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by Lim Guan Eng
(Machap, Friday): The 9,623 registered Machap voters are the real victors in yesterday's by-election. Not only did Machap voters promised or given tens of millions of ringgit in development projects and benefits, they were also able to endorse DAP's call for democracy by giving DAP a moral victory in reducing BN's majority by 481 votes.
This is a substantial achievement when DAP increased our votes at the expense of BN despite the benefits to the people of:-
a) Newly paved roads all over Machap;
b) Hundreds of new street lamps;
c) A RM 1.2 million recreational area near the Durian Tunggal Dam.
d) 102 grants for housing lots for second-generation settler families at Felda Tun Ghafar Machap;
e) RM3.7 million will be allocated to Felda Machap with RM3 million for upgrading water pipes, RM600,000 for the construction of a multipurpose hall and RM100,000 to repair the mosque.
f) approved the application for 7,000 square feet of land by 50 second-generation Chinese settlers with a 99-year lease and a low premium of RM12,500.
g) approved the 20-year-long demand of Machap Baru villagers to build 80 units of low- and medium-cost houses, which will be sold at price below RM60,000 each.
h) Ministry of housing and local government's special allocation of RM650,000 to upgrade roads and drainage system and to build a new air-conditioned hall.
i)RM 400,000 to relocate the telecomunnications tower in Machap Umboo to build a new replacement and unspecified amount to extend the land grant lease to 69 years from the present 34 years with reasonable land premiums.
j) Health ministry will spend RM160,000 to upgrade clinics in Machap; and
k) Education Ministry will give no less than RM50,000 to each of the three Chinese primary schools in the constituency.
Further BN's tactics of fear, intimidation and vote buying were successful, especially in Tebong where BN's votes increased to 1,037 votes from 992 votes whilst DAP remained almost unchanged at 165 votes from 162 votes in the 2004 general elections. Clearly BN's victory is without honour as they would still have won (though perhaps not by 4,081 votes) without needing to resort to such dirty tactics.
DAP had not expected to win the Machap by-election but were hopeful of defeating BN's goal of making DAP lose our deposit and significantly reducing BN's majority. DAP succeeded but could not achieve the breakthrough hoped for in getting some Malay and Indian votes to scale back BN's majority to 3,000 votes.
Nevertheless the reduction of majority is a significant achievement in that this is the first by-election since the 2004 general elections contested by BN that DAP has reduced BN's majority. In all the previous by-elections, BN had increased both their votes and majority.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is wrong to say that the drop in majority of BN is caused by Datuk Poh Ah Tiamís increased stature as compared to BNís new candidate. Even though the candidate may be new but Datuk Poh did not have the entire government machinery of Malaysia helping him to campaign. In that respect the disadvantage of the new candidate factor of BN is equalized by the advantage of having the entire Malaysian government machinery.
There is no reason whatsoever for BNís majority to drop by 481 votes when essentially BN enjoys the same advantages. The drop in majority clearly indicates that despite the focus by the entire government, the voters especially the Chinese community responded to DAPís call for democracy, equal economic opportunity and political equality.
Despite the turnout of 74.31%, it was clear that putting polling day on a working day instead of a Sunday had affected the turnout in some areas in that those working outstation could not return to vote. This was especially evident in Machap Baru where the fourth stream had a voter turnout of only 51.4%. In that stream, despite the lower turnout DAP's votes had to 113 increased from 96 whilst BN's votes dropped from 368 votes to 188 votes.
In Machap Umboo, the number of votes obtained by DAP held steady at almost 40% despite the threats of withholding extension of land lease grants and shifting the telecommunications tower.
DAP thanks Machap voters who had supported DAP and our call for democracy to ensure that the government performs at all times and not only during by-elections. Good governance requires that the government listens to the people. Further good governance requires that projects that are carried out must benefit the many and not the few or that the government can not refuse to carry out projects because there is no private benefit to BN leaders.
Clearly rural voters love democracy because they want to be "bosses". By reducing BN's majority and giving DAP a moral victory, Machap voters are not only endorsing DAP's platform for democracy but also acknowledging that DAP's participation in the by-election has benefited them to enjoy all these development projects which otherwise BN would not have given.
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP