N Sembilan looking good for Pakatan: DAP's Loke to give up Lobak and contest Chennah
Last weekend, I tried to taste and feel the heat of the political situation in Negeri Sembilan and Malacca, the two states that are considered critical in the next General Election.
I fully utilized that Saturday and Sunday to understand the current situation by interviewing the top leaders in the respective states apart from reading the political realities illustrated from almost everywhere I see.
Indeed, the dreams of the people to achieve change manifested themselves in many places. It could not be denied anymore. Umno leaders and their strategists (machine intelligence, police, military and specially hired) would be able to detect these waves rising and going with various ruses.
In fact, after March 2008, there are no more territories, including in Sabah and Sarawak, which can be taken for granted by the BN and the Pakatan Rakyat. People have become more intelligent and prudent to evaluate, judge and make choices. They are keen to hear the arguments and views of all parties before deciding which is the best party to form the government.
Although the finance minister, Daim Zainuddin, only limited Malacca, Johor and Pahang as comfortable states to be defended by BN, many believe that a shock upset can happen anywhere.
Four years ago, Negeri Sembilan was the last frontier in the south which could withstand the political tsunami that pervaded the West Coast, starting from Kedah, over to Penang, spreading to Perak, the Federal Territory and demolishing the erstwhile strong BN fortress in Selangor.
The BN in Negeri Sembilan does not have two-thirds majority in the state assembly. DAP became the biggest winner, having won 10 out of the 11 seats it contested. PAS also got a single seat in Paroi, held by the party's state commissioner Taufek Abd Ghani.
Armed with 15 DUN seats, including four won by PKR, Pakatan must win at least four more seats to form the state government by simple majority.
Senior journalist Wan Nordin Wan Yaacob who has settled in Negeri Sembilan, state reporter Faiz Abdullah and I had a long discussion with the DAP Negri Sembilan chairman, Anthony Loke, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, at a 'mamak' restaurant near Seremban on the afternoon of April 14.
Loke has been the Lobak assemblyman since 2004, with a winning majority of 6.928 votes and earning nearly 80 percent of the total votes cast. He appeared to be respected by the residents. Many in and out of the restaurant greeted and shook hands with him.
At Parliament level, in 2008, he defeated the MCA candidate in Rasah with 13,151 votes. He was appointed a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee to improve the election process.
I didn’t have to wait long listening to Loke's political views before concluding that he is capable of bold moves including making changes in alliance partners so as to overthrow the BN in Negeri Sembilan in the upcoming 13th General Election.
Of course, our discussions focused more on referring to the seats that have not been won by the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, especially the Malay majority which were mostly contested by PAS.
Malay seats still a question mark
Loke was quite concerned with the general picture that the Malay community, especially in rural areas, were quite reluctant to make changes as they were still susceptible to the half truths and racist propaganda spun by UMNO.
He pledged to work harder to ensure that Chinese voters would support PAS candidates as they looked on PAS with favor as they did with DAP candidates. He said a few DUN seats contested by PAS, which has a relatively large number of Chinese voters, would be targeted in the campaigning by the DAP.
According to Loke, during the 12th GE, there were Chinese who hesitated to vote for PAS. Moreover at that time, there was no direct collaboration between PAS and DAP.
As an example, he mentioned the Klawang DUN seat which was contested by PAS in 2008. It had more than 30 per cent Chinese voters, and had big potential to be won if DAP was involved in campaigning.
Asked whether DAP Malay candidates would be named, Loke explained that although DAP was a multiracial party, it would examine closely every strategy and action to strengthen the alliance.
He was well aware that DAP Malay candidates were political capital for Umno to scare the Malays with.
"We will not allow Umno to use this issue to invoke fear amongst the Malays," he said.
Chinese sentiment has changed
Despite the fact that MCA will exploit that question, as was done in Perak when DAP agreed to appoint Dato 'Seri Nizar Jamaluddin from PAS as the Mentri Besar or chief minister, the BN component has the smallest number of assemblymen in the state. Loke said that the Chinese voters were more practical in their political perceptions.
"The average Chinese has no problem in accepting the chief minister or prime minister who is a Malay. They are more concerned with policies that are fair, transparent and competent. And they want leaders who are competent, incorruptible, fair and treat all people fairly," Loke said.
Also important, he added, were policies and understanding the concept of selecting a governing coalition together, respecting the division of powers with no one party deciding all things alone.
"In Negeri Sembilan, the Pakatan here is the first to launch a manifesto for the GE-13 at Gemas on the 15th January. This may be a good indicator," he said with a chuckle.
To contest Chennah
Loke seemed comfortable while talking and did not indicate he wanted to end the nearly two-hour interview. Because we were bound by other appointments, I felt somewhat guilty for asking him to conclude the chat session.
He said, as the DAP commander of the 13th GE, he was in position and ready to attack despite facing higher risks.
Therefore, Loke will move from a secure area at Lobak to Chennah, part of the Jelebu Parliament seat represented by Umno's Rais Yatim. It was the only DUN seat contested by a DAP candidate which was lost to BN four years ago, with a difference of 1,298 votes.
Again, without realizing it, my respect towards him grew.
Loke also asked for the development of Malaysian singer Aishah, who joined PAS. "I am a fan of Aishah's, I enjoy her songs," he said, quickly while running his fingers on the screen of his Samsung tablet. In the bustle of the restaurant, we could hear Aishah’s song Janji Manismu ...
"I like Malay songs since I was in school. Apart from Aishah, I also like Zainal Abidin and Amy Search," he added. "Some people tell me, it might be appropriate for PAS to nominate Aishah in the election later, and besides, I understand she is from Negeri Sembilan," he said, smiling. -Harakah
(Translated by Huzainah A Rani, Malaysia Chronicle)