Thursday, 21 February 2013 11:14
Johor DEFINITELY no longer Umno's bastion: Will you vote for Umno? Reply only 50-50!
Written by Nawawi Mohamad
Johor Malays have been staunch supporters of UMNO, while the Chinese have been able to put up with the BN leaders in the state. UMNO-BN is so confident that Johor will continue to remain under its control that Prime Minister Najib Razak and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin have been concentrating their efforts elsewhere in the country for the coming general election.
The only indication of doubt so far has been in the stealthy way that Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein shifted base from Sembrong to Kota Tinggi, which is now held by Syed Hamid Albar and which is regarded as a much 'safer' seat. Syed Hamid, the former Home Minister, is widely expected to be dropped in GE13.
Another unsafe place for UMNO is the Johor Baru parliamentary seat now held by Shahril Samad. As the Chinese voters are now either sitting on the fence or swaying away from the MCA to either the PKR or DAP, Shahril knows he needs Malay support. Unfortunately for him, the situation is gloomy.
Friends of the popular MP tell of how there used to be tents erected in Shahril’s compound, catering for the almost unceasing visits by small groups of people, mostly his supporters and those who wish to seek his help. They talk of how the narrow road leading to his house used to be full of cars. But not anymore, this is no longer the case. Shahril practically has no visitors these days.
What is the consensus on the ground now?
Gelang Patah is surrounded by various developments and Legoland is just nearby in Nusajaya. The small town consists of four blocks of shop-houses segregated by the main Gelang Patah Road and two junctions. There is rubbish everywhere and the grass and shrubs are seldom cut but the town is still running, with the people going about their business. However, there are no new buildings being constructed now.
On Sundays, there are visibly more foreigners - Bangladeshis, Nepalese, Indians, Vietnamese and Indonesians - than locals. It is not uncommon to find foreigners manning the counters in the shops and restaurants here. Well known in town are the three shops owned by Bangladeshis; one selling groceries and the other two selling clothes. There really is not much opportunity for the locals in Gelang Patah.
The kampong areas are mostly populated by Malays. They seem oblivious to politics but when asked whether they will vote for UMNO this time around, the spontaneous reply is only a 50-50. This may seem like a natural response but not here in Johor - heartland, birthplace and bastion of the once-mighty UMNO. In fact, such a response can be said to be earth-shattering and most ominous for the BN.
But this is to be expected. For too long, UMNO and MCA have taken their prized state for granted, doing little to bring it up to mark even though the lack of infrastructure and progress is amplified by the magnificent strides made by Singapore just across the Causeway.
Here in the Gelang Patah area, the Malays are not able to benefit from the various developments. Hence their lukewarm response to the billion-ringgit question - will you vote for UMNO?
The youths still have to ply daily to Singapore to work, and every morning, the highways and roads leading to Singapore via Causeway as well as the Second Link are congested, full of motorcycles which are the most convenient form of transportation. Many travel from as far as Skudai to earn their living in neighboring Singapore.
Johor Malays even in the kampongs know of UMNO's bad ways
If you ask the Malays after their Friday prayers about UMNO, they will also give the same answer, 50-50. You can also ask the small enterprise owners or those who operate the mini markets and they will tell you that whenever the customers enter their premises and see the news on TV3, they will either comment or react negatively.
Yes, the people here know about UMNO's bad traits, its awful corruption and abuse of power. They also know they now have a choice in the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
It is only in the isolated areas like Kampong Paya Mengkuang and the villages around major housing areas that UMNO is able managed to buy votes.
So it came as no surprise that in Pasir Gudang earlier this month, fed-up UMNO members actually shut down their “war rooms”. These had been set up specially for the GE13 but there was nothing that Johor Chief Minister Ghani Othman or Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin could do to change their minds.
Even Pasir Gudang UMNO Youth Chief Rohazam Shah Ahmad supports the actions of its members in shutting down the “war rooms”. Ghani has not been able to resolve the problems faced by the squatters even until now and they are getting really angry with UMNO.
Malay support dwindling by the day
Back to the wall, Ghani Othman has been forced to put a brave face on the matter. Recently, he declared that he was confident 90% of the Malays in Johor would support UMNO.
But the record shows that in the 2008 election, PAS got 42.42% of the Malay votes in the state seats of Sungai Balang in Muar. In Mersing PAS got 34.33% for the Endau seat in Mersing. As for the parliamentary seat of Parit Sulong, PAS won 27.99% of the Malay votes. In other words, on average in the previous general election, PAS got about 30% of the Malay votes. So if the Malays themselves are now saying it is 50-50 whether they vote UMNO or Pakatan, this could translate into PR winning GE13.
So Najib should not have wasted his efforts, Gerakan's time and Jho Low's money in organizing the Penang Psy Gangnam-style concert. Instead of trying to court the Chinese in Penang, he would have done better to pay attention on his core Malay electorate in Johor. It is after all UMNO's stronghold and one should always treat one's supporters well. Otherwise, they may decide to stop supporting him!
It looks like it may be a little too late now. Johor is no longer UMNO’s bastion anymore. It is now up for grabs!