A reported 3000 strong police force failed to manage the 100 000 crowd at the Nomination centre for Permatang Pauh by-election-not due to unruly crowd, but due to an uncalculated heavy downpour at the end of the nomination process at around 12.00noon. The nomination process saw 3 candidates confirmed as candidates : Anwar Ibrahim of PKR, Arif Shah of UMNO, and an independent from IKIM, Hanafi Mamat. A 4th candidate Mansor Othman, probably to foreshadow any possiblity that Anwar get disqualified, withdrew after his name was exhibited along other candidates. In line with MAFREL’s observers’ role Syed Ibrahim lodged a report to the SPR to the Returning Officer Roslan Yahaya, when the RO failed to explain the discrepancy between the numer of candidates exhibited and those announced as candidates finally.
The observation exercise was marred by the SPR refusing to allow MAFREL observers’ entry into the nomination centre, despite a meeting between MAFREL’s observation team director and SPR’s state’s director Ahmad Shafee. SPR’s deputy chief Dato Kamaruzaman insit that there is no legal provision for allowing observers into the Nomination centre, ignoring international norms to allow free access to election observers. However a member of MAFREL managed to slip through and sent us some pictures.
The crowd size was estimated to range from 50k to 200k. It was difficult to estimate as the huge crowd was spreaded all over the location -both inside and outside the school. Vehicles parked doubly or even triply for miles from the entrance to the nomination centre. However most people agreed that the BN crowds were beaten by their opponent’s.
MAFREL noticed that the ways where the nomination process can be improved: objection time is too short -only 1 hour -impossible for any substantial fraction of the 60k voters to check the exhibited candidates’ papers. Not only that stationing some 1-2 dozens of army with tear-gaas gun, rifle, pistol etc could only have deterred most voters to not come forward to scrutinise the candidates’ papers.
After the nomination process finished about 12.00noon the police tried to control the crowds’ exit in their best considered way-which was to let the PKR’s crowd leave first -through a gate near them, and to keep BN’s crowd behind a closed gate for the time being. This was said to be for keeping the crowds separate to avoid any possiblity of tension. However as the crowd built up there were clear tension among the BN crowd. The solution was found when Najib’s entourage wanted to leave in a car convoy-thus neccessitating the opening of the gate…
Then the rain came pelting down-causing the crowd to run helter skelter….this writer found himself running into a school to seek shelter. But on the other side of the fence was a school staff trying her best to close a gate to keep the crowd away, claiming that she was not instructed to let anyone into the school ground. She earned a lot of unhappiness from the wet crowd whether from PKR or BN. Then the Education Minister came and the issue was sort of settled -since the gate was then opened to all…
Just if one may think that the staff was defending her school’s ground -when we stepped in we found mountains of mineral water with BN logo piling up inside. Were schools not disallowed to take up partisan political activities? The mineral water showed either that there was an oversupply of drinks or undersupply of BN crowd!
It was quite sickening to see such behavior of the school staff -as though she need an `order’ from her superior to express her compassion to the drenched crowds! Syed said later that the staff’s behaviour came directly from the rotten system Malaysia has for half a century.
The best part of the rain was: for once the FRU was also getting wet, along with other crowds. In the past they are the cause that wet the people. The police’s patronising organisation strategy was overridden by the downpour from the almighty above.
Report: Ong BK