From hero to zero

It has been almost two months since my last column. It has been a busy time as I was preoccupied with my party's preparations for the 14th General Election (GE14).

As political secretary to the party president, Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong I was entrusted with the responsibility of managing his campaign in Teluk Intan, Perak.

It was an interesting yet docile campaign. In fact, I commented more than once that it was very "low energy." My reading was that the politicking that was constantly taking place had fatigued most people and for want of a better term, most of them wanted us politicians to "get on with it."

We worked very hard in Teluk Intan. The foundations of the campaign were laid right after my boss won the seat in the 2014 by-election. We set about implementing the manifesto we presented to the people. Many big-ticket pledges were delivered and the general mood was a positive one as people finally saw some development.

I was also mindful that Teluk Intan had many low-income families; Our service centre was operated on a bi-weekly basis where our doors were always opened to anyone who needed help and advice.My legal training also helped and many came for free legal advice.

My team and I met the sick and infirm, the poor and needy and we did the best we could. Going into the election, I was personally confident that our hard work would pay off as everywhere I went and every hand I shook came with an instant and unsolicited response that, "you have our vote."

However, as embarrassed as I am to say this, I was flat out wrong. I had completely misread the deep-seated and pent up anger and frustration many had with the way things were in the country.

Barisan Nasional was in a bubble of its own and completely detached from reality (myself included). With survey after survey, with the exception of Invoke, showing a comfortable yet competitive lead for Barisan, we could not be fully faulted as well.

The most glaring and insipid mistake on the part of Barisan was to discount Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and belittle his efforts to engender change. Dr Mahathir's patented sarcasm and uncanny ability to break down even the most complex of scenarios proved his strongest weapon. At the age of 92, he traversed the country canvassing for the defeat of Barisan and that resonated with many rural folks.

The loss of Perak, Melaka, Negri Sembilan and Johor was a rude awakening for all of us in the peninsula because Barisan's rural garrison had been breached in such a spectacular fashion and it was completely unfathomable.

Barisan went from hero to zero overnight.

Personally, the loss of Teluk Intan was the most painful. All the hard work and continued efforts came to nothing as people simply wanted change.

Democracy is always great for the winners but never for the losers. As difficult as it was to accept the verdict of the people, at 8.30pm on May 9, 2018, I telephoned Terrence Naidu (State Assemblyman of Pasir Bedamar) from Pakatan to concede on behalf of my boss. I wished him the best and asked that he convey our best wishes to Nga Kor Ming who won Teluk Intan.

It was the right thing to do and though unconventional (as I was later told), it is important for Malaysians to know that their choices will always be respected even though some of us may vehemently disagree with it.

I left Teluk Intan that very night and as I returned to Kuala Lumpur, I was once again overcome with emotion. I felt a pain I have never felt before and baffled as to how my reading of the political situation had gone completely awry. I felt the political ground and did not see this Malaysian tsunami coming. In fact, I was confident that Barisan would garner around 130 seats and Teluk Intan will be part of that winning equation.

Alas, that was not to be.

As the change of government took place, I returned to my office at the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities to pack my belongings.

I had the assistance of three very good friends who helped me pack and as I combed through all the belongings that I acquired over my time in government I recalled the good moments and the not so good moments.

As I left my office for the final time, I was proud that I served my country to the best of my ability. Even though a change of government was something I had never wished for; it happened and it must be accepted.

Malaysians must be proud that despite being constantly maligned, our democratic traditions are as resilient as ever and it was a seamless "changing of the guards."

History will judge Barisan's 60 years in power but my only exhortation is to see both the good and the bad of our tenure before one comes to a final judgment.

I wish Dr Mahathir the very best as Prime Minister because despite differing political affiliations, he must succeed as Malaysia must succeed. And if the new Government falls short of the standard expected, Barisan will play the role of His Majesty's loyal Opposition and call them out.

I also intend to change the flavour of my column. Over the next couple of months, I will share anecdotes of my time in Government so as to give those reading a better understanding of how Government works and the importance of compromise.

I must also thank Martin and Johan, the best editors one could ask for their patience and diligence over these past four years.

As I get back on my feet and look for a job, I also look forward to a more ordinary life.
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