dari luar.” When at least five police officers tell you that, you get an idea of how many personnel they brought in to monitor one by-election.

Police officers do make traffic worse during by-elections.

Male Umno politicians will shake a woman reporter’s hand; not all in PAS will.

Political parties are allowed to provide transport for voters to polling centres. There is no law against this, but I wonder what happens inside the vehicles. Campaigning is supposed to end at midnight before polling day.

Deborah Loh grumbles when she has to cover by-elections but ends up enjoying them. That doesn’t mean she’s hoping for another one, though.  

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7 Responses to “When the by-election dust settles…”

  1. siew eng says:

    Love these lighter observations. Really shows the fun you’ve been having!

  2. KW Mak says:

    The reluctance of shaking hands with people of the opposite gender isn’t just confined to PAS male politicians alone. I have observed the taboo among the Malay [Malaysian] man/woman on the street as well.

    A DAP male colleague once commented on the rudeness of a PKR female rep who refused to shake his hand until I explained to him that it wasn’t out of rudeness but religious beliefs that they could not shake his hand.

    Female Malay [Malaysian] politicians who have this taboo but wish to get past the “unfriendly”‘ image associated with it would simply wear a glove on their right hand… though this getup then leads to comments from non-Muslims why some Malays chose to have a Michael Jackson style of wearing one glove.

    To me, the lack of exposure to the customs of the other ethnic group is what makes us think that what the other races do is “weird” or “rude” or “peculiar”. This is something that will fade away when we mingle around more often with people of different races.


  3. pelangisenja says:

    Very true indeed.

  4. cjsavvy says:

    An astute observation.

  5. Thomas Mok says:

    Actually, [if] I don’t remember wrongly, males and females who are not muhrim (related), if their skin touches, then it will “batal air sembahyang”. Meaning, their earlier prayers prior to shaking hands is NOT valid.

    Probably, some just choose to “replace” them at night, some prefer not to “bend” the rules so often etc. I might be mistaken though but I think that’s the gist of it. I understand the reason but I think the onus is on the one who “refused” to shake hand to explain that he/she has just prayed, if repeated enough times, people will understand. For me, I just shake hands with my male Malay [Malaysian] friends whenever greeting them, as I observe that they, too don’t shake the hands of their friend’s female family members at gatherings or functions. If in doubt, just follow their lead, solves the problem, right?

  6. Zulkhairi says:

    I refer to KW Mak’s comment, particularly on why a Muslim man refuses to shake hands with a woman, and vice versa. KW Mak says it’s probably due to “taboo” or “custom”. As a Muslim, I would like to offer an explanation.

    The reason is religion! Inter-gender touch is an aurat or prohibition. It is the same concept for why women dress in tudung, etc.

    On why certain Muslims observe and certain do not, that is a separate matter altogether. But principally, when a man/woman refuses to shake hands with you, please do not feel offended. He/she is just observing what he/she believes [to be] “kehendak agama”. Bukan dia sombong.

    Hope my piece is enlightening. Thanks.

  7. observer 53 says:

    Aiya, shake hands also cannot? Don’t be so fanatic. 50 years ago all can shake hands. Why now only …

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