Mat Sabu admits Pakatan underdog in Rantau race

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu speaks during Bicara Minda at Dewan Karangkraf in Shah Alam March 8, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu speaks during Bicara Minda at Dewan Karangkraf in Shah Alam March 8, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

SHAH ALAM, March 8 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) will be hard-pressed to win the Rantau by-election due to Umno and PAS playing up anti-DAP sentiments, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu admitted today.

Speaking at the Bicara Minda discussion organised by Malay paper Sinar Harian today, he also acknowledged that currently PH is on the defensive against the offensive measures taken by opposition Barisan Nasional (BN) and PAS.

“It is still difficult (to win Rantau) because the anti-DAP sentiment is still strong and they (Umno-PAS) are also using Quranic verses (to win voter support).

“They’ve also came out with a new term — Shariah compliant lies — where lies are allowed,” said Mohamad who was replying to moderator Tan Sri Johan Jaafar’s queries at the discussion.

“In politics perception is everything and the perception (against DAP) must be corrected. Amanah, DAP, PPBM (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia) and PKR must be careful with our words especially in the digital age. One mistake can haunt us for a lifetime and it is difficult to change or retract the statement.”


He then pointed out that the perception played up against DAP was among the reasons PH lost the Semenyih state seat in the recently concluded by-election apart from the economic issues that the current administration is still trying to fix.

From his observation, the “Chinese bogeyman” was also played up by the Umno-PAS alliance, implying that DAP is Chinese while MCA is not.

“When Lim Guan Eng took over Penang, they said: ‘Oh no, we’re finished! The Chinese have taken over.’

“I guess (Tan Sri) Koh Tsu Koon (who was Lim’s predecessor from then BN component party Gerakan) was Javanese and not a Chinese,” joked the veteran politician leading to laughter among the audience.

The defence minister who is also fondly known as Mat Sabu or Abang Mat recalled that after Pakatan Rakyat took over Penang in the 2008 general election and Lim Guan Eng became the chief minister, he faced a lot of pressure and attacks by Umno and its BN partners.

He remembered weekly demonstrations occurring at the Penang chief minister’s office, where the worst incident included protesters bringing a replica of faeces next to Lim’s photo.

“There was that same perception (against DAP) in Penang. During his early days as chief minister, Lim Guan Eng faced demonstrations every week. Then there was less demonstration but he received a lot of memorandum.

“After we delivered (to the Malay Muslim community) by giving financial assistance to Muslim religious schools and new ideas to better develop wakaf land (land donated for Islamic purposes), the community began accepting us.

“In 2008, Umno still held 13 seats (federal and state) in Penang, which shrank to 10 in 2013 and last election they only had two seats,” said Mohamad.

Touching on whether or not the collaboration between Malaysia’s two biggest Malay-based parties was a threat to PH, the former PAS leader said he only wanted to know why previous negotiations and discussions were conducted on the down-low.

He said political alliances was normal but based on PAS historical traditions, the Islamist party had always held internal party discussions, meetings and debates before deciding on an alliance.

Mohamad, who was in the party for 38 years and rose to the position of deputy president, could not help but wonder why he and his peers, including then PAS information chief Datuk Mahfuz Omar, were left in the dark.

“When PAS wanted to join Tun Abdul Razak’s coalition government, we needed party consensus. A special muktamar was called, debates were held and everyone’s views were taken into consideration and we voted to join the coalition.

“In the 1980s, when Umno splintered into Semangat 46 and PAS wanted to cooperate with Semangat 46, the same level of discussion happened. We then decided to work together,” he said.

The same happened in the 1990s when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim left Umno and formed Keadilan.

“We had another discussion when we wanted to cooperate with DAP. I find it strange why their discussions and negotiations with Umno was done on the down-low. I was the deputy president then and I didn’t know they were ‘playing together’ behind my back,” he said.