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Humour amidst politics in Kuala Trengganu - malaysiakini

Malaysiakini's report on KT election here.

Here is a very funny article from RPK:

Raja Petra Kamarudin

With the Kuala Terengganu by-election looming over the horizon, it is starting to bring back memories of the many elections I was involved in during my 20-year stay in that town from 1974 to 1994. Some of the election incidences were most hilarious indeed and I thought I would share them with you.

One case involved a voter who wanted to retrieve his ballot paper from the ballot box because he had made a mistake and voted for the wrong candidate. There was a heated argument between the voter and the polling station personnel who were adamant that, once you place your ballot paper in the ballot box, you can’t take it out again. Anyway, how would they know which is his ballot paper since they are all mixed in the ballot box and there is no way of knowing which ballot paper belongs to whom.

You see, some voters do not recognise the text (candidate’s name) on the ballot papers and instead rely on the party symbols or logos. Some don’t even recognise the symbols or logos and need to be told where to place the X -- in the top box or the bottom box of the ballot paper.

In this particular election in the 1980s, the incumbents’ names were in the top box and the challengers were in the bottom box. So the campaigners told the voters to vote in the top box. In this particular constituency the incumbent was PAS and invariably the campaigner and voter were both PAS.

So the voter marked his X in the top box for both the parliament and state ballot papers. But what the campaigner forgot to mention is that the incumbent for the parliament seat was PAS while the incumbent for the state seat was Umno. So the PAS candidate was in the top box for the parliament ballot paper while the Umno candidate was in the top box for the state ballot papers.

As advised, the voter marked an X in the top box for both ballot papers, which means he voted PAS for parliament and Umno for state. When the voter came out from the polling station, the campaigner asked who he had voted for and he replied, “Of course for PAS.”

“You marked an X in the top box of the parliament ballot paper and the bottom box for the state ballot paper?”

“No, I marked an X in the top box of both ballot papers.”

“Aiyah, wrong! You should have marked an X in the top box for the parliament ballot paper and in the bottom box for the state ballot paper. You have just voted for Umno for state.”

And that was when the voter charged back into the polling station to demand the return of his ballot paper. I was called in to pacify the voter and I advised him that once the ballot paper is in the ballot box it stays there. He went off grumbling that they should not confuse him that way by putting the PAS candidate at the top on one ballot paper and at the bottom on another.

In another incident, a voter could not decide whom to vote for, as both were his friends, so he voted for both candidates. When asked whom he voted for, he sheepishly admitted that it was a tough choice so he chose to vote for both to be fair to both candidates.

“Aiyah, undi rosak!” shouted the campaigner. The voter then went back to the polling station to demand that he be allowed to vote again because he had made a mistake and had spoilt his vote. I was, again, called in to talk to the voter and to inform him that one can only vote once and even if you have made a mistake you can’t vote again.

He stormed off mumbling under his breath that there must be something wrong with Malaysia’s election system when a voter can’t vote again if he has made a mistake. This was one angry voter who wanted to see some electoral reforms that would include voting twice if you spoilt your vote by mistake.

Of course, there were many incidences of spoilt votes in the East Coast but not all were because of marking an X in the box for both candidates. Elections is when you ‘lepas geram’ or vent anger. But other than voting opposition to demonstrate your anger with the government, East Coast people also leave messages on the ballot paper.

Many ballot papers had graffiti or hate messages scribbled on them and these were all counted as spoilt votes. Imagine a ballot paper marked X for the PAS candidate with the message “Umno Babi” or “Pergi mampus Umno” written across the Umno candidate’s box. And these were the tamer messages. Some had “berayuk mak mu” written over the Umno candidate’s box. (I am not going to translate that one).

In one election, the imam of our local mosque, Pak Abas, came hurriedly looking for me to report a fight about to break out between a group of voters and a policeman guarding the polling station. We rushed over there and saw a group of angry villagers surrounding the pale and terrified policeman.

“Sabor, sabor (patience),” I told the villagers. “Gapo ni (what’s the problem)?”

The villagers explained that the policeman told them they must first become members of Barisan Nasional if they wanted to vote and this angered the villagers who wanted to ‘teach the policeman a lesson’ (nak ajor dia ni).

I asked the policeman why he did that but he denied doing so. He explained that all he did was ask them to queue up and stop shoving if they wanted to vote.

“Saya suruh dia orang masuk barisan kalau nak undi,” he explained in Bahasa Malaysia.

“No wonder,” I told him. “Next time, don’t say ‘masuk barisan’. They thought you meant join Barisan (Nasional). Instead, say ‘beratur’ (line up or queue up).”

I suppose the correct language for the military and police when they ask you to ‘fall in’ is ‘masuk barisan’ and when they want you to straighten the line it is ‘luruskan barisan’. But ‘masuk barisan’ can also mean ‘join Barisan Nasional’, as the very terrified policeman who was not local enough to understand Terengganu lingo discovered.

In 1990, PAS and Semangat 46 joined forces to take on Umno (Kelantan fell to PAS-Semangat 46 that year while Terengganu remained under Barisan Nasional). That night, as the votes were being counted, I sauntered over to the Pantai Primula Hotel in Kuala Terengganu where some of the top police officers from KL plus the local CPO and OCPD were congregating in the coffee house. The hotel manager was also amongst them.

“How are the results coming along?” the manager asked me.

“Habis!” I told him. “PAS has taken over this state.”

“Oh shit,” he responded. “How now?”

“The first thing they will do tomorrow morning is they will ban liquor. You will have to empty all your bottles and flush your liquor down the toilet. What else?”

“Aiyoh! How to do that? We got so many bottles in stock.”

I winked at the very amused police officers -- they knew I was pulling the manager’s leg. “What to do ah?” I asked the CPO who was trying very hard to hold back his laughter.

With a straight face he said, “The law is the law. If PAS bans liquor tomorrow morning then I will have to send my men here to make sure the law is followed. So better get rid of the entire lot tonight before PAS takes over in the next few hours. Let us assist you.”

The manager immediately asked his staff to bring out all the liquor and place it on the table. You should have seen the party we had that night in the Pantai Primula coffee house. No one went home sober the wee hours of the following morning. Of course, Umno retained the state and PAS-Semangat 46 never did take Terengganu in 1990. But Pantai Primula was ‘relieved’ of many crates of liquor and we had one very happy police force on our hands -- though as drunk as sailors who had never seen land in months.

Talking about PAS-Semangat 46 and the 1990 election, Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen (Ku Din), the current Chairman of the Umno Disciplinary Committee, was the Umno candidate for Kota Bharu in that election. He went around town to hand over RM50 notes to all the voters and they took the money but handed him back RM4.00.

Ku Din was puzzled as to why they took the RM50 but handed him back RM4.00 until one voter said, “Lima puloh tak seh. Amboh nak pat puloh neh.” (I don’t want 50. I want 46.)

Invariably, Semangat 46 won the Kota Bharu seat. Now, of course, Ku Din is chairing the Umno committee that is supposed to catch all those who indulge in ‘money politics’.