While Pakatan Harapan (PH) has been going around the country like a group of headless chickens, former prime minister Najib Razak has been calmly and methodically going about his business, doing all the things he should have done when he was in charge.
He has reached out to the public and been very approachable, unlike his conduct when he was prime minister. Then, one would have to circumvent several obstacles created by policemen, political aides and special advisers in order to meet him.
As the underdog, Najib has been speaking to the poor, visiting them in their homes and sitting cross-legged on their floors, not, as in previous years, on a specially provided, throne-like seat.
In the recent hustings in Cameron Highlands, he was seen discarding his SUV and convoy, and riding pillion on a “kapchai” although he, like many of the locals, broke the rule about wearing a safety helmet. He was seen as “one of them”.
He found time to criticise PH’s policies and appeared on social media to remind people that he had been the victim of lies spread by the PH administration.
BN’s victory in Cameron Highlands may have ushered in the first Orang Asli MP in Malaysian history, but in truth it was more about Najib. The 61-year-old Semai-Temiar BN candidate, Ramli Mohd Nor, may have been the face of the party but he was also the vehicle which brought about Najib’s victory.
Najib needed to win, to show PH that he is still a force to be reckoned with. More importantly, however, he needed to prove to the more gullible members of the public, especially the rural folk who still hero-worship Umno-BN, that he is still powerful.
Only by BN winning could he influence hearts and minds, and tell them that he had been wronged by PH’s lies and the corruption which others accuse him of is untrue.
Umno, the underdog party, has seen its ranks and leadership decimated. Many of its leaders are under investigation or have been charged in court. Its party members are unashamedly moving to PPBM, to the consternation of the other PH coalition partners.
On Monday, Najib was charged with three more counts of money-laundering. Last month, we saw him shuttling back and forth from Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission offices, but he has bounced back – with Ramli’s help.
Malaysia should celebrate Ramli’s win. He will be able to help his community, as he understands them best. But it also begs the question of what happened to the aid which should have been disbursed by the previous government?
Orang Asli issues have never really been properly resolved. There is no infrastructure in the villages. Their schools are inadequate. The parents of schoolchildren are not assisted. Aid that should have been channelled to the Orang Asli is allegedly squandered on kickbacks and commissions by unscrupulous companies working in cahoots with a few tainted people in authority. If Ramli can solve even a fraction of these problems, he will be an asset to the Cameron Highlands community.
PH’s M Manogaran may moan that BN ran a dirty, racist campaign, but why didn’t PH beat them at their own game and field its own Orang Asli candidate, like Bah Tony aka Anthony Williams-Hunt? Perhaps there were other Orang Asli capable of becoming candidates, so why weren’t they given a chance for a bite at the cherry?
Najib went for broke and PH was too complacent. PH forgot that its fortunes are held by the people.
One does not need a PhD to be humble. Najib learnt his lesson in GE14 and today, he has rebranded himself.
PH personalities, on the other hand, appeared arrogant and dismissive of rules. PKR senator Bob Manolan Mohd mocked the Orang Asli leaders, and Manogaran arrived at the polling station wearing a shirt displaying the party logo.
PH can blame no one but themselves for this defeat.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.