The massive crowds at DAP’s first night ceramah in Kuching, Sibu and Miri may be a signal of a Chinese tsunami for Sarawak.
IT was the tiniest makeshift stage that most people had ever seen and if DAP leader Lim Guan Eng had held up his arms, he could have easily touched the aluminium roof.
But the crowd that stretched out before the Penang Chief Minister was the biggest the party had ever experienced for a first night ceramah in any election.
Even Tony Pua, the party’s national point man for the Kuching campaign, was surprised at the response. They knew the Chinese in Sarawak were restless but they had not expected this boiling point kind of sentiment.
And it was not just in Kuching. Pua showed some reporters images from his BlackBerry which his counterpart in Miri had sent over –the scene at an ongoing ceramah there was just as packed. It was the same in Sibu where DAP hopes to make the most gains.
DAP has been in Sarawak for years but its leaders have never seen anything like this. It looks like the DAP rocket is about to shoot really high in Sarawak as the Chinese prepare to send their clearest ever signal to the Taib Mahmud regime.
The Chinese like to say that one’s ears tend to itch when people talk about you. If that is true, then Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s ears could be itching like crazy over the next week.
The Chief Minister is the top ceramah topic for DAP and Lim’s oratory is peppered with mentions of Bai Mao, the Mandarin term for his snowy-white hair. In Kuching, where the Hokkiens are the majority, he is known as Peh Moh.
Lim is a star over here. His Johor style Hokkien sounds stilted in Penang but it fits right in with the Hokkien spoken here. He has clearly overtaken his father as an orator and his status lends him clout.
When he goes on stage, it is about one Chief Minister going for another Chief Minister. He does not have much to boast about as yet, but his state government is certainly nowhere as controversial as Taib’s.
DAP has only 15 candidates in the polls. Their average age is only 39 compared to SUPP whose candidates average out to 57.
But the fight between DAP and SUPP is not going to be about age, experience or credentials. These are key criteria in ordinary times but these are extraordinary times in Sarawak.
The urban contest is primarily about who dares to speak up, question state policies and most of all stand up to Bai Mao.
For instance, Pending incumbent Violet Yong shot to fame when she was suspended from the State Assembly for raising issues about land acquisition.
Few thought the pint-sized lawyer could take the heat when she won in 2006. But she is a star today, and definitely, the YB with the best hair because she never seems to have a bad hair day.
Yong is now facing Dr Sim Hui Hian, a brainy but awkward-looking cardiologist who is well-known in the capital.
Dr Sim is the sort of candidate that any party would love to have but he is fighting someone who has stood up to the powers-that-be and he will have to convince the voters he can do the same. That is what every SUPP man facing a DAP candidate is up against.
SUPP had the highest percentage of new faces among the Barisan component parties. But it is also the only Barisan party without a single woman among its 19 candidates. Having a woman in the line-up can lend a party a more contemporary image.
DAP has three women candidates – Yong and newcomer Christina Chiew in Kuching and the demure and sweet-looking Alice Lau in Sibu.
Alice’s candidature is a sign of the times. The Australian graduate is with DAP while her father Datuk Lau Cheng Kiong is a local strongman of SPDP, a Barisan component. He is also chairman of the Sibu United Chinese Association which makes him a big man in the local community.
Reporters in Sibu have been quite gaga over Alice, 29, and had asked her opponent and incumbent Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh, 69, how he felt about having to take on a sweet young thing.
But Wong is a smoothie and his tongue-in-cheek reply was: “No problem, I’m also quite handsome.”
Elections have often been about the economy, the economy and the economy. But in Sarawak, it seems to be about Taib, Taib and Taib.
Even the ceramah site was just a stone’s throw from the Titanium commercial complex which belongs to one of Taib’s sons. It is not fully operational but it has become a symbol of the way Kuching folk feel about the business interests of Taib’s family.
Every other person seems knowledgeable about how Titanium secured a multi-million ringgit contract to replace some 300 bridges in the state.
For instance, the crowd loved it when Lim gave the Wonder Girls song his own twist, singing, “nobody, nobody but you … no money, no money for you.”
Posters with catchy phrases like “Bai Mao bu tao, ren min chi cao” (if Taib won’t go, the people will eat grass) have gone up in town.
The DAP is tapping big time into the Chinese discontent.
DAP memang seronok apabila mendapat ‘advantage’ yang diberikan oleh Star kepada semua calon DAP. Hajat The Star hanya nak tengok DAP menang di 15 kawasan; dan rasanya kalau menurut coverage yang mereka berikan kepada DAP; semua ini akan berjaya dilakukan dengan cemerlang.
Individu seperti Joceline – memang mempunyai daya analisa yang baik; tetapi terlalu memuja ‘perubahan’ dan wajah manis calon DAP. Kepada Joceline dan mereka yang ada di Star; perubahan bermaksud ‘mempunyai calon yang cantik; muda; kacak’. Soal khidmat dan servis diletakkan di muka yang kedua.
Sebab itu, calon seperti Dr Sim TIDAK diberikan coverage yang wajar oleh star. Pada Star; Dr Sim adalah calon yang tidak kacak; dan merosakkan gambar. Zalim; tapi inilah permainan The Star yang bukan sahaja merosakkan BN; malah meletakkan BN di dalam keadaan sukar.
Joceline kena tahu; bahawa politik Sarawak ini berbeza dengan politik ‘Jinjang, Kepong atau Bukit Bintang’. Joceline kena banyak masuk ke pedalaman; dan tidak hanya bermain di sekitar Kuching, Padungan, Satok, Sibu sahaja. Kena keluar menjengah ke Sarikei; Limbang; Hulu Baram – dan lihat apa yang sebenarnya rakyat perlu.
Setakat ini; BN masih lagi mendahului pembangkang dengan 48 kerusi. 10 kawasan masih hitam.
Apa Linda (yang banyak pegang interest perniagaan di Singapura buat). Apa Chun Wai yang berpendapatan jutaan ringgit buat untuk perjuangkan BN?