Despatches from the Front- Bukit Gantang

We travelled to Bukit Gantang to get a first hand feel of the political heartbeat. From Kuantan, it took us probably half a day to get into Bukit Gantang. I never realised it's that far. We cut through Genting Highlands and got out through Ulu Yam en route to Perak.

We were supposed to stay at the Taping Golf Resort. We decided against it because we thought it is a little bit far from the centre of Bukit Gantang politics. We finally managed to get a place to stay in the town of Taiping. It is at the Panorama Hotel.

The MP for Taiping is getting himself into hot soup by reciting a Quranic verse. He is bound to raise a storm because he is a non Muslim reciting the verse incorrectly.

I am not sure about the shariah implications of a non Muslim reciting the Quran as he did. But my take, if he wanted to recite it, he must take full responsibility in ensuring that he recited in correctly and in the correct manner.

His foul up will surely alienate Muslim voters. If not for any other reason, then his belligerent and aggressive utterance of the verse will be used as a clear indication that this DAP MP will not hesitate to abuse what to the Malay is dearest to his heart- his Islamic religion.

His patently wrong rendition of the verse will be taken as an insult to Malay Muslims. I am sure religious tolerance in Islam does not stretch to a patently clear abuse of religious sentiments. That is clearly a stupid thing to do.

I used the term rendition as I assumed the MP must have thought reciting a Quranic verse is similar to singing at a Karaoke session. It also ties up nicely with what I want to share with readers.

The one thing I immediately noticed in Taiping and in areas such as Kuala Sepetang and at Kampung Simpang are the karaoke warungs offering karaoke facilities. They are done outdoors. In full public view. At a warung at Kuala Sepetang, two ladies were singing and gyrating at the beat of a dangdut number. It was loud as we could hear the tune as we slowed our vehicle alongside the road. An innocent pastime such as karaoke reveals a lot politically.

Having commented on the damning indiscretion on the part of the Taiping MP, as a first account witness in the unfolding political verdict in Bukit Gantang, I will try to give an honest analysis of the situation. As we made our rounds at the various ceramah points in Bukit Gantang, I mentioned to my fellow observers that honesty is indeed the best policy. In as much as I want to be optimistic about the chances in Bukit Gantang, such a take will surely be regarded as a deceptive exaggeration and misplaced over optimism.

The chances of BN winning this seat at Bukit Gantang appear slim. Let us try to dissect the basic psychology of the people in Bukit Gantang.

The ubiquitous open air karaoke warungs partaken enthusiastically by patrons in full public view suggest that the people in Bukit Gantang are not serious about the outcome of this political battle. At the microcosmic level of society, this indicates a pervasive nonchalant attitude of Bukit Gantang society. I am sad to say, these popular recreational activities are most evidenced in UMNO areas. If you are not serious about the outcome of this by elections, then why should others be concerned about the outcome in Bukit Gantang?

Such attitude could not have been more contrasted by the determination and seriousness clearly shown by the opposition party men. We saw a group of elderly Malay men in their sarongs and skullcaps doing their rounds putting up election buntings and posters. The young meanwhile were going in droves to the ceramahs by Anwar Ibrahim, Nik Aziz and Teressa Kok. My friends commented that Elizabeth Wong would certainly draw a bigger crowd.

I talked to a few penceramahs from the BN about the first impression they get from this elections. Without hesitation they told me of their disappointment over the organisational clumsiness of UMNO Bahagian Bukit Gantang.

The people here seemed to have abandoned their basic responsibilities. They prefer to let outsiders do their job for them.

These two seemingly isolated behaviours cast ominous signs for the BN. The first is the casual attitude displayed at the primary level of society. The second is the absence of local leadership. I sincerely hope, these two elements will not prove fatal to the BN's chances in Bukit Gantang.

The early signs of internal decay which can only hasten the BN downfall in Bukit Gantang are seen when the leadership here abandons their responsibilities and prefer to farm out the more important basic functions to outsiders.

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