MGG: Ketari VI: The IGP steps in to undo a mess
By M.G.G. Pillai
22/3/2002 11:11 pm Fri
The Ketari byelections turns out a comedy of errors even before
nomination day this weekend. The elections commission decides to
make Easter Sunday polling day. The Pahang police decide to
restrict political party flags to the candidates' parties, but
allows the National Front (BN) to allow its component parties fly
their flags too. No large processions are allowed, and each
candidate restructed to 100 supporters and only his party's flags
en route to the nomination centre. The authorities bent
backwards to sustain its belief BN should at all times be helped
and the Opposition put in its place.
But so blatant it was that it sent the wrong signals to the
ground. Especially when the Elections Commission, not the
police, is who should have imposed the conditions. But its
deafening silence on what it is in control of is mystifying.
When the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai,
yesterday (20 March 2002) rescinded the ban on flags, it raised
more questions than answers.
Why did the Pahang police insist upon it? Did it not
discuss with headquarters and the Elections Commission before the
order was imposed? Why did it issue the order without consulting
the political parties and the Elections Commission? And, more
important, why is it now rescinded? Tan Sri Norian says several
quarters objected. Since when did the police listen to public
objections, unless the "several quarters" was the BN? Did not
take a sounding from the ground before it ordered the ban?
Are our police officers so dumb it makes decisions on the
run, without assessing the consequences of their actions? Or was
it to show the Prime Minister the police could be relied upon to
look after his, and the BN's, interests? Or a misguided move to
show all and sundry that the Pahang police is absolutely loyal?
That it dictated terms without consulting the Elections
Commission, it would show how efficient the police is?
In a byelection where the BN is without issues or interest
or both, officials making mistakes they should not, with calumny
replacing informed debate even before nomination day, the police
ban and elections commission disinterest reflects an arrogance in
the BN camp that it could do as it likes with alacrity, and none
would complain. So, the Gerakan president, Dato' Seri Lim Kheng,
harps on a long forgotten vendetta with the DAP instead of
outlining what his candidate would do if he is elected. What are
the issues in the election? Malaysia's mainstream newspapers,
all controlled by the BN, is strangely silent.
So far, the BN assumes painting the DAP in the darkest
possible colours is the sure way to get Ketari voters to defeat
that party's candidate. And hobble it further by denying it the
opposition support it could rightly expect. Both backfired.
For if the police order is followed strictly, it would have put
the BN, not DAP, at a disadvantage. The opposition at least
would work for an opposition victory. The BN campaigns only on
its component party turf, and so the individual flags are more
important in its election campaigns than the BN flag.
The Ketari byelection, as I have noted, is a watershed of
sorts, in which the future of democratic elections itself is in
doubt. Tan Sri Norian talks of a security problem in Ketari.
When did that come about? When the byelections was announced, or
before? If it was before, what did the police do to keep that
under control. If it was after, what caused it? The prospect of
a byelection? Or is it a catchall threat of one in any election
to conduct it in a straitjacket? One which miraculously
disappears after polling day? In other words, did the BN cry
wolf once too often?
The late MP for Bentong and cabinet minister, Dato' Seri
Chan Siang Sum, once took me for a drive through his constituency
in the 1970s. He told me in areas of Bentong the MCA was
despised, that he would not visit those areas under any
circumstances, indeed ordered his driver faster when he had to go
through one. These areas are the new villages, brilliant
anti-communist move during the Emergency but which once
independence came ignored and left to their own devices. In
1979, for instance, the total national budget for new villages,
was $5 million to provide facilities for 456 new villages
throughout the country. It is not much more now. In byelections
this neglect is stark for anyone to see.
The Gerakan president could confirm this. When he was
minister in charge for Chinese new villages in the early 1970s,
his biggest complaint was the budget he was given could not help
one new village, let alone 456. This is complicated, for the BN,
by this arrogant belief that it alone has the answers to every
problem the country faces. And cannot make itself heard or
believed. Those it subborns. like the police, think brute force
and administrative orders suffice. Not any more. The edifice
crumbles. And the BN, not the opposition, is nervous. Even if,
in Ketari, as most expect, it would be returned.