I am sure you know what I mean. Of course, it can’t mean any other hill than the one with PAS flag on top of it(Bukit Gantang), Bukit Selambau(PKR) and Batang Ai (BN). You could be excused to think that the ‘Ai’ above is a mispell of the English word ‘I’. If so this constituency could probably be named ‘Batang Saya’ in Bahasa Malaysia.Then this is indeed a very important possession the BN needs to defend, at least for male chauvanism reasons.
Just in case you have a different idea, in Sarawak Batang has a different meaning altogether. It means river……normally water also flows through it, of course.
I have written an earlier article in Bahasa on the chances for Anwar to take over the Sarawak Government. Indeed, the chances are slim for reasons that Sarawak does not have Indian voters, who are convinced of being alienated by the BN government. There are actually no new issues, although Anwar is trying hard to create a new one, namely native customary rights land issue.
Talking of the native customary rights,the Dayaks of Sarawak could actualy be considered as a specially lucky people. Their rights over vast tracts of land has long been recognised by the government, and not less than one million hectares of such land are found in the state.
Since the last 20 years, The state government has developed large areas of such land under SALCRA land development schemes, and this has benfitted large number of Dayak landowners. Many of them receive high annual dividends at levels unheard of by Felda and Felcra participants! ! !
Lately the government has also spearheaded numerous NCR land development projects on joint venture basis with the private sector, to benefit the native landowners.
In addition, in contrast to the Indians, the Dayaks are Bumiputera and they enjoy all the benefits accrued to other Bumiputeras in the country.
The Batang Ai Constituency is located approx 300 km from Kuching, with a predominantly Iban voter population of approx 8000 people. The area is accessable by road, but many longhouses are not, and can only be reached by boats, or only accessable on foot.
The BN has a clear advantage of accessability because of its incumbency in the state. The long established political organisation and logistics also favour Barisan Nasional.
In any case PKR is not only a new party devoid of logistics in rural Sarawak, but also a party of people and ideology alien to Sarawak.
For the time being it appears that PKR is only riding on the experience and old personal networking of Jawah Gerang in the area.. Probably it can also rely on the political networking of Nicholas Bawin who managed to get sizable votes but lost in the last general election. However, reliance on Bawin as the director of operation in this by-election could prove to be a double edged sword, since it may be difficult for him and his followers to put aside their personal feelings and aspirations as the Yang Berhormat for Batang Ai.
As for the BN candidate, he is a new face, previously working with the state agriculture Department. Based on my analysis nationwide, an incumbent usuallly has an advantage in a close fight. In this fight there is no incumbent as such, but BN has to realise that the PKR candidate is the closest to incumbency, having served as Member of Parliament for the area for four terms under BN’s own wing.
It should also be noted that BN only won this seat with a slender majority in the last state election.
Still BN has a lot to say about its achievements. Where PKR and Pakatan Rakyat fights for Malaysian Malaysia, BN Sarawak fights for Sarawak for Sarawakians. If not for BN Sarawak’s determination and Chief Minister Taib’s hard headedness, Sarawak would have been absorbed just as another Malayan state long time ago, without any immigration control and special autonomy, perhaps even without native customery rights too.Even Tun Mahathir used to acknowledge publicly how tough Pehin Seri Taib is.
For the Iban electorate to surrender Sarawak autonomy and their own future to an alien political party is something very reckless and unthinkable. As a Sarawakian, I know that even Sarawak Malays will never dream of doing it. That is why UMNO has never been welcomed to contest in Sarawak.
Although PKR can find relief in having SNAP not contesting in the election, Anwar has to face a possible rift on the ground after the selection of the by-election candidate. With the selection of Jawah Gerang by PKR, there is no guarantee the followers of Nicholas Bawin another popular politician, who was passed over by PKR leadership, would not sabotage their candidate.
Still Sarawak is a very important to Anwar and in the scheme of things for Pakatan Rakyat. In other words Anwar cannot afford to ignore Sarawak, if he wishes to become the next Prime Minister of the country.
He has to make promises to induce Sarawak electorates, even when such promises run counter to the basic principles of his party.
After considering all the above, I agree with most assessments that BN would retain the Batang Ai seat, albeit with a slender majority.
Sarawak BN should not feel over confident though, since at the end of the day it is the efficiency and effectiveness of its election machinery that eventually makes the difference.
If the prospect of BN victory in Sarawak is fairly bright, the situation in Kedah may be different. This is a constituency 35,000 voters of which 50% are Malays, 20% Chinese and 30% Indians.
In the 2008 General Election, BN in Kedah failed to get majority support from all the three racial groups. While Malay support for BN is obvious in most of the Peninsular states, the situation in Kedah is different. Here, Malay support has not been consistent even prior to 2008 election. It is probable that this is so because of the strong influence of Pas, apart from the Tun Mahathir factor.
It is possible that some Malay votes may return to BN, due to Tun mahathir factor this time around, though it is not likely so for the Indian and Chinese votes.
In view of the above, it is likely that Pakatan Rakyat would win this by-election, though with a lesser majority.
Bukit Gantang is a Parliamentary Constituency in Perak with a voter population of 55,471 of which 63% are Malays, 27% are Chinese and 10% Indians. In the 2008 election, PAS won this seat with a small majority of 1,566.
BN has a fairly good chance of taking back this seat from the opposition because, this time around the issue is different from the 2008 general election. While in the last general election, it was BN against Pakatan Rakyat, in this by-election it is Pakatan Rakyat against BN and the Sultan.
The selection of Datuk Nizar as the candidate is rather puzzling to me. This is in view that Datuk Nizar is the central figure in this crisis and widely known for challenging the Sultan’s decisions and prerogative.
The probable outcome of this by-election can be understood if one notice the Perak voters’ inclination in all the previous elections. Perak is the traditional stronghold of UMNO with little competition for Malay votes from PAS. Only in the 2008 general election majority of the voters went against BN. Even then, 55% of the Malays still voted for BN, while the low Chinese and Indian voter supports were still better than in most other Peninsular states.
Against the above background and with the the current political issues which hurt Malay feelings, there is a good chance for BN to take back the Bukit Gantang seat. After all, BN needs only 800 voters to turn around to win.
Should BN win the Bukit Gantang seat, it will not be difficult to calculate the number of seats BN can get, should a fresh state election be held.
But first of all, it will be nice for BN to get the two bukit and this particular batang, although one bukit and one batang will also be just fine.