The Anwar Ibrahim Campaign Trail: Pahang
The district of Pekan is often referred to as the fort of Pahang, being the home of the state royal family and the hometown of both Malaysia’s second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and his son, the current acting Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak. About 50km south of Kuantan, Pekan has always been a relatively quiet and relaxed town, known throughout the state for 2 things; the official Royal Palace and the Royal Polo Club. As a child I used to accompany my father who served as a veterinarian to looking after polo horses belonging to the royal family. Decades has since passed and the town is still very much the same, unlike the state capital, Kuantan which has developed drastically over the years.
The Jelajah Merdeka campaign made it’s final stop in Bera, where a large crowd gathered under the drizzle with some having their feet soaked in mud to hear Anwar Ibrahim speak. Some of the old women brought their own folding chairs and straw mats where they made camp at the side of the stage.
The crowd was curiously absent of the younger generations, with tents and the ground filled with Malays of the older generation who have supported the ruling coalition for decades. In places such as Pekan, Mentakab, Kuala Lipis etc, in the past at least, the idea of an opposition candidate even coming in and giving a talk was almost unheard of. Such places were deemed ‘inaccessible’ and outsiders with a political agenda were unwelcome. This time around, the response proved encouraging. The wave of reform began with the parliamentary seat of Kuantan when Fuziah Salleh, the PKR candidate, contested in the 2004 elections. She lost to MCA’s Fu Ah Kiow with only 36% of votes. In 2008, she ran for parliament again and this time won by garnering 52% of votes over Fu Ah Kiow’s 47%. Fuziah has since played a key role in the campaign against the Lynas rare-earth mining plant in Gebeng by carrying it forward to the parliament, thus making it a national issue.
As observed by FMT here, the people of Kuantan are solidly behind Fuziah and if MCA or even UMNO, with whom the seat is currently on ‘loan’ with has any dreams of wrestling it away, GE13 will not be the day. While the same can’t be said with conviction of the other districts in the state, the general sentiment on the ground is that BN will retain control of the state albeit with a smaller majority. Anwar himself was encouraged by the turnout, breathing a sigh of relief as he took to his seat in the bus. His shoes and pants were stained with mud and rain but it didn’t mind him one bit as he just sat there, staring at the crowd outside.
At this point, the future of Pahang, the largest state on the peninsular, laden with riches of natural resources, remain uncertain.
As the Jelajah Merdeka campaign makes its way to Sarawak and Sabah over the weekend, I will be taking a break from my field work. Below is the full schedule of Anwar Ibrahim in Sabah
27 April 2013 (Sabtu)
1) 11.00 pagi – Kampong Patau-Patau (P – Labuan)
2) 12.30 tgh – Rumah Dato’ Lajim Ukin, Beaufort
(P – Beaufort / Sipitang)
3) 2.30 ptg – Pdg Rmh Panjang Kg Taningol, Matunggong
(P – Kota Marudu, DUN – Matunggong)
4) 4.00 ptg – Kampong Lominodip (Sebelah SMK Tambulion)
(P-Kota Belud, DUN – Kadamaian)
5) 5.30 ptg – Jalan Kiam Som, Inanam
(P- Sepanggar, DUN – Inanam)
6) 7.00 mlm – Kampong Nossob Baru, Penampang
(P- Penampang , DUN- Api-Api)
28 April 2013 (Ahad)
1) 11.00 pg – Batu 9, Jalan Labuk, Sandakan
(P- Libaran, DUN – Gum-Gum)
2) 12.30 tgh – Pasar Taman Mawar, Batu 5, Sandakan
(P- Batu Sapi, DUN – Sekong)
3) 2.30 ptg – Taman Gembira, Jalan Silam, Lahad Datu
(P- Silam, DUN – Lahad Datu)
4) 4.00 ptg – Jalan Kampong Simunul, Pekan Semporna
(P- Semporna, DUN – Senallang)
5) 5.30 ptg – Pej PKR, Taman Gek Poh, Tawau
(P – Tawau, DUN- Balung & Apas)