KUALA LUMPUR, April 24 (Bernama) — Although the Sarawak state election ended more than a week ago, people are still talking about it as well as the stewardship of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in steering Barisan Nasional (BN) to retain power with a two-thirds majority.
And more often than not, they often speak about Najib’s sagacity or soundness in judgement in reaching out to the people and always providing the necessary “touch points” to gain their support.
Najib’s sincerity, thought leadership, policies and presence in Sarawak are often described as the major factors in helping to secure BN’s triumph.
Gerakan vice-president Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah, in describing Najib’s strong role in Sarawak, said that “it is important in whatever we do, it (the action) should reach out and touch them (the voters)”.
Tan said many other BN politicians could learn a lot from the Sarawak election, especially in asking themselves whether they had done enough to resolve issues raised by the people, and they should not make assumptions that they had done enough.
Now that the dust has settled, it appears that the decision by some voters in Sarawak to vote for the Opposition shows that the swing is primarily due to dissatisfaction over unfulfilled needs of the people.
“We had seen a lot of things in our trips to Sarawak (during the campaign). At the back of my mind, there was a sentiment of unhappiness and frustration…that certain things that needed to be done, were not done,” said Tan.
Tan, who is also Sabah Industrial Development Minister, noted that the “Opposition wave” did not just sweep over urban areas but also beyond urban boundaries as could be seen from the sizeable number of votes for BN’s rivals elsewhere.
“It was across the board, every community, not just the Chinese voters. They (the voters) made their decision. There must be a reason for them to vote in this particular manner,” he said.
Some politicians in Sarawak concur with Tan’s observation and agreed that BN politicians should learn from Najib, who has struck a positive chord with the people in the state from the day he took over as prime minister.
“This election is really a watershed for us. Many of us should have learnt from the prime minister’s style of leadership, which is premised on frequently touching base with the people and solving some core problems faced by them,” said SUPP Sibu publicity chief, Daniel Ngieng.
Political analysts often cite that some of the reasons for SUPP’s relatively bad performance in the state election was due to the perception that the party has not been looking after the community’s interest and that it has been ineffective and failed to fulfil its promises.
They say that SUPP should have emulated Najib’s leadership style, adding that Sarawak was the first state that he made his official visit after taking office, and that he has returned frequently to many remote places, a feat that not many prime ministers before him had done.
“The PM is a feel good factor in Sarawak as surveys have shown that his popularity rating across the board is about 80 per cent compared to only 67 per cent for Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud,” said UNIMAS senior lecturer Dr Jeniri Amir.
“Najib’s sincerity in wanting to address issues and solve problems for the people is held in high esteem by the people and that explains why he has a real and strong following in Sarawak that even the Opposition front is wary about.
“That explains why the Opposition parties in their campaigns only criticised Najib’s policies but they dared not ridicule him as they knew it would not go down well with the Sarawakians,” he said.
In fact, Jeniri said, some other BN component parties in Sarawak had openly used Najib’s strong standing and credit rating as the main points to deflect some contentious issues, but SUPP had not been able to successfully capitalise on this due to its already poor image.
He believed that the prime minister was aware of the sentiments in Sarawak, especially in the urban centres from the very start, on the lingering doubts over the state’s political transition.
The Opposition acknowledged that the “Najib factor” had spoilt its bid to swing more votes. Sarawak PKR information chief See Chee How said that one of the main reasons that the Opposition was unable to do so was because of Najib’s “frequent and unprecedented visits” to Sarawak.
During the campaign, Najib had set up camp in Sarawak where he also announced many major projects and initiatives that captured the hearts and minds of the rural voters to go for Barisan Nasional.
Najib had a sensational effect in Sarawak as thousands thronged to see and hear him speak. His walkabouts in the towns and remote areas such as Beladin, Pusa, Spaoh, Song and Kapit were great “touch points” as they had a tremendous effect on the residents because no prime minister had visited them before.
On his visit to Bario, the heartland of the Kelabit community living 1,100 metres above sea level, Najib went on a walkabout to visit a new clinic and a rural Internet centre using a satellite network. There he announced an allocation of RM40 million to build a 30km road from Ba’Kelalan to Bario under a programme run by the Ministry of Defence.
Najib also approved an allocation of RM6 million to build four Bailey bridges at several places in the highland area that is now accessible only by light aircraft.
The Kelabits, one of the smallest ethnic groups in Sarawak with about 5,000 people, will remember Najib’s words very well as the proposed road link meant it would connect the outside world to the last frontier of the state.
Najib also visited several towns in another part of Sarawak which has been missed out by road connections. His announcement of the much-awaited Kanowit-Song-Kapit road link is like music to the ears of the rural folk as it had been their dream to have such a link even when Sarawak was governed by the Brooke family.
In fact, it was one of the very reasons that the rural folk voted in the referendum to be part of the Federation of Malaysia as they wanted the federal government to build the road.
Currently, Song and Kapit, which are situated along the banks of the Rejang River, are only accessible by express boats, the journey taking two to three hours from Sibu.
“When my late grandfather decided to sign the document for the state to join Malaysia, he had told the then prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, that he wanted a road that would connect Sibu and Kapit be built.
“It has taken Najib’s determination to see this through and we are very grateful to him for this,” said the MP for Kapit, Datuk Alex Nanta Linggi. He is the grandson of the late Tun Temenggong Jugah, the then paramount Iban leader who was one of the signatories in the formation of Malaysia.
Najib’s political astuteness shines through in many areas and instances. He touches base with the people and knows the touch points. It will be worth the effort now for other BN politicians, be they in Sarawak, Sabah or Peninsular Malaysia, to emulate Najib’s example and help in BN’s political transformation.
Source : Bernama