Sibu Learnings


Sibu by-election is over.  Here are the results summary.

Wong Ho Leng (DAP) – 18,845

Robert Lau (SUPP) – 18,447

Majority – 398

Najib used the same strategy as in Hulu Selangor except more obvious and blatant.  Seeing is believing.  Watch his lips and see Najib sweat it out in his “I help you, you help me” pitch!

Although the reports had alleged that the BN government had pledged up to RM20m in various actions, the voters in Sibu spurned such overtures because public works projects should be the standard focus of the government of the day and not something to barter votes for.

Furthermore, much of the BN offers were to woo the Chinese voters as well as Christian voters giving them grants during election time.  The BN government had inadvertently paid little attention to the other voters especially the Melanau and Iban voters and had assumed that their votes were safe.

Given this backdrop, there are a few valuable lessons that all parties must learn from Sibu.

#1

All voters are equally important.  Wooing one while ignoring the other is not fair to voters.  This wooing has lots of money implication and that is very sensitive to voters.  To some, it amounts to bribery and such offers only come during election time.  When the government was voted in, the representative is supposed to take care of the constituency.  Not only during this time.  Ignoring the other group is equally bad assuming them to be loyal with the impression that loyalty is worth nothing.

Either way, the wooing with money is wrong and has backfired badly on the BN.

#2

It can be argued that Wong, the DAP candidate, had won.  The Pakatan Rakyat had turned up big time with Anwar, Hadi Awang, Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng descending on Sibu as never before.  Certainly, they had the largest turnouts in any ceramah but as noted in past elections, huge audiences do not translate into large number of votes.  They raised issues which mattered to the voters.  BN did not.  In some ways, DAP knew how to campaign effectively and knew the voters well to handle the right issues, sensitive as they may be.  DAP took the issues head on while the BN side stepped all of them.

The clear lesson here is that BN lost!  Not only they had engaged the voters wrongly but Najib had a candidate that may be hard to sell.  The feeling on the ground had much earlier felt the uphill battle with the selection of Richard Lau although Najib may not have any other options.   Offering money for votes is not what the voters appreciate.  It appeared that the BN had totally misjudged the voters.

DAP did not win solely on their own steam.  BN lost on their own folly.  The end result remains the same nevertheless, DAP won the seat!

#3

Najib approved “grants” amounting to RM1.5m for a few churches.  This is an historic first in any election.  Apart from the assistance given when a church building was torched a few months back, the BN government has never paid any attention to the christian voters.  This is first time any political groups had felt that the christian voters were important enough to pay some attention to.

Some christian leaders have argued that the grants should be returned to the BN Government because it amounts to a corrupt practice and the churches should not be implicated in actions that will taint the grants.  As a result, it is highly probable that the christian voters may have voted against the BN Government because Najib’s offer was seen as an attempt to buy their votes instead of a genuine political leader appealing and working on real issues that affected them.

The now infamous Najib’s “I help you, you help me” worth RM5m for flood mitigation has since backfired.  The voters did not return Robert Lau but the Government is pressed to issue the grant for the project.  As all responsible Governments, flood mitigation is a public works project, not a “reward” for votes.

Conclusion

This is not the end of BN nor is it a clear move for PR to establish a new government.  The key lessons here revolve around the humanity of the voters, no matter what background they come from.  All are equally important.

Finally, money in exchange for votes does not pay.  Corruption is not OK.  Not by BN or by PR.  Malaysians will not tolerate being bought!

The BN and PR must seriously relook at what they promise the voters and make them good!  This by-election is a clear sign that voters will not be bought by just any promise.  Their lives matter, what they think matters and no voter is insignificant and cannot be assumed as a “fixed deposit” for any political party.

There is a lot more work to be done for the BN for the people.  Assume not any votes.

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