In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
Say: "If both men and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could never produce anything like it, even if they backed each other up." (Our'an, 17:88)
ONE day about 25 years ago when I was a reporter with a Malay daily in Melaka, I was asked by my boss to cover an assignment in a Felcra land scheme in Lipat Kajang, some 10 kilometers from Merlimau town.
At that time I only own a Yamaha Cup bike; it took me more than an hour to travel from my house on the southern outskirts of Melaka town to Merlimau on the old Melaka-Muar trunk road and another half an hour to Lipat Kajang on the Merlimau-Jasin road.
On Wednesday morning, 9th February I drive my Iswara to Merlimau to have a quick look there as the state constituency N27, Merlimau geared up for the coming by-elections. Nomination day is on Saturday, 26th February and if there is a contest, election will be held on Sunday, 6th March.
Driving along the smooth four lane of Lebuh AMJ (Alor Gajah-Melaka-Jasin Expressway), it took me only 22 minutes to reach the town from my house! I started at 8.38 am and reached the town at 9.00am. Before reaching the town, I passed new landmarks such as Politeknik (Polytechnic) Merlimau and Masjid Asy-Syuja’ah which were non existence during my ‘green’ years as a reporter.
In front of a ‘warung’ (small restaurant) named ‘Kedai Asam Pedas Oren D’ Corner’, which is not far away from Politeknik Merlimau, I saw two huge ‘dacing’ (Barisan Nasional) flags. Besides the ‘warung’ stands a signboard ‘Bilik Gerakan Pilihan Raya Barisan Nasional Merlimau’ (Merlimau Barisan Nasional Election Operations Room).
My first stop in Merlimau was Merlimau Inn. I had read reports that all its eight rooms (this is the only hotel in Merlimau) was fully booked for the coming elections. After parking my car I roamed around its building, perhaps it was too early, since nobody was around accept for two boys playing on swings in a small playground in front of the inn.
Opposite the road from entrance of the inn, was a big signboard ‘Bilik Gerakan Pilihan Raya Umno Cawangan Permatang Bukit, N27 Merlimau). There was not a sign of life there, so I entered the main lobby of the inn. I saw a young man sleeping on a sofa; perhaps he was the keeper who was exhausted from his work.
Trying not to disturb him, I walked quietly out of the lobby, and started my car engine to move on to Permatang Serai to have a visit to the famous Rumah Penghulu Mad Natar (a Malay traditional chieftain house), also known as Rumah Penghulu Abdul Ghani.
The last time I visited this house was on the eve of Aidilfitri (Eid) last year (I mentioned it in my article, ‘Take benefit of five before another five’ in Harakah’s English Section 20-25 September 2010) where I met the keeper of the house, Rizal Mad Rahim, 35, a great grandson of Penghulu Abdul Ghani.
During the current visit, I was fortunate to meet Rizal who was sitting in the porch of his unique but big house with a huge compound. Melaka state and Malaysian flags were placed at strategic locations around his house.
Rizal grinned when I greeted him by mentioning his name. After the usual introduction, I tried to sway the talk, focusing on the coming by-election. The former steel worker at a factory nearby who was crippled in an accident at his work place some 15 years ago; told me that the house he is in charge, had been booked by four Umno divisions from Sarawak and Sabah.
When I suggested that many Puteri Umno’s members would be around his house and this open his chances to get to know the girls, Rizal who was still a bachelor giggled and shyly said: “Who wants me?” He was sad, and I too was sad for him. Rizal was badly disfigured in that unforgettable accident. His left ear was without the lobe. Its hole was blocked by scarred flesh.
In front of his house, on a dirt road leading to a few houses deep inside the kampung, a tractor was seen moving earth. A few workmen were seen busily doing their chores to widen the road. Even though my eyes were on the project, I did not mention about it to Rizal.
Rizal excitedly told me that his father would be repairing the toilets and washroom at the house. “We will also build another toilet outside the house and in front of the house we will erect several water taps in a few days time because we anticipate many visitors would drop by. I too had put a donation box in front of the porch.”
When I mentioned about the coming election, Rizal got excited. He said Anwar Ibrahim (leader of the Opposition) and Mohamad Sabu (PAS Central Committee) would be coming to his area in a few days time.
After thanking Rizal, I was on my way and before leaving Merlimau I stopped at a coffee shop. After giving greetings to a few patrons seated at a long table, I ordered my drink; and while sipping the drink, I opened my ears to listen tentatively to the kampung folk’s conversation. I too joined the conversation.
A man with a hard look face who I thought was a labourer at the widening road project said: “Let’s give our vote to PAS candidate. There’s nothing to loose if we vote him (or her). The state government would not be effected if this PAS man wins. Let’s give him and his party a try…”
Another man said: “His term would be a short one, not more than two years before the general election (the 13th). Perhaps less than that! Who knows the general election would be held spontaneously with the Sarawak state elections which must be held in a few months time. So there is nothing wrong in giving PAS the chance. We would loose nothing.”
“Yes,” said a man who was wearing a white ‘kopiah’ (a skull cap). “We should give PAS a chance to prove their commitments. If we are not satisfied with this PAS man, we could dump him in the next general election. Yes, the candidate elected would only serve for a very short term.”
“We must vote for a local,” said a neatly dressed young man. From his looks, I guessed he must be a government officer or its agency. He continued; “It is because we could monitor him and if we are not happy with his work, we could easily go to his house or office to complaint.”
I was surprised as almost all the men in the shop were receptive to PAS candidate. Perhaps I had entered a PAS dominated ‘kedai kopi’ or area but it did not matter.
As I was about to pull my wallet to make payment, the shop owner said: “All have been paid for.” He pointed to the well dressed man who was heading to his four wheel drive. “Perhaps he is the candidate or his proxy,” he laughed and I too laughed.
A lesson learned from the ‘kedai kopi’ talk – there’s noting to loose in voting in a PAS man/woman for the state assembly of N27 Merlimau because it’s only for a short term. So let’s give PAS a try!