Rival neighbours: The MIC candidate’s ops centre (left) just two doors away from the PKR ops centre (right) – Photo by Anil Netto
An unusual situation in Bukit Selambau with the ops centre for the two parties in “close proximity” not far from the Sungai Petani town centre. And in front of both ops centres, a police canopy booth at a bus stop on a main road. Yes, the canopies are back with a heavy police presence in Sungai Petani and surrounding areas.
When I was there last night, a mini ceramah was in progress at the PKR ops centre. It was funny to hear a PKR speaker using a sound system to denounce the MIC and saying stuff like “Kita mesti menolak MIC” while a couple of doors away the MIC volunteers were nonchalantly carrying on business as usual, paying no attention. All in a day’s work.
But it’s going to be a big headache on polling day for some voters when they see 15 names on the ballot papers. The area had an unusually high 1,694 spoilt votes in the general election – and that was with just a couple of names on the ballot papers.
As things stand, the PKR candidate is likely to be No. 4 on the ballot paper while the BN candidate will be No. 8. For many voters, especially in rural areas, the BN ‘dacing’ symbol is likely to be the most recognisable. But with a few candidates expected to withdraw before polling day, the numbering on the ballot papers could change.
A Malay PKR supporter tried to use the race card on me, thinking I was a voter in the area, as he tried to convince me who to vote for. “If you vote for our candidate, you would get an Indian to represent you in the Kedah state exco for sure. How could you refuse that?”
Some things are hard to change.
The PKR and the Pakatan in general also have to seriously review the way they select their candidates to avoid the sort of local disgruntlement we have witnessed. Perhaps a party selection committee, using properly defined and transparent criteria, would be better placed to evaluate the suitability of candidates rather than leaving it all to party supremos.
The old Bukit Selambau town is actually about half an hour’s drive away from the ops centres: just a couple of rows of shophouses with the largest employer there being a plywood factory employing mostly foreign workers.