KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2 — Lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan has attributed Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) defeat in the recent Cameron Highlands by-election to the failure of its component parties to work effectively together.
In a recent interview with Malay Mail, the former Malaysian Bar president said PH’s candidate M.Manogaran from DAP alone should not be blamed for the defeat.
Although the seat is a Barisan Nasional (BN) stronghold, she said PH can’t be lamenting that BN had the advantage after PAS collaborated with them.
“It cannot be just about the candidate. Manogaran did work hard to get to the ground. But the question is what happened to the party support?
“You say ‘oh look at BN, look at PAS joining together’. Well isn’t Amanah with you, Bersatu with you?,” she said referring to PH parties Parti Amanah Negara and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
“Pakatan failed in Cameron Highlands because they did not work as a coalition and they can certainly learn one or two things from BN,” she said.
Ambiga also said PH failed to give a counter narrative when the race card was played by the federal Opposition to attract Malay voters.
“When the PAS president came out and said to the Malay voters that the candidate must be a Muslim, why couldn’t PH give a counter narrative?
“Where was the counter from Amanah? What help did the candidate get from fellow PH parties? That’s what I want to know,” she said.
Learn from BN’s people skills
Ambiga stressed that it is high time for PH to start going to the ground to meet voters instead of expecting the people to come and see them.
Ambiga gave BN credit for doing that and proving that it was still adept at it.
“Get down there. Start working from the ground and show the people. See that’s what BN did really well.
“Through their Umno Wanita programmes from those days and former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak riding four-wheel drive through muddy terrains...they are really good at those things. Why can’t you pick up some of their efforts?
“Their outreach is good. They (BN) know how to run these elections. So, I would say to all our ministers in PH, now that they have settled in that they should start doing this,” she said.
Ambiga said PH must start now and warned that if they are going to move slowly, the people are going to forget the reforms they have made.
“My worry is if they don’t do something in the first two years, in the third year voters are already looking at the next election. Everybody will forget about reform and what not.”
“It will take time. But you got to start you know, because right now you don’t have more than 4 years, you cannot assume you’re going to come back into power. Use your sliver of power.”
Voters think Dr M still in BN
Ambiga also said it is a fact that some voters in the rural areas in Cameron Highlands still think prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is with BN.
She said it was the reality though many people laughed it off when Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail reportedly said that one of the factors why PH was defeated was because voters believed PH chairman Dr Mahathir was still with BN.
“It is a fact and we shouldn’t have such a situation. The population is not that huge that we cannot get in touch or ensure everybody is connected.
“So what I’m trying to say is there is a huge divide between them and that’s not a good thing,” she said.
BN broke its losing streak in the past four by-elections since the 14th General Election when its Orang Asli candidate Ramli Mohd Nor won the Cameron Highlands parliamentary seat on January 26.
With Ramli’s 12,038 votes sweeping 56.18 per cent, BN comfortably retained Cameron Highlands with a majority of more than 3,000 votes.
Manogaran secured 8,800 votes, while the two independent candidates Sallehudin Ab Talib and Wong Seng Yee had a combined tally of 590 votes.