The Tale of Mok Nik Urai

(Click here for Malay Mail’s online version)

SPARE me the need to travel the 246km from Kuala Lumpur to Manik Urai to appease this desire to tell you a plausible story – I was born and raised in the hilly land of Kuala Krai to know enough about Manik Urai without setting foot there.

My old friend, Muhammad Abdullah, runs a Caltex station in La’loh. I bet if I were to drive off and drop by there today, I would see him… There, at the cashier’s seat, punching away on his cash till.

And I still remember one fish peddler at the Kuala Krai wet market.

To my mum, at least, the fish he sold were somehow always fresher than the rest – this fish taukey, whom I knew as “Pu’ji Ike”. Yes, this is the same Fauzi Abdullah (Pas candidate) from his glorious days as a fish taukey in Kuala Krai.

The people of Manik Urai – or the Kelantanese in general for that matter – have a distinctive if a little too independent point of view when it comes to politics. And the recently concluded by-election held in that constituency serves as evidence to my testimony.

En route to Kelantan via Gua Musang, you cannot miss this sleepy hollow with its famous cascading waterfall, Lata Rek. Unfortunately, this serene beauty is dying an untimely death for lack of better care and the absence of basic amenities. The fringe of this waterfall was where I had spent numerous weekends during my formative years; the folly of my youth made me blissfully unaware of the political game either in Kelantan, or even locally in Kuala Krai.

The old folk in Kuala Krai had told us kids the story of how Manik Urai was bestowed its name. A long time ago, there was this beauty of Thai descent, Mok Nik Urai, who was among the native settlers of the place. Her beauty was legendary; so much so that the place was named after her. There is no historical record to back up this folklore but growing up, I heard it being retold a million times, just like a broken record.

The recent death of its State assemblyman brought an inevitable limelight onto the face of Manik Urai. I confess – like many other Kelantanese now living elsewhere – I didn’t think the ruling coalition stood a chance of reducing the incumbent party’s previous winning majority; let alone winning this seat. I simply thought Pas would sail through easily – or, at worse, win with a slightly lesser majority.

There is one particular trait present in general among many Kelantanese: the defiance of never feeling the obligation to “kowtow” to anyone in so far as their political beliefs are concerned, making them mavericks in some way. I think what made Tok Guru Nik Aziz such a powerful figure at the axis of Kelantan’s politics is his demeanor and his subtle manner in preaching Islam as the way of life.

He places importance in the afterlife over the pursuit of wealth – and the Kelantanese have always chosen Tok Guru over anything or anyone else.

I wasn’t far off the mark when Pas did win again in Manik Urai on Tuesday. But securing the seat with a shockingly miserable 65-vote majority is definitely not something for Pas to trumpet around town about. Self-reflection is now a “must-do” for Pas, dare I suggest?

The Manik Urai by-election showed how divided the voters were between allowing PAS to retain its seat; or to take on a possible roller-coaster of change Barisan Nasional had vowed to bring them.

The internal fracas within Pas was pejorative for this by-election – and that’s putting it mildly. If you ask me, I think the messily ruffled feather between the Pas’ Erdogan and Ulama factions, if not controlled, will crack the party even wider.

The self-inflicted troubles in the Pakatan-held States of Kedah, Perak and now Selangor, helped dampen Pas’ chances to win big in Manik Urai. Politics, after all, makes strange bedfellows – and they aren’t exactly serenely positioned right now.

In retrospect, one cannot turn a blind eye on the Barisan’s quite exemplary campaign strategy this time. Its pragmatist approach in dealing with issues that were widely politicised by Pakatan Rakyat brought about a rather warm reaction from the rakyat, vis-à-vis a surge in the approval rating for Datuk Seri Najib Razak, as shown in a recent survey held by the Merdeka Centre.

But a win, by whatever margin, is still a win – the seat remains with Pas.

Pas and its cranky bedfellows need to take heed of this: BN is now well on the path of recovery post 2008 general election.

Manik Urai will undoubtedly return to being the sleepy hollow it has always been after this by-election’s fervour subsides, with people going back to tapping rubber and selling lemang by the roadside. What remains now is for the election promises to be fulfilled. Will they?

Elviza Michele Kamal is an idealist at heart – her husband told her so. She will continue to blog at http://www.elviza.wordpress.com

6 thoughts on “The Tale of Mok Nik Urai

  1. i’m waiting to see whether they’ll build the bridge or not since the ruling coalition won at both places where the bridge is suppose to connect.. *trying to be optimist*

  2. He places importance in the afterlife over the pursuit of wealth – and the Kelantanese have always chosen Tok Guru over anything or anyone else.

    How true? I had my doubts. Look at the SIL mansion. LOL

  3. Elviza,
    The bridge to Manik Urai Lama was not built even during the time of YB Tengku Razaleigh was in power because Manik Urai Lama is a flood prone area. The people there were supposed to have been relocated to Manik Urai Baru where house lots were provided.
    Kesedar could have easily build the RM7 million bridge if it had wanted to. The bridge was not an issue at all other than being a political issue for the by election. What happens to all the programs under Kesedar? Why was it not implemented there? It would be interesting if you can go down there and write about it under your column. After all you were from the district.

  4. My dear,

    Despite who wins or losses is secondary,but I must say,the winner is YOU.
    The example you shown to our rural boys and girls not only in Manik Urai or Kuala Keraior anywhere from Batang Ai to Machap Umbu or further of Telok Rumbia to Kuala Sedeli,that ,there is hope with sound education,determination and focus are the reward achievement awaits for those whom are persistent enough with hard-smart work.
    If…and only if… they read and able to understood the message in the bottle.

    Tabik Puan.
    You done us proud.

    Wassalam.

  5. I agree with Pak Tuo. Too often we are so obsessed with this “Pas-Umno” thing, of “justice”, of “wanting to investigate and reveal wrongdoings” and whatever else. And we forget about the most important thing that we can do – improving our own self.

    Rather than investigate all those, we’ll make a very good and sound start by truthfully and honestly investigating our own selves: Do you like what you see?

    No, I’m not on a high horse preaching to you – I’m just reminding myself too. I’ve read from the blogs and newspapers, of how some people whine and complain about various things and personalities not being right… and conveniently forgetting to look at themselves.

    This is a trap that we have often fallen into – too busy trying to set the world right to see how we have made it such by our own personal shortcomings and wrongdoings that weren’t rectified.

  6. vija… ini aku ni…ina geng 9 org SMSYP dulu2 tu kembali lagi…
    hihihi…. aku teringat jugak kat mamat caltex tu….
    apa cerita dia skrg ya? lama betul tak jumpa geng sekolah dulu-dulu
    aku rindukan dia org semua…………..

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