OCTOBER 11 — About 75,000 voters on Saturday, or more specifically those who decide to show up from Port Dickson’s electoral roll, may well decide who will be prime minister past 2020.
Which is why I spent the past weekend at this idyllic escape spot for city dwellers, to wet my feet in the political waters emerging at PD. Long before competition from other resort locations arrived, this coastal town was the default chill spot for Klang Valley residents.
On October 13, it will inform whether Anwar Ibrahim is welcome.
There are two parts to this article, one of the anecdotal nature first hand from a visit, and second the accumulation of relevant developments for the hamlet and its candidates. From those, it is desired, a satisfying prediction.
Twenty-four hours beach time
There are serious question marks over the area’s economy. Two hypermarkets were visited and they were strong reminders times are tough.
The parking lot at Giant was largely vacant, and more than half the stores were shut with the supermarket quiet. Still reeling from the Chicking restaurant shuttered down, we turned to the misnamed “Donuts and Coffee” as the saving grace though it turned bitter quickly by having one and not the other.
Not that the coffee machine had broken down as much they have stopped serving lattes, mochas and long blacks indefinitely.
Our enthusiasm waned, we turned to Tesco. A third of the parking lot was shaped into a makeshift farm fair, and the rest of it just a chuckle better than the scene at Giant.
It was palpable having only two checkout counters operate from more than 18 possible. These scenes on a Saturday speak volumes of the state of affairs at Port Dickson. But we are glad to report it is only RM18 for a Musang King durian sapling, fertilisers not included.
Kampung Nelayan Teluk Kemang was ready for 5pm hi-tea with Anwar Ibrahim. Situated in Bagan Pinang, the state constituency the other candidate Isa Samad held before, the interest was unsurprising.
Standing on the beach, just away from the beaten-down fishermen’s association hut while waiting for Anwar, a stark comparison had to be made.
About half a kilometre away is the tourist beachfront along with its banana boat rides. The locals, however, had their eyes peeled on their boats rather than the outsiders frolicking an eyeshot away because sometimes boats are stolen. It is one of their complaints; boat storage.
Anwar spoke with gusto with Daim Zainuddin by his side, and Azmin Ali made a guest appearance though it was unsure whether they had a chat about the ongoing PKR election. The real winner was the home-cooked tapioca served.
I was glad to say hello to some ex-colleagues, who were decidedly upbeat about polling day.
Awie and Hattan showed up with a bevy of artistes to perform for the locals to close the evening at the PD Waterfront. It would have been welcomed by the locals but political observers remarked that the whole enterprise smelt of Barisan Nasional Election 101.
There are worse things to be accused of, after all they won 13 general elections on the trot.
The old man went for a tan
One expected sore point for the Anwar camp was soothed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad showing up last Monday. It would reduce animosity among the voters, on whether the PKR president remains an existential and visceral threat to Mahathir.
Elsewhere, developments would put a smile on Anwar.
The surge of interest for candidate Stevie Chan has massively waned on social media. While the vindication remains, his inability to bite into any electoral issues leaves him exposed.
Curiously, PAS have their standard display on in their expected support zones without too much fanfare — which is as well since they don’t encourage people to be over-excited for it leads to damnation. Insults aside, they won’t fare far from the 20 per cent support levels.
Fortunately, there are silver linings even in the most unflattering of places. This probably will be the last Malaysians have to put up with the bottomed-out candidate Saiful Bukhari Azlan.
The ink has run dry on his theatrics, and he will henceforth live with being the punchline for the most vicious of jokes. His backers are likelier to give the final payment, and slide away from him.
The only mystery remaining is of Isa Samad. Pilloried by the media, and roundly criticised as a reminder of a darker Malaysian past, his years as mentri besar and assemblyman must endow him with goodwill in the local circuit. The temptation to chuck in the cliché “all politics is local” loses lustre in this case, perhaps.
Two matters remain in a twirl. One gets answered on Saturday.
Voter turnout has less effect on the result but more on the mandate Anwar brings to Parliament, Monday. Anything less than 70 per cent of the roll would be regressive for Anwar’s attempt to be in Cabinet by 2019, let alone lead it after 2020.
The second is pertinent to the long term future of Port Dickson and other towns in Malaysia. Pointedly to the missing development and trickle down of wealth. The lack of development out of Kuala Lumpur and the other two big cities, Penang and Johor Baru, is a serious national failing.
On Monday, there was a report about a PD family of six forced to live in tents after failing to pay for their low-cost housing. They’d be beach side, and I wonder if Anwar bumped into them during his morning runs or if he did thought they were just another bunch of holidaying tourists.
The signs are not just for that town. It is fine if Anwar promises, but they must be beyond promises of short-term goodies, they ought to be about structural changes. And they have to be for all Malaysians, not just those in a seat he needs.
The best case scenario is that the people of Port Dickson set Anwar off on a journey to build the country, and answer the persistent challenge of growth for all through opportunity to the deserving.
Unfortunately, best case scenarios are no guarantees.
For that, the people of Port Dickson have to make up their own minds, alert to balance, but above all with Malaysia in their minds.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.