Penang state presents a unique demographic with a majority Chinese voter population and Malays following closely behind. A state known to be a melting pot of races and cultures is led by a Chief Minister of Chinese ancestry. Izmil Amri asks PAS Penang Elections Director Rosidi Hussain how the Islamic party fits into the equation.
Rosidi Husain, 41, owns law firms all over Penang and Kedah. He heads PAS Kepala Batas and is a member of the Islamic Religious Council of Penang. Besides being PAS Penaga coordinator, he is also PAS Elections Director for Penang.
The Rocket: Lim Guan Eng has proven to be a popular Chief Minister (CM), is this enough to carry a PR win in Penang again?
Rosidi: I think he has his own strengths, even if he is under constant attack by UMNO and BN. The stronger he is attacked, the harder he works. Recently he went to Penaga, and gave assistance to the Chinese community there and to the Malay and Indian society as well. The people, especially the Malays are happy with the efforts shown by Guan Eng and PR.
We estimate at least 92% non-Malay core support for PR in Penang. Even in Penaga, MCA and Gerakan leaders come and hear speeches by PAS representative in the events. UMNO Kepala Batas is strongest in DUN Penaga, but we are confident our support will increase. This makes us work harder.
CM also launched a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a futsal court in Penaga, after decades of UMNO being in power, no one ever thought of building a futsal court. Penang State Assembly Opposition Leader, Dato Azhar used to be an Exco back then. And he didn’t gave it any thought.
Infrastructure developments in Penaga show that CM is not sidelining Seberang Perai Utara, even if it is the last bastion of UMNO in Penang.
The Rocket: Will PAS do anything differently in the 13th general election?
Rosidi: We are actively focusing on house visits as an effective means to reach out to voters. This is especially important in areas such as Kepala Batas and Tasek Gelugor with low internet penetration. New media and fancy online jargon doesn’t grab them, they prefer the more down to earth approach. We target to visit between 30 to 50 houses every week.
Looking at the demographics, these voters prefer to get information directly from our people. We must go down to the grassroots and engage with the voters. So we organize group talks (ceramah kelompok) to meet the voters and explain as clearly as possible about current issues and policies of Pakatan Rakyat in the Orange Book (Buku Jingga).
In the mean time we also organize hi-tea programs to meet with the voters on a larger scale. We want to make sure to reach both our core supporters and the fence-sitters. We cannot rely totally on new media to woo voters like this, they are more confident when we come and meet them.
PAS is training PACAs (Polling Agent, Counting Agent), it is our last line of defence in confronting the fraud that is known to happen in elections. This we are already fully prepared for, but we continue to educate party workers and our supporters to work hard so we are not careless and easily “bought” by UMNO.
The Rocket: How does PAS address accusations that DAP is anti-Malay and anti-Islam?
Rosidi: We have always believed that the issue of DAP being anti-Malay or Islam is purely BN propaganda. In the past few years of PR’s rule, many voters have reached the same conclusion as well.
Voters these days are now more rational and savvy. It is not so easy to sidetrack them with ridiculous accusations such as this. In the Penaga constituency, what the voters really care about is whether the leaders are able to connect with the grassroots. The people want hands-on leaders, not pencil-pushing politicians.
I think voters can differentiate between political rhetoric and earnest efforts. So we do not worry about that.
What we are genuinely worried about is electoral fraud. We hope this time around, the election campaigning will be fairer. But for now, the best that we can do is to carry out the responsibilities and mandate that the electorate has given to us.
Many Penang DAP leaders have done all this and have successfully mingled with the Malay-Muslim voters. The many programs PR has conducted are now starting to show results. So the issue of DAP being anti-Malay or anti-Muslim issue does not arise. Like the CM always says, “We are not anti-Malay Muslims. We are only anti-corruption.”
The Rocket: Has Paktan Rakyat’s rule affected Muslims and Islam in Penang?
Rosidi: There is a significant difference between the rule of PR and BN. This is reflected most clearly in the increasing financial provisions of the State Government for Islamic affairs.
During the rule of the BN government, the provision for Islamic affairs was only RM 12 million a year.
As soon as PR took over, the CM raised the amount to double the original amount. In the second year of PR’s rule, it reached RM 33.3 million. Currently, the amount stands at RM 64 million.
This increase has somewhat persuaded Muslims to have a better perception towards Pakatan Rakyat when it comes to upholding the status of Islam. PR has also consistently provided aid for Islamic education in religious schools (Sekolah Agama Rakyat).
So we see this development as something positive for all parties. -The Rocket