By Clara Chooi, The Malaysia Insider
November 17, 2010
AYER TAWAR, Nov 17 — Perak Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has finally recovered from its bruising fall from government last year, declaring itself ready to take on the Barisan Nasional (BN) should snap polls be called soon.
Unlike in other states, the PR pact in Perak is said to be the most cohesive of the lot, bound together by the year-long constitutional impasse that rocked the state following BN’s infamous power grab in February 2009.
In an exclusive interview with The Malaysian Insider, newly re-apppointed Perak DAP chairman Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham said that since the power grab, all state PR leaders and members have been working themselves to the bone to ensure another victory in the next general election.
“Our PR brothers are very close here in Perak, not just because of the crisis but because we have very good, sound, matured and very capable leaders.
“And yes we are [ready to face elections]. In fact, we have been on election-mode since the power grab. And now that the election can be called anytime, we are ready.
“I believe our general election machinery is still in tact,” he said, when met at his office here yesterday.
Ngeh admitted however that due to the series of events during the constitutional crisis in Perak after the power grab, the PR machinery now desperately needed to raise more funds and quickly.
“When our machinery is enriched, then we can move smoothly. We have spent a fair bit on our expenses, especially when paying costs to BN during the court cases,” he explained.
The Perak PR has been engaged in a mountain of legal suits against the BN since February last year, during its many attempts to declare BN’s rule in the state as unconstitutional.
Despite this however, Ngeh, who was formerly a senior state executive councillor in the Perak PR government, claimed that PR has been making inroads with the more rural population in the state, where it had lost greatly to BN during Elections 2008.
In the March 2008 political tsunami, the traditionally BN-helmed state of Perak fell to the hands of the opposition with a narrow three-seat margin.
DAP had swept up all 18 state seats it had contested, primarily in the urban Kinta Valley area, while PKR had managed to win in seven seats and PAS, in six.
BN had managed to score 28 seats, thanks to Umno’s popularity in the more rural Malay-dominated areas in the silver state. MCA only won in one state seat while MIC failed to secure any.
In the early hours of March 9, 2008, the three opposition parties of DAP, PAS and PKR came together in a hasty meeting and made an agreement within an hour that it would form a tripartite government in Perak.
Due to the defections of three PR assemblymen however, the government fell back to the BN in February 2009 and the state was plunged into turmoil for over a year.
Today, after exhausting all avenues to seek legal redress over the power grab, PR has now set its sights on recapturing Perak from BN in the coming general election, said to be held early next year.
This Saturday, the BN supreme council will meet to chart campaign plans for a possible snap polls widely speculated for the first half of 2011.
In Perak, PR’s greatest hurdle is the Malay vote, particularly in the semi-urban and rural areas contested by Umno in Elections 2008.
But Ngeh remains confident that coupled with the injustice of BN’spower grab and PR’s 10-month performance in Perak, PR’s influence with the Malay voters has now greatly improved.
“We believe and hope that we already now have at least 40 per cent of support from the Malays in the rural areas.
“Ideally, our target is not to win with just a majority of three seats. This time, we aim to win two thirds of the 59 state seats in Perak,” Ngeh declared.
He claimed that the Malay ground was now “ripe and open” to the opposition, judging from the general sentiment of voters in the traditional Umno strongholds.
“It is a great transformation. Before March 2008, the DAP could never even raise our flag there. We could not even enter their territory.
“But now, they welcome me and when I come, I speak to a crowd of two thousand people. I feel very welcomed,” he said.
DAP, he said, was no longer considered a “Chinese chauvinist party or a Communist party”.
Similarly, Ngeh added, voters in the Chinese community, no longer feared non-Chinese centric parties and were now in acceptance of multiracial parties like PKR and even Islamist party PAS.
“This is why what we are doing now is to ensure that there is non-Malay support for PKR and PAS in the areas where DAP is not contesting.
“We are persuading the Chinese not to fear these parties and we have been moving to infiltrate all the deepest recesses of Perak,” he said.
Strategically, Ngeh said the PR alliance already has its presence in all 24 parliamentary constituencies in Perak.
“We have formed PR liaison committees in every parliamentary constituency, represented by nine members – three from each party,” he explained.
For DAP, Ngeh added, there were at least one or more branches in each area.
“That is why, we always have people moving on the ground there, working the ground and helping us to mobilise our functions when we plan any,” he said.
He added that each PR party is also expected to provide service in the areas that they would likely be contesting in the coming elections.
The seat distribution among DAP, PKR and PAS, he added, would likely be the same as the last general election.
“It is not a problem for us. It is true that DAP gave up two seats to PKR to contest but we are not fighting among ourselves for the seats. What is important is that our relationship is sound.
“That is why Perak PR is so close... your area is considered my area and we count ourselves as PR leaders, not just leaders of our own respective parties,” he said.
In Elections 2008, DAP contested in 18 seats, PKR in 20 seats and PAS in 21 seats.
Ngeh added that it was a general consensus among PR leaders that former Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, a PAS man, would be retained as the Mentri Besar.
“We look at merit and Nizar was a sterling leader and a great Mentri Besar. In fact, when Nizar said, as an MB, that he would administer the state irrespective of race or background, I knew I would support him all the way, we do not even need to discuss policies,” he said.