Quo vadis, Hulu Selangor?

Granted: Anybody can jump into the hullabaloo of this country’s political foray, should his/her hearts desire so. But those with political and personal baggage should think twice – no, make that about a million times – before joining the bandwagon.

A day in Hulu Selangor has opened my eyes beyond the reach of political lenses of both, Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR). Informal chitchat with PR insiders, BN canvassers, and most importantly, the locals has given birth to this posting – on the eve of the by-election scheduled to take off tomorrow.

If I gauge the situation in Hulu Selangor wrongly, I should read the writing in the wall: Never write about politics again!

A middle age Malay man, Abang Mat, who operates a car wash centre in Kuala Kubu Baru town, doesn’t know jack about APCO and Israel issue. Neither does he give a hoot about what’s happening in Anwar’s Sodomy II trial in KL High Court. While admitting that he is still a fence sitter at this eleventh hour, what he only cares about is ‘pembangunan’ in this sleepy constituency.

According to him, there is a little difference since Pakatan took over two years ago. In essence, chap like Abang Mat doesn’t care who wins, as long as the candidate can bring what he wants, he’s fine with it.

A shop owner, Chong, has this to answer when asked which between of the two powerhouses he would vote for: “Sapa beli banyak, saya pangkah sama dia. Sapa tak beli, tak de pangkah.”

After a momentary pause, Chong heaved a long sigh before saying: “Tak kesahlah sapa menang. Jangan masa election saja nampak muka, lepas itu terus ilang! Next election baru jumpa.” The trails of his remark, I suspect, consist of nasty nagging in Cantonese.

Things are not much different down at the Orang Asli settlement in Kg. Pertak. Set against the breathtaking view of Pertak Dam, the Orang Asli settlement lingers aloof among the BN campaigners, making it difficult for the outsiders to read them.

But my untrained eyes and insensitive ears would conclude that they listen to their Tok Batin. And this Tok Batin looks at ease around among the BN campaigners.

A short visit to Bilik Gerakan PR was pounced by an excited (and that is putting it mildly) Makcik who came by my side literally shouting: “Ooooooi anak tak tahu ke? Makcik dah berjaya menghalang Timbalan Menteri dari lalu kat jalan ni. Baru tadi! Tak nampak ke?”

Besides being entertained by this makcik’s disposition, I don’t have much to think about PR campaigners. But, at BN’s command centre, the spirit is upbeat, almost optimist even – a guarded kind of optimism.

However, in any by-election, it boils down to the choice of candidate. BN apparently has learnt a bitter lesson after fielding a candidate who was struck out from the advocate & solicitor’s roll. Squeaky clean, young and a tad naïve, P. Kamalanathan is no political heavyweight like Zaid Ibrahim.

But unlike Zaid, Kamalanathan does not have a skeleton in his closet. It’s all fair and dandy if you wine and dine, or even owned a racehorse, as long as you sit in a chair managing your law firm.  The moment you decided to enter into politics, your foes are a bound to dig up your questionable penchant and pursuits. With PR running on a defensive to salvage Zaid’s image, it’s hard to do anything else. I digress.

Personal matter aside, BN has an added advantage of having limitless resources to immobilize its machinery all over the country to camp out in Hulu Selangor. The fact of which, PR could hardly deny. With the PM down at ground zero twice – including being the biggest Santa Claus during this unseasonably hot ‘christmas’ for Hulu Selangor – PR is facing an uphill battle to retain the seat tomorrow.

The war in Hulu Selangor does not end within the conundrum of old media and blogs. It has extended in Twitter web portal too, with both sides firing political salvo at each other. Some good. Others, oh well, unspeakably rude.

In any clash of the titans, when everything else fails, personal touch would come in handy.

I think the odds are stacked against PR to retain this seat.

Sukhoi & Gong Kedak Military Airbase

On an invitation from Mindef, I spent the last Friday & Saturday visiting Gong Kedak’s TUDM Military Airbase. 1st time onboard military aircraft from TUDM Subang to Gong Kedak Airbase; 1st time in any military base at all; 1st time seeing fighter jets and real fighter pilots in action. The experience at Gong Kedak is enriching - and that is putting it mildly. 

On the other hand, informal chit-chat at the mess with Lieutenant Colonel Choy, puts to rest allegation that the military airbase is malfunctioned. And Sukhoi jets are something to be proud of. After all, we tax payers, helped pay for it. 

Special thank you goes to the political secretary to the defense’s minister, Shahrul. Not forgetting Major Marina together with the squadron at Gong Kedak for the hospitality shown to us. To Syed Akbar, Zakhir, Sager and Heikal: I had a fabulous time. 

I will write about the experience in my column, hopefully, by next week. In the meantime, I have  few images to share with you. 

I think Mindef’s willingness to embrace bloggers as part of the country’s media team is exemplary. Kementerian-kementerian lain bila lagi?