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Sunday, October 31, 2010

The battle for Galas-2



As soon as we get into the Kelantan border beyond kampung Merapoh in Kuala Lipis, our sights are assaulted by waves of PAS banners and flags. The Kampung nearest the Pahang border here is Kampung Mentara is obviously a PAS stronghold. We immediately feel, judging from the volume of flags and banners, that this is PAS territory.

I had to calm my friends who are travelling with me. They are accustomed to the UMNO/BN way of handling by elections. This means, they are more at ease with the usual overwhelming firepower kick-ass approach. They prefer to see waves of party workers all over the country converging on a small town like Gua Musang. Then you would be assaulted by the sight of UMNO workers in vests, with walky-talkies and other state of the art communications gadgetry, crisscrossing the terrain with 4-wheel vehicles, the puteri UMNO troopers doing their rounds. It would be a boisterous affair and intimidating at times.

People in UMNO are more used to the big guy approach- declaring something in some official functions attended by busloads of people all over the country (including more people who will not vote in that area) ministers coming in and going out of managed functions, etc. so when you get into an area, where the UMNO approach is rather subdued, you get jittery. Can we win without firepower? These, you say are so unUMNO.

So, when you get a feeling that UMNO approach this time is rather subdued, you get thrown off balance. Perhaps this different approach taken by UMNO Gua Musang this time is an object lesson on a different approach.

UMNO Gua Musang in particular, has many things to prove. If this rather muted style is effective, will it be the new approach UMNO takes in future? To some, there's no money in this soft and muted approach. We can't get to use those Ninja Turtles (Toyota Land cruisers) anymore, we can't squeeze money from UMNO Perhubungan Negeri, and we can't demand to be treated as prima donnas.

Ada betul ke ini cara?

UMNO Gua Musang and in particular its head Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah have the opportunity to educate UMNO on a new style of campaigning and winning the hearts and minds of the people.

This different approach is unnerving.

The new approach that is also a reflection of a government committed to engaging its citizens as real people seeks to honor its citizens as thinking people. We address people with real needs instead of digits. They are no longer 11,500 voters but 11,500 real people. So, we now disengage ourselves from the crass and crude methods of imposing our ideas on people. We refrain from using abusive language that vilifies our opponents.

For here, in Gua Musang, where issues are practically non eventful, victory goes to the party that makes lessor mistakes in public relations. Hence when I hear, the opposition parties have started going on the personal attacks offensive, I am thinking, they will lose.

Furthermore, we also know, sometimes that approach does not always work. In some places that highhanded methods creates antagonism and resentment among the locals. Just as in Galas for example. The majority have already made up their minds. If we overdo things, especially if we try to be smart-alecs, we can only create negative impacts.

I don't think we can do much in a Pas stronghold like Sungai Terah. Here the majority will not budge from placing their temporal and spiritual stakes with PAS. I went to the Chinese village of Kampung Pulai. Previously you will not see the presence of PAS flags and banners here. Now, you see them. PAS appears to have made inroads there. A group of party activists probably DAP volunteers were seen distributing leaflets. I asked for some to read which they readily gave. The issues are about the death of Teoh Beng Hock and the police shooting of the young Amirul.

But I am not unduly worried. If the overwhelming firepower kick-ass approach is not suitable to be employed by the BN and UMNO, it will also work the same way on the opposition parties. They may be able to secure some Chinese votes. But for most, it's about local issues.

We can't win people over with the usual barrage of vicious and spiteful personal attacks and using vile language. Even PAS has disowned this approach. So when its people resumed this attack mode, it will cost them votes. People will compare theirs with the civil approach taken by Tengku Razaleigh.

IN Kampung Sungai Terah for example, PAS and UMNO people get along very well each other refusing to allow political differences to divide them. A person's political preference should be respected.

DUN Galas does not require the heavy artillery approach and the aggressive techniques which can be intimidating.
Here, a different style of political campaigning and hitting the stumps, which is now becoming apparent in Gua Musang and Galas. It's the patio or porch campaigning style. A house is selected and small groups gather to listen to reasoned arguments. They are done in a more sedate and civil manner.

I think because of these reasons, the BN and UMNO top leadership has delegated the primary responsibility of winning this Galas election to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

How does Tengku Razaleigh deal with Galas? I get a sense that he is going about employing psywar techniques rather than open warfare scorch earth take no prisoners method. The real battle is in the minds of people.

He has been servicing Gua Musang for 40 years. We just can't dismiss the impact of the man. Gua Musang is not an easy place to cover. Some places are easier reached by helicopters. Razaleigh Hamzah travelled by car to remote places.

Galas is bigger than the state of Selangor and DUN Galas stretches from the border at Kampung Merapuh right into the center of Gua Musang town. For first timers, coming to a new political terrain can be physically taxing. I hear a female DAP lawmaker vomited while making her way to Gua MUsang.

This different style is tiring because it involves a lot of legwork and grunt work. You engage people often in small groups extolling the virtues of your party. There are real and meaningful dialogues. And leg and grunt work is hard and consistent work that is not compatible with the lightning blitzkrieg methods the UMNO election juggernaut is more accustomed to. I hear some Perhubungan Negeri cancelled hotel bookings as Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said it isn't necessary to send overwhelming cavalry troops.

To win this election in Galas, requires a lot of legwork and the stamina of a long distance runner. That is why I think, the strategy employed by Ku LI appears to make effective headway.

It's also unnerving to the other side too. I asked a few people; they came back with similar answers. It's rather quiet they say. It's slow. This means, UMNO Gua Musang and Ku Li has been able to control the pace. You slow down your opponents too who are also accustomed to our version of scorched earth war tactics- demonize and vilify your enemy. PAS started that initially by disputing the academic credentials of UMNO's candidate. We mustn't forget that the majority of voters in Galas and Gua Musang are only Sekolah Atap qualified.

Banner and flag counts are poor indicators of influence and acceptance. Flags and banners are put up by people who get paid for doing that. It wouldn't surprise us that perhaps the same groups of workers are paid by both sides to put up banners and flags.

So I tell my travelling companions not to be unduly worried. Maybe this approach is in line with the desire of this election director, Tengku Razaliegh Hamzah to make it a low key affair. We mustn't also forget that this by elections is for the people of Galas to elect a representative who will serve perhaps, at the most for another 2 years before the next General elections.

Let's win this election in a way our opponents are unaccustomed with. Control the tempo and we control the outcome.

courtesy of sakmongkol AK47

1 comment:

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