THE waterfall that flows down a slope facing Malacca’s busiest junction elicits mixed feelings from the locals. It is an alluring sight for some but a cringingly phoney spectacle for others.
Costing about RM1.8mil, the cascade is part of the town’s massive beautification programme undertaken by Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam after he took over as Chief Minister in 1999.
If feng shui is a factor in changing the Barisan Nasional’s fortunes in Kota Melaka, the waterfall will continue to be a gushing reminder to the DAP’s diehard supporters here.
Sunday’s election results dealt the hardest ever whack to the party in Malacca. The shocking loss of the party’s fortress of 35 years and the defeat of two popular leaders – party secretary-general Kerk Kim Hock and state chairman Sim Tong Him – has left the party with very little strength to fight on.
Kerk’s resignation and decision to retire from politics and Sim’s remarks that he would bear liability for the debacle have further dampened the spirit of the faithful.
Things were already bad before the elections, with the party split into two camps, one led by Sim and the other by former MP Lim Guan Eng and son of DAP chairman Lim Kit Siang.
Insiders say the acrimony went on unabated throughout the campaign period, and at one stage, supporters from one of the factions threatened not to put up posters for a rival candidate.
Ironically, the two DAP candidates who won in Malacca came from the opposing factions. Lim’s wife Betty Chew prevailed by a comfortable 3,642-vote majority in Kota Laksamana while Sim’s right-hand man Goh Leong San scraped through in Bandar Hilir with a 356-vote lead.
How did the DAP’s invincible fortress crumble? That’s the question still being asked in town.
Members are generally blaming the latest constituency re-delineation and the huge swing in Malay votes for the fall of Kota Melaka and the state seats of Kesidang, Duyong and Bachang.
Traditional DAP voters here believe the growing chasm between the party factions in the state and their public feuding have been a major cause.
“The DAP is guilty of taking its staunch supporters in town for granted. People are fed-up with this,” said one voter in Duyong who cast his ballot for the Barisan, for the first time in four elections.
According to Barisan leaders, there was a solid sway of some 15,000 of the 25,000 Malay votes towards the coalition while about half of the 52,000 Chinese voters dumped the DAP.
The impressive credentials of Wong Nai Chee, the Barisan candidate who made his giant-killing debut, contributed to the win. Wong, who resigned recently as Youth chief of the Chinese Assembly Hall in Malacca, is well-known for his work in Chinese organisations and in his Hainanese community.
His candidacy was a marked difference from that of the MCA’s previous nominees, including former national footballer Soh Chin Aun (1986), former MCA state chief Gan Boon Leong’s personal assistant Lim Swee Kiang (1999) and Gan’s businessman son-in-law Soon Tian Tzu (1995 and 1990).
“We had the right formula – the ‘feel good’ factor under the leadership of Pak Lah, Wong’s good image and the evidence of hard work done by the Chief Minister,” said the Barisan’s seasoned campaigner Datuk Naim Mohamed, head of the 4B Belia election operations.
The Barisan also had an early start. The battle to win Kota Melaka began five years ago. Unlike previously, when the MCA was always left to fend for itself in the constituency after each subsequent loss, Mohd Ali made it a long-term Barisan onslaught.
It started with the appointment of state MCA chief Datuk Wira Poh Ah Tiam as chairman of the state Housing and Local Government Committee.
Licensing, assessment rates and other issues usually highlighted by the DAP in town were effectively diffused by Poh’s role in the state.
The Barisan also embarked on the twin programmes of cleanliness and beautification, to make Malacca one of the country’s top tourist destinations.
The rewards are showing with tourist arrivals ranging between 2.5 million and 3.2 million over the past three years. Many locals benefit from the tourism boost, particularly through the creation of new attractions like Jonker Walk and Hang Tuah Mall.
Mohd Ali also spared no effort to court the Chinese community, including providing grants to Pay Fong Middle School, looking after the needs of urban flat dwellers and visiting Chinese temples during festive occasions.
Aides said he had been so sensitive to the needs of the Chinese that he even agreed that all buildings along Hang Tuah Mall be painted yellow, as recommended by a feng shui expert, as the colour was auspicious in this Year of the Monkey.
It isn’t certain whether the same expert suggested the construction of the waterfall, but luck in the form of shui (water) is certainly flowing for the Barisan in Malacca.