On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Sugar, spice and everything nice…

A largely forgotten place – reporters have to ask how they could get there and where they could find accommodation – the by-election has turned it into a hotly-contested ground with politicians from both sides of the divide making all kinds of promises to the folks there.

If in the past, pledges of development allocations were made only by Barisan Nasional, this time Pakatan Rakyat was also able to do the same because the Selangor state government is under the opposition.

There was even a promise of securing Unesco Heritage recognition for Hulu Selangor from the Pakatan, which would have probably got Penangites and Malaccans questioning whether the place has enough credentials to apply for such status.

But this is an election and politicians must promise the sky, if not heaven, to lock in the votes to ensure a victory.

On Friday, the forgotten Felda settlers in Sungai Buaya received RM50,000 each from the sale of land for development 15 years ago. The money was handed to them by the Prime Minister.

Not to be outdone, the Selangor Mentri Besar promised to acquire the land if the federal government failed to resolve the issue.

It is said that the Felda settlers make up a huge chunk of the 35,000 Malay voters and they are likely to determine the results today.

For the Chinese voters, who are perceived to be anti-establishment in the polls, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has announced that Chinese independent school students are now eligible to apply for National Higher Education Corporation (PTPTN) loans.

It’s a big deal as education is an important issue for the Chinese community, and the announcement was in fact on the front pages of Chinese dailies.

The fight for the 16,891 Chinese voters was bitter as the PKR’s Zaid Ibrahim is banking on this segment to pull him through.

Zaid was probably picked because he is regarded as a liberal, never mind if he’s doubted by some of the Malay voters. But he would probably be liked by the Chinese voters.

He has admitted to owning racehorses but does not gamble. The Chinese voters would probably not care about this, but it would be challenged by Muslim voters.

After all, horses for equestrian purposes are quite different from racehorses, as Tun Dr Mahathir could not resist pointing out in his campaign.

The Barisan’s P. Kamalanathan also found himself in a spot when questions were raised if he had actually studied in Australia. Then it was revealed that he was a registered voter in Sungai Siput, Perak, while Zaid, a former Kota Baru MP, tried to impress on voters that he had been staying in Selangor for decades. Zaid still remains a registered voter in Kota Baru and is thus unable to vote today.

In the case of the Indians, businessman Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam appeared to say he had plans to steer Maika Holdings Bhd out of troubled waters after 26 years.

There seems to be something for everybody and we hope someone is keeping track of these promises.

Let’s hope there isn’t any caveat attached because those who made the promises must deliver them regardless of the outcome.

In a by-election, politicians seem to be extra nice and extra tolerant. Regardless of whether it’s a banner or a poster or a letter, there seems to be no nationalistic hang-up over the choice of language used.

At their ceramah, politicians accorded recognition to the two communities for their valuable contribution to the country’s economy. There were no recalcitrant politicians reminding them to be grateful and thankful for being citizens of Malaysia. How we wish there’s a by-election every day so that our politicians can behave better.

Malay rights champion Datuk Ibrahim Ali of Perkasa was campaigning for Kamala­nathan, an Indian, and not Zaid Ibrahim. Of course, he had to explain at his ceramah why he wasn’t insisting on a Malay this time. But he’s a seasoned politician with answers for every nasty question.

Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, the spiritual leader of PAS, was hugging Zaid, who was seen wearing a kopiah in his meeting with the Kelantan Mentri Besar. Side-stepping media questions on Zaid’s alleged lifestyle, Nik Aziz brushed off these attacks as “personal and childish”.

Next question, please. None? Thank you, the MB is busy and he has to leave, thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the press.

Politics isn’t dirty, it’s the people who make it dirty, some say.

In Hulu Selangor, it was almost the best of the worst politics where nothing was sacred.

Malaysians can’t be faulted if they assumed Dr Mahathir justified these tactics with the explanation that all is fair in war.

From doctored pictures of Zaid and alleged pictures of family members of Barisan leaders to caricatures attacking Barisan personalities, both sides are guilty of using dirty tactics, but the blame is being shifted to the media and bloggers.

Next stop – Sibu. The hotels and resthouses there are all fully booked already. There will be more promises and more goodies for sure.