LANGKAWI: It was with mixed feelings of shock, nervousness and gratitude that PPBM rookie Wan Saiful Wan Jan received news he would be contesting in the Pendang parliamentary constituency.
“When they first told me I would be contesting in Pendang, I was caught off guard,” he told FMT.
“But I did tell them right at the beginning that if I were to contest, it would be better if I was given the chance to go back to Kedah, my birthplace, and repay the kindnesses the people there have shown me.”
Wan Saiful, who is PPBM’s deputy chief strategist, was born and bred in Alor Star, just 30 minutes away from Pendang. His candidacy for the seat was confirmed last Sunday, when the list of PPBM candidates for Kedah was unveiled in Langkawi.
He claimed that Pakatan Harapan’s campaign machines were strong in Tokai and Sungai Tiang, the two state constituencies inside Pendang, and said this fact had eased much of his anxiety and nervousness about going to the ground.
Pendang is largely rural and many of its people are padi farmers and rubber tappers.
Wan Saiful is a political scientist and the founder of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, which he served as CEO before joining PPBM. So there’s the question of whether someone who is used to addressing urban audiences would be comfortable before rural crowds.
He shrugged off the concern, saying he had always mixed with people from a wide spectrum of society.
He added that he had never liked to hear people implying that rural folk were less sophisticated than urbanites.
He also said he would not have a problem adjusting to the rural setting of Pendang. “I am not a Bangsarian, nor am I from Damansara Heights. I was born in Alor Star. I have relatives in Alor Star, Langkawi and Perlis. Balik kampung is something normal to me.”
He said the concerns of rural and urban folk were not too different.
“In both Tokai and Sungai Tiang, I can say that the general concern among the people is the rising cost of living.
“In Tokai, the challenge is how to ensure the price of padi matches the efforts put in by padi farmers. As for Sungai Tiang, which is home to many rubber tappers, the low price of rubber is something they worry about daily.
“These are issues the central government can help address if there are policies specifically to help those in agriculture.”
He noted that the Pakatan manifesto promises to pursue such policies.
“My task is to meet the voters and convince them that the PH manifesto is good for them. I hope that the voters, especially those who support PAS, will realise that any vote that is not for PH is a vote to help Najib Razak and Umno remain in power.”
He claimed that he would have the advantage if he had to face both Umno and PAS candidates because the votes of those not supportive of Pakatan would be split between his two rivals.
He is also banking on the popularity of Pakatan chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his son Mukhriz because they belong to his party.
“Mahathir’s presence will help our campaign in Pendang,” he said. “And we also have the influence of Mukhriz. Many voters feel that he was treated unfairly when he was forced to step down as Kedah MB. He was one of the few Umno leaders then who made it clear that the GST places a burden on the people.”
Wan Saiful described himself as “merely an instrument” in Pakatan’s hopeful march to victory in the coming polls.
“I hope voters can help ensure that Mahathir become prime minister again,” he said. “It would be great if, in the two years before we achieve Vision 2020, that vision is achieved by none other than the man who initiated it.”
Pendang was where the late Fadzil Noor, the PAS president until his death in 2002, broke Barisan Nasional’s winning streak in 1999.
In the last election, Umno’s Othman Abdul defeated Mohamad Sabu, who contested as a PAS candidate, by 2,638 votes in a straight fight.
First published for Free Malaysian Today , 18 April 2018
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