By Yong Min Wei & Chua Sue-Ann
KUALA KUBU BHARU: Malay voters living and working in the town centres of the semi-rural Hulu Selangor area appeared unperturbed by PKR candidate Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s admission of consuming alcohol in his younger days, dissolving some earlier fears that honesty could have cost Zaid greatly.
Many Malay voters and residents, when met at the Batang Kali town market, were forgiving of Zaid’s “past mistakes” and appear to have accepted his repentance. They felt that it was more important to look at what a person can do instead of dwelling on the past.
“Zaid may have made mistakes before, but who hasn’t? As long as he repents, that’s fine,” said a Malay man in his 30s.
His views were echoed by two Malay women at the morning market who said: “God forgives those who repent, so how can we humans hold it against him?”
Another Malay woman, Rozi, 50, shared these views. “The drinking story is an old story, but his repentance is new. Let us focus on bringing new developments.”
However, several Malay voters in the same area felt otherwise. They were unhappy about Zaid’s alcohol consumption and did not want to discuss what the former cabinet minister could do for the constituency.
“Alcohol? No, no, that’s unacceptable. That’s no good. No way”, said a woman who identified herself as Reen.
A shop assistant, Reen also listed down the reasons why she thought many villagers would not vote for Zaid and return the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate P Kamalanathan with a bigger majority.
It mattered, she said, that Zaid is an “outsider”, appeared to be not in touch with local issues and also that PKR was finding it difficult to retain its elected representatives.
In the recent months, PKR had lost four members of parliament (MP) who quit to become independents. The party had also seen a slew of grassroot leaders resign, which PKR claims is a calculated act to attack the party during the polls.
Former Hulu Selangor PKR treasurer Dr Halili Rahmat, who was shortlisted as PKR’s candidate for the Hulu Selangor by-election, quit the party on Monday to join Umno, citing his disappointment with PKR for straying from its original struggles.
Asked about the by-election mood, Reen said: “People are just tired of it all. Early in the morning, the political groups will come and make lots of noise but nobody pays attention. We know who to vote for.”
Voters living in the nearby Sungai Buaya suburb, located in the Batang Kali state constituency, also seemed unconcerned over the alcohol issue.
Many of them spoke about what they wanted their elected representative to do, particularly about delivering on his election pledges and bringing development to the large constituency.
Soraya, a housewife, said she was initially “a little disturbed” over the alcohol issue but also felt that forgiveness is a noble virtue.
Before casting her vote, she said she would not only look at a candidate but also evaluate the candidate’s political party.
She pointed out that she was “fed-up” with politicians and elected representatives leaving their parties at their “whims and fancies” and wanted an MP who was not in two minds about his principles.
An MP must have long-term goals and look after the community’s interests, Soraya said. These, she added, included an emphasis on education, reducing crime and a healthy environment.
An engineer who declined to be named said he had voted for PKR in the last general election but was still undecided about who to vote for this time.
He noted that Kamalanathan seemed “sincere and committed” to serve the people and that people had previously cast “protest votes”.
“We must not look at the past but at the future. If I cast my vote for BN it is because I believe it is the right thing to do for my family,” he said, adding that Malaysia needed a strong government to initiate changes.
Hamid, a grocer, said it was not good to judge Zaid, who had already performed his haj, and leave the judgment to God.
“Datuk Zaid is such a high-profile leader and it will be an honour to have him as our leader,” he said, adding that he would not hesitate to vote PKR.
However, the opinions of rural Malay voters could still be an important factor, particularly if more revelations surface before polling day on April 25.
Mohd Nasir, 60, a tailor in the Batang Kali area, said such issues of morality would have a bigger influence on village folk than the residents of Hulu Selangor’s towns.
According to Nasir, many Hulu Selangor residents had moved from the urban areas and were more “relaxed” and “liberal”.
“Anything can be a big issue if we want it to be. If Zaid has repented, good. It is not for us to pass judgment on his sincerity. It’s about trust,” Nasir said.
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang came to the PKR candidate’s defence, telling a ceramah in Kalumpang on Monday that Zaid’s “wrongdoings are his own wrongdoings”.
Hadi told the mixed crowd of some 200 people that the important thing was that “the fight for justice includes everyone regardless of their religion, race and past”.
PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat is expected to hit the campaign trail on Friday. Nik Aziz, popularly known as Tok Guru, could win over Muslim voters who may have been turned off by Zaid’s admission.
The 34,020 Malay voters in the constituency make up 52.7% of Hulu Selangor’s 64,500 registered voters, which includes 799 postal voters.
The alcohol issue is largely a non-factor for the Chinese and Indian voter pool, which consists of 16,964 voters (26.3%) and 12,453 voters (19.3%) respectively.
But both BN and PKR are mindful of the fact that the Malays play a crucial role in deciding the by-election’s outcome given that they make up over half of the registered voters.
Source : The Edge Daily