TO get from Keningau to Tulid in the interior of Sabah, the choice was to use Waze or to follow a Toyota Hilux pickup truck with a poster of Arthur Joseph Kurup plastered on its rear.
We were on our way to search for Arthur, who is the Barisan Nasional candidate for the Pensiangan parliamentary seat close to the Indonesian border.
Relying on Waze would have been too conventional. Plus, the Internet connection in this remote area is sketchy. Whereas following a pickup truck that might lead us to Arthur promised an adventure.
We voted for adventure.
And we did not need Waze to tell us which part of Keningau and Pensiangan we were at.
“Where are we?” asked Muguntan Vanar, my colleague, who was driving.
“Wait; let me see whose posters those are,” I said. “Dr Jeffrey and Robert Tawik. We’re in Bingkor.”
Sabah STAR president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan is contesting in the Keningau parliamentary seat and his comrade Tawik in the Bingkor state seat.
A few kilometres later, my colleague Natasha Joibi asked, “Where are we now?”
“I see Martin Tommy’s poster. We’re now in Sook,” I said.
Martin of Parti Warisan Sabah is contesting the Sook state seat, which is in the Pensiangan parliamentary seat.
We followed the pickup truck for 40km until we reached Sook town. We decided to stop at the town to get a feel of Pensiangan.
There were three rows of shoplots. At noon, it had a laidback feel to it. You could count on your hands the number of people in the town. We sat at a coffeeshop to speak to the owner and the sole customer.
“Who’s going to win Sook and Pensiangan?” I asked the owner.
(In Sook, the Barisan incumbent Datuk Ellron Angin is facing Martin; Evaritus Gungkit, a famous Kadazandusun singer; and Peter Beaty of Parti Anak Negeri. In Pensiangan, Arthur is facing four other candidates.)
“Macam Ellron boleh manang di Sook (It looks like Ellron can win in Sook),” he said.
“How about Martin Tommy?” I asked. I had been told that the Warisan candidate could give Ellron a good fight.
“He has to work hard. He needs to put up more posters,” he said.
“How about Pensiangan?” I said.
“Macam pembakang yang manang (It looks like the Opposition will win),” he said.
“Who?” I said.
“It looks like Raymond Ahuar of PKR will win,” he said.
In GE13, Arthur’s father, Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, retained the Pensiangan seat after receiving 9,467 votes. His majority was 1,744 votes.
However, in terms of the popular vote, Joseph had lost. Richard Gunting of PKR got 7,723 votes, Martin (who was then with Sabah STAR) got 3,554 votes and Fatimah Agitor, an independent, got 152. That is Joseph’s 9,467 votes against 11,429 votes for his opponents.
The result was a classic case of payau lawan payau, harimau senyum gembira (deer fights with deer, the tiger smiles happily).
The fresh-faced Arthur, 36, is contesting for the first time. As of Wednesday, he has an uphill task to retain the seat that his father had retained for two terms. Joseph won uncontested in Pensiangan in GE12.
One of the factors dragging Arthur down is that his 74-year-old father is seen to have held on to power for too long. Joseph won the Sook seat in 1985 when PBS defeated the mighty Berjaya government.
It is as if Arthur is paying for the sin of his father.
However, what you think will happen may not happen. Many had bet that Joseph would lose Pensiangan in GE13. They could feel it.
However, they got their prediction only partially right. Joseph did not secure the popular vote but he won the seat because the payau split the Opposition votes.
History might repeat itself for Arthur. The Opposition votes will definitely be split. Moreover, Arthur has an edge in terms of election machinery.
On the 48km journey from Sook town to Kampung Sinua, as you pass mostly Kadazandusun villages, you’ll see Barisan markas (command centres) in all the kampungs.
The Opposition such as PKR, Warisan and Sabah STAR have flags in these places but they do not have many command centres.
And the last 48 hours to polling day can decide which party wins in Sabah’s rural seats. The parties with deep resources can work harder to reach the voters.
The terrain in Pensiangan can be unforgiving. It is easier to be a candidate in Sook state seat as it is a flat constituency with road access.
Nabawan, which is the other state seat, is a rugged constituency where you need to campaign using boats to visit Murut villages along the river.
After one hour of looking for Arthur, who was campaigning from village to village on the road to Sinua, the gateway to Mount Trusmadi, Malaysia’s second highest mountain, we found him in Kampung Nandagan.
We witnessed a married couple, who were Warisan supporters, tukar baju (change clothes). They joined Arthur’s Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) and the candidate gave the husband a blue Barisan T-shirt that he immediately wore.
It might be onsoi (a Murut word for all is good) for Arthur in Pensiangan.
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