FMT LETTER: From Rev Allen Tan, via e-mail
Malaysians have been guessing about the polling dates for the past two years. Now we are into 2013, and the latest date we can go to polls is on June 27. It based on the automatic termination of Parliament on April 27, and after that polls must be held within 60 days.
But it is believed that the most likely date would be on the last Saturday of the first-term school holidays, that is, on March 30. This year the Ministry of Education has unusually pushed forth the holidays to two weeks later at the last minute, breaking the norm of holding holidays on the second week of March.
Add to the fact that the government needs school teachers to work as polling agents, the chances that it will be March 30 is high. If this date was planned by BN months earlier, I doubt if the Prime Minister Najib had indeed overlooked two important facts.
Firstly, the Qing Ming Festival falls on April 4. Usually the Chinese will visit the graveyards on the Saturday and Sunday prior to the actual date, that is, on March 30 and 31. The government may say they have done a favour for the Chinese. They can hit two birds with one stone.
In other words, they can go back to their hometown to pay their respect to the deceased, and at the same time they can cast their votes. But I beg to differ. As a matter of facts, many Chinese have already made their polling stations in their working places since they moved out from their hometowns.
Secondly, the school holidays week is also a holy week for Christians. Good Friday falls on March 29 and whereas Easter on 31. For Christians two festivals are important to them. They are Christmas and Good Friday-Easter. Good Friday is even a state holiday in Sarawak and Sabah. Roman Catholics even begin celebrating Good Friday-Easter one month ahead.
Christians hope Najib won’t turn our holy month into a poll-campaign-hassle-month! During the recent Christmas party with Church leaders, Najib had reassured the Christian community that the government recognised them as an essential part of the nation.
My opinion is, not holding polls on our holy week is doing us a favour. Najib must uphold BN’s pledge of “Janji Ditepati” (Promises Fulfilled). A population of 9.2% Christians in Malaysia is indeed not a small population. Out of 10 citizens, one is a Christian. More than half dwell in East Malaysia.
Both BN and Pakatan see East Malaysia as a pivot of change. Come the 13th General Election, Christians could be the kingmakers to decide who could wrestle Putrajaya successfully. Other than March, few would think that January and February are not possible dates.
Their logic is that the government plans to distribute BR1M funds in January and February. Added to that, February is Chinese New Year month. But with our outdated electoral system whereby only the PM could decide for polls, anything is possible. Remember former PM Abdullah Badawi?
He dissolved Parliament on Feb 13. It fell on the 7th day of Chinese New Year. After the news was announced, the country switched into a battle mood from a CNY mood! So, I pray that Najib would honour his words and show respect to the Christians and Chinese by avoiding clashes with our festivals.