On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

It’s no joke in Ijok


Ready to serve: Parthiban meeting some of his supporters at Pekan Ijok yesterday. Voting should not be based on race.

At Pekan Ijok, where the wet market is located, the road is often jammed these days as it has become the favourite area for the candidates and campaigners to meet voters. 

Parti Keadilan Rakyat has set up a table with laptops to help voters check the voting stations, where they will cast their votes this Saturday while just a few steps away, Barisan Nasional parties have their operation centres. 

Here, campaigners from both sides would congregate to clap, cheer and jeer political leaders passing by the road in their vehicles. With their loud hailers, impromptu speeches are often made for the people. 

The campaigners are often aggressive and persistent as they stop people going to the market.  

When this writer told two tudung-clad mak cik that he would not be voting (without telling them that he was not a voter in Ijok), he received a loud lecture on the responsibility of a citizen. 

At a coffee shop nearby, campaigners from both sides often stopped by for a break. For the star struck locals, who are often armed with cameras, it is there that they pose for photographs with national leaders. 

There is a carnival atmosphere in this sleepy town, which is about a 30-minute drive from the Bukit Jelutong interchange. This, however, can also provide a false impression of the political climate here, as both sides think of every possible way to draw voters to their gatherings. 

But with less than three days to voting, the tension is rising.  

Barisan leaders have privately admitted the contest would be tough but believe they would still win while the opposition think they have the best fighting chance. In short, both believe they can win. 

On Monday night, it was reported that police had to step in to stop a PKR ceramah at Taman Pancaran in Bestari Selatan, where Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was scheduled to speak. 

The police said it was an illegal gathering. 

But whether there was permit or otherwise, Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel obviously wanted to stop the rising temperature as some 50m away, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was addressing about 200 people at a Barisan function. 

The situation would have been explosive if the two leaders were allowed to proceed with their ceramah, just barely 50m away from each other, with their thousands of supporters. 

On nomination day last Saturday, 1,000 policemen had to stop a fracas between Barisan and PKR supporters. Bottles and flag poles flew, with several political leaders claiming they were hit as they pointed fingers at each other for causing the fracas. 

Thousands of campaigners have converged on Ijok with the respective state liaisons setting up operation centres. It would not be wrong to say there could be an equal, if not, bigger number of campaigners than the 12,272 voters. 

Officials said both sides have compiled daily assessment reports on the possible voting trends of the voters with predictions on how the Malay, Chinese and Indian communities would vote. 

The biggest concern would be the Malays, who comprise 51% of the voters, as their decision would have the biggest impact on the outcome of the result of the by-election.  

Their target is the predominantly Malay areas of Bukit Badong and Kampung Ijok. 

Yesterday, Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yassin reminded Malay voters that although Barisan candidate K. Parthiban was an MIC member, he would be able to work for their interest as this was the Barisan spirit.  

Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Khir Mohamed Toyo went a step further by saying he would adopt the constituency and would be appointing a special assistant for Ijok. 

Barisan has taken a gamble, as a matter of principle, by deciding on an Indian candidate although the constituency has only 28% Indians and the opposition candidate is Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, a Malay.  

If voting is based on race instead of a candidate’s policies and credentials, then it would be a sad day for Malaysia.  

As we wait to celebrate the country’s national day, the people of Ijok should vote for Parthiban, not because he is an Indian or a Malay, but because he is a Malaysian. Likewise, no one should be voting for Khalid because he is a Malay as it would be a seriously unhealthy political trend. 

The MCA campaigners are also working hard to deliver the Chinese voters as they would play a crucial role in the event the Malay votes are split.  

But MCA officials are cautious, declining to say how much votes they can get from the community but they are working hard to secure them.  

While the DAP flags are conspicuously absent from Ijok, there are many Indian and Chinese campaigners in PKR T-shirts to square off with MCA and MIC campaigners for votes from the two communities. 

It's a fierce fight. As the Barisan and Keadilan step up their campaign, the suspense in Ijok has also become more intense.  

Despite the seemingly carnival mood in Ijok, for the campaigners, it is really no joke in Ijok.