KKB polls: Drama wakes up sleepy town


HULU SELANGOR: At first glance, the tiny crowds at ceramah and the sparse political party flags in Kuala Kubu Baru reflect the by-election’s tepid atmosphere.

But the personal attacks and communal sentiments that are being played up at these events are aimed at firing up emotions and disrupting the green tranquillity of this constituency that is known for its iconic hilltown.

Just hours after the candidates filed their nomination papers on April 27, the personal attacks came quickly and fiercely for Perikatan Nasional’s candidate Khairul Azhari Saut.

Less than 48 hours later, the brickbats over Khairul’s academic qualifications had ensnared his main opponent, Pang Sock Tau of Pakatan Harapan, as well as the children and grandchildren of Perikatan’s leaders.

Netizens questioned how Khairul obtained a master’s degree from Universiti Malaysia Pahang Al-Sultan Abdullah (UMPSA) despite having only a diploma.

UMPSA CEO Dr Ahmad Johari Mohamad then explained that diploma holders can further their studies to the executive masters level at the university if they have the required work experience.

On the very same night of April 28, PAS Youth chief Ahmad Fadhli Shaari issued a challenge to Pakatan’s Pang, urging her to disclose her UPSR and SPM results.

Without commenting much, Pang then posted transcripts of her UPSR and SPM results online, which showed she scored straight As as a Chinese vernacular school student.

Ahmad Fadhli then issued a sarcastic apology, saying that he hoped that Pang, a vernacular school product, would persist until polling day on May 11.

Several PAS leaders echoed Ahmad Fadhli’s remarks, telling Malay voters to “vote wisely” after Pang’s educational background was revealed.

Pakatan youth Ammar Atan then came to Pang’s defence, saying that even PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang sent his grandchildren to a Chinese vernacular school, and Temerloh MP Salamiah Mohd Nor too sent her children to one.

Pakatan also attempted to cast aspersions over the absence of PAS leaders in Perikatan’s campaigns, trying to imply that there were cracks in the Opposition coalition.

But as if to dispel this view, Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor and PAS deputy president Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man headlined two ceramah on May 1 and 2, respectively.

However, despite the presence of these bigwigs, the crowd turnout was underwhelming.

For instance, merely 100 to 200 people were seen attending a ceramah on April 30 featuring Perikatan chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, former Umno veteran Tan Sri Noh Omar and Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.

On average, Perikatan has held at least two mini ceramah every day since campaigning began.

Perikatan’s main message is that voters should register their protest at the ballot box over the Federal Government’s failure to tackle the cost of living crisis and issues related to religion and race.

Perikatan leaders are also aiming for a high turnout rate of 80%, which they believe could give them a victory.

In comparison, Pakatan is emphasising the meet-and-greet approach as opposed to ceramah, said Seri Kembangan state assemblyman Wong Siew Ki, who is closely working with Pakatan.

“We want more personal engagement with the locals of Kuala Kubu Baru,” said Wong briefly.

In Pakatan’s campaign, Pang would emphasise her plans to deliver high-quality jobs, fix local roads and drains, and enhance KKB’s eco-tourism industry.

While Pang tries to meet as many of KKB’s 40,000 voters as possible, Pakatan is expected to start their mega ceramah beginning tonight (May 3) featuring DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke, Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari and Amanah president Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu.

With more than a week to go in the campaign, Perikatan’s Khairul is in high spirits despite being exhausted.

“If we were to say we did not stop and rest, we would be lying. Our fatigue vanishes when we meet with the locals. We have to maintain this spirit. The ground is very welcoming. It is very positive,” he added.

For Pakatan’s Pang, it is the thought of being able to help more people that keeps her going and pushes her on despite exhaustion creeping in.

“I have an assistant who constantly reminds me to eat and drink more water to stay cool. I realise there’s so much to do, and there are still many voters I haven’t reached. I hardly have time to eat.

“I am grateful for the people around me who always remind me to stay hydrated,” she added, saying that she plans to visit more households next week.

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Kuala Kubu Baharu , by-election

   

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