KUALA TERENGGANU, 5 Jan 2009: Even before nomination papers are filed and campaigning can officially begin, both sides in the battle for Kuala Terengganu have stepped up their rhetoric.
PAS has criticised Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh for not serving the people in Terengganu despite his position as a senator and as former political secretary to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Wan Ahmad Farid has been painted as someone eager for positions without sincerely serving the people, according to Terengganu PAS deputy commissioner Datuk Wan Mutalib Embong, who spoke at a ceramah on 4 Jan in Kuala Ibai.
“What has he done to help the people of Terengganu, despite being a senator representing a state, and despite having been political secretary to the prime minister? He is so close to the PM, but he did not ask for the oil royalty to be returned to Terengganu,” Wan Mutalib said.
Wan Ahmad Farid’s senatorship was renewed for a second term in December 2008. He resigned as member of the senate and as deputy home minister yesterday in order to contest the by-election on 17 Jan.
PAS candidate Abdul Wahid Endut He will file his nomination papers tomorrow (6 Jan), along with the PAS candidate, five-term Wakaf Mempelam assemblyperson Abdul Wahid Endut. Two other candidates — independent Isma Airfath Hassanudin, and one from Angkatan Keadilan Insan Malaysia (Akim) — are expected to contest as well.
Wan Mutalib urged the audience at the ceramah to vote for the PAS candidate to give the Pakatan Rakyat a stronger voice in Parliament. The opposition coalition has 80 of 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat.
“We need to lay the foundation now for the next general election. Now is the right time, as we are stronger and the BN does not have its customary two-thirds majority,” he said.
The BN, meanwhile, has countered PAS’s accusations, saying the ruling coalition had done more to help Muslims.
At the launch of the Felda Residence Hotel Terengganu in the city centre today, Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said said the BN government through the Felda scheme had improved the living standards of “thousands of Felda settlers and enabled them to perform the Haj.”
“Who is PAS to say that Muslims will receive pahala (rewards from God) if they vote for PAS?” Ahmad said, referring to a statement by PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.
BN candidate Wan Ahmad FaridDeputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is also in town today, said voters should choose Wan Ahmad Farid so that the state could be represented in the cabinet, as he would retain his deputy minister post if he won the by-election.
“I can confirm that Wan Ahmad Farid will be a deputy minister if he wins,” Najib said in his speech when launching the Felda hotel.
Few flags and buntings are up yet, but expect party colours to swathe the constituency once nominations are filed tomorrow. And the rhetoric, too, will increase as parties up the ante on various issues.
At this early stage, it looks like a predictable basket of election issues. The BN is likely to talk about development promises, oil royalty repayments, and about disunity in the Pakatan Rakyat. The opposition campaign is expected to focus on the use of oil money for wasteful projects, the need for a stronger voice in Parliament, the pursuit of justice and democracy, as well as religion… at least where PAS constituents are concerned.