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Let Fly The Silver Bullets Come Election Time
Malaysia Perspective | 03 May 2011


The state election in Sarawak drew to a close on April 16, 2011. This landmark event was another shake-up after the political crisis of March 2008. The silver bullet strategy, observed during the election campaign, was as shocking as one of the scenes in the Chinese film “Let the Bullets Fly”, in which the bandits riddled a black iron door with numerous bullet holes.

The results of the Sarawak poll showed that both the ruling and opposition parties were winners. 74-years-old Chief Minister Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud was the winner from the ruling party. He stood for the Barisan Nasional (BN) for the 8th time, leading 35 candidates from the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) Party to a resounding victory. Together with the 20 seats retained by the three other BN member parties, BN was able to retain its two-thirds majority in the state assembly. The poll showed that the various allegations hurled during the election campaign, particularly the alleged pecuniary dealings by the powerful and wealthy Taib family, had little impact on the election results. In fact, these political smearing had the effect of casting the white-haired Taib, who had recently married a young wife, as a vigorous elderly hero.

The winner, among the opposition camp, was the Democratic Action Party (DAP). Since coming East from West Malaysia 33 years ago, this party, which adopted the ‘Rocket’ as its party logo, powered its way through this election to win 80% of the 15 seats it contested in. It snatched all the Chinese electorates from the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), which had represented the Chinese voters for the past 40 years in the BN. This was a replay of the March 2008 General Election in West Malaysia, during which the Chinese parties from the BN camp also suffered a crushing defeat. In Sarawak, ethnic Chinese constitutes nearly 30% of the population. The rise of DAP as the second largest party signifies their resounding desire to ride the ‘Rocket’ of change, rather than continue dancing to the tunes of ol’ ‘White Hair’.

‘Change’ is the overarching slogan of the Sarawak election. However, those who will benefit from this change are the minority of Chinese population living in the cities. The life of the majority of the indigenous population, which is scattered over the vast expanse of Sarawak, remains unchanged after casting their votes. Sarawak has 40 indigenous groups both large and small. If the largest group, the Dayaks, do not allow the other groups into the mountains (the Bidayuhs) or the sea (the Iban people) to earn a living, they will be accused of denial of human rights or violation of freedom. How then can you expect them to change ‘for Malaysia’, or to ‘fight greed and corruption together’?

Ironically, the Rocket’s model of ‘change’ emphasises fighting ‘for the right to freedom and institutional equality’. Yet the indigenous people of Sarawak are free to hunt in the mountains or fish in the sea, and their prime concern is to provide the basic necessities for their families. They may not even have heard of the call for ‘change’, nor comprehended what this ‘change’ entails. They may also find it difficult to accept this ‘change’ in reality. Since BN needed the votes of these indigenous people to sustain their political dominion, wouldn’t its five-yearly distribution of vote-buying money be justifiable and mutually beneficial?

The fact is every election unleashes these silver bullets. The most obvious display of this tactic is when money is blatantly exchanged for votes; others take the form of officials raising funds under dubious auspices, or milking campaign funds through the stock market. In this Sarawak election, BN reportedly pumped in RM500 million, to the scorn of many noble people. The problem is, it is not easy to keep an accurate account of this money. The tell-tale abnormal movements in the Kuala Lumpur stock market three months prior to the election, especially in the share prices of companies with interests in Sarawak, saw fluxes between 40% to 50% of the share prices that would translate to hundreds of millions of ringgit in value, yet no one made an issue of it from a moral point of view.

Coming hot on the heels of the election in Sarawak will be the general election. That is shaping up to be a mammoth battle, as well as a seasonal deluge of silver bullets. If you are eyeing the stock market, you should take this opportunity for some serious winnings!

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