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Malaysia’s 12th General Election: My Swan Song For Penang

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Wuan and I set off from Kuala Lumpur at 10.30am after she voted at Pandan Perdana. We had expected to begin our journey at 9.00am but the polling centre here was packed and there was a queue. When we got on the North-South Expressway, the sky was bluer than blue with white puffy clouds wrapping the horizon. That is my kind of weather. Rain was forecasted for the afternoon and evening. I wondered if I would be caught and wondered how I was going to get into the polling station in the deluge.

North-South Expressway on Election Day
Crawl at the North-South Expressway.
Photo by Wuan.

There was a slow crawl the entire stretch from Rawang to Slim River, partly due to the widening of the expressway and the unusually heavy traffic. In our many journeys north, we had never experienced such traffic condition. Were people heading up north to vote in their hometowns? The most telling sign was that most of the cars sported Perak, Penang and Kedah number plates.

The usually busy Tapah RSA (Rest and Service Area) was packed to the brim with vehicles and people. We decided not to stop for toilet break and pushed on to Ipoh. It was surprising that we made good time on the road despite the crawl before Slim River. We drove into Kinta City Shopping Centre for a quick lunch. When we got out from that place, it began to rain and boy did it pour.

North-South Expressway on Election Day - 10-car pile up acccident
One of the vehicles in the 10-car pile up somewhere near Kamunting.
Photo by Wuan.

One of the best things that William taught us to invest on was a bottle of Rain X. No, this is not a sponsored post or a paid endorsement for that product. It repelled water from the windscreen in heavy rain and improved visibility to a great extent. At higher speeds, rainwater just flowed away as soon as it hit the windscreen. There even was not a need to run the wiper. That was how good it was. The only thing it could not do was repel the fine mist of water churned up by the wheels of the vehicles in the front.

Somewhere between Kamunting and Taiping, traffic came to a crawl again. We inched slow. The cause was a ten-car pile up on the right lane. Most of the vehicles had very badly bashed in boots and bonnets. As far as I could see, there were no critical injuries, just badly shaken drivers with shocked looks in their faces standing in the rain looking at their wreck vehicles and wondering how the mishap could have happened.

North-South Expressway on Election Day
Car with the bonnet torn away in an accident somewhere near Taiping.
Photo by Wuan.

For a while after that, we were in the midst of cautiously driven vehicles. Nevertheless, the gory sight of mangled cars was repeated six times after that. All along the way, there was no sign of ambulances. That I took to be a good sign as it indicated that nobody was critically injured in those accidents. I can attribute three factors that cased the accidents – speeding in low-visibility, slippery road conditions and hydroplaning. There is a stretch of expressway from Taiping and Juru where rainwater tends to gather into invisible puddles that may cause speeding cars to lose traction unexpectedly.

A short distance after the Juru toll plaza, I was almost caught in an accident. I was following a car that was following a small lorry. The bus that the lorry was following suddenly braked. The lorry followed suit but it skidded and momentarily spun out of control. The car in front swerved to avoid the lorry. I hit the brakes and swerved left to avoid the car. Fortunately there was no traffic behind me. We found out that the bus had suddenly braked because there was an accident right in front of it. Thank God for ABS that prevented our car from skidding.

North-South Expressway on Election Day
Another accident along the North-South Expressway.
Photo by Wuan.

The moment we reached Penang, I became fidgety. Traffic into the city was crawling. It was already 3.45pm. Polling ends at 5.00pm. At the rate we were moving I estimated that I may not be able to reach the polling centre in time. Moreover, the rain was not letting up. It would be a wasted effort to drive almost 400km and not being able to cast my two votes.

I took several shortcuts but I was not making good time. Traffic was slow everywhere. At 4.25pm, I was stuck in yet another jam at Jalan Lim Lean Teng which is about 2km from the polling centre. The rain became even heavier. I was beginning to lose hope. Did I go all the way to Penang only to arrive at the polling centre after it closed? Desperation and frustration gripped me. Wuan tried to console me but at that moment, I was inconsolable.

North-South Expressway on Election Day
The truck churning up a fine mist and causing poor visibility along the North-South Expressway.
Photo by Wuan.

The moment we turned into Jalan Terengganu, the road was clear but water was fast rising at the junction with Jalan P. Ramlee. This area is famous for it notorious floods during monsoon seasons. I have lived in this area for 22 years and I knew it like the back of my hand but time was running out. As I slowly inched our way in the ankle-height water, I kept looking at the dashboard clock.

It was raining very heavily and we reached the entrance to SM Sri Mutiara which was the polling station for me to cast my vote. I turned into the school but the policeman on duty stopped me. I told him I am an OKU (disabled person) and he gave me the thumbs up sign and allowed me to drive in. It was already 4.30pm. Wuan and I have been on the road for six hours already.

North-South Expressway on Election Day
Tow truck operators having a field day with the numerous accidents along the North-South Expressway.
Photo by Wuan.

She took my identity card and went to get the number for my polling stream. A polling centre has several polling streams – the room where voters are given their ballot paper and cast their votes. Mine was 3. In the heavy rain, she got my wheelchair from the boot and assisted me out from the car. A helpful staff of the polling station shielded us from the rain with an umbrella.

After that, it was all a breeze. Wuan got me into the polling room. I presented my identity card. It number and my name was read out loud by the polling officer for the polling agents from the respective political parties. I was given two folded sheets of paper. At the cubicle, I unfolded the first sheet. Jeff Ooi’s name was there. It was a surreal moment when I pressed the pencil on the ballot paper and wondered if I was marking in the right box.

North-South Expressway on Election Day
Slow-moving traffic at the Penang Bridge heading towards the island.
Photo by Wuan.

Having marked the ballot paper for the Parlimentary seat, I unfolded the one for the state seat. I hesitated for a moment. I have never really thought about who I wanted to vote for the state seat. Should I vote like how most Penangites would vote – Parliament for the DAP and state for the Barisan Nasional? I must have spent a little too much time trying to decide because the polling officer manning the ballot boxes stood up and took a peek at me wondering what was taking me so long. I looked at him, smiled and quickly marked the paper, folded it back and slotted them into the respective ballot boxes.

Bryan was there waiting when I got out from the polling room. He helped Wuan to get me into the car. I was touched that he came in the rain to assist me at the polling station. As I was rushing to drop in at my apartment to collect some belongings and than drive back to Kuala Lumpur, we did not have much opportunity to chat. We bade farewell and promised to catch up again the next time I am in Penang.

North-South Expressway on Election Day
Jeff Ooi and Law Heng Kiang election billboard outside McDonalds Green Lane.
Photo by Wuan.

The journey back was smooth all the way. We wondered where all the traffic had disappeared to. Perhaps Wuan and I were the only crazy people who drove all the way to Penang just to vote and drove back to Kuala Lumpur immediately after that. We reached home at 1am, tired, hungry and in dire need of a bath. By then, news had trickled in that the informal alliance of DAP, PKR and PAS had the majority seats in Penang to form the next state government, that Jeff Ooi, Tony Pua and Teresa Kok were voted in, and Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon, Datuk Teng Hock Nan, Dato’ Sri Sharizat Abdul Jalil and Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun did not make it.

Was it worth the effort that Wuan and I had driven 800km in 15 hours just to mark two sheets of ballot paper? The answer is a resounding YES! That was the first and probably the last time I am voting in Penang. I will soon change my address and voting constituency from Jelutong and DUN Datuk Keramat to Pandan and DUN Teratai in Selangor where DAP’s Jenice Lee was voted in. Nonetheless, I hope the incoming Penang state government will keep their election promises and live up to the trust and mandate that Penangites had given them.



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Malaysia’s 12th General Election: The People Have Spoken

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Hear, hear! The message is loud and clear. Listen and listen well! With both ears please this time. We, the People have spoken. Heed our calls. What we desired as a nation that you did not fulfill, we are now telling you through the ballot. Let this be the forewarning to our representatives in the Parliament and state assemblies that we do not take lightly to our aspirations being cast aside and ignored.

The same warning goes out to the victors of this general election. Always remember that the power lies in the hands of the People, not you the representatives of the People. Whatever power that you have comes from the People. You now have five years to prove your worth and fulfil all that you have promised to do for the benefit of the People. Use this opportunity well and we may reward you with another term.

We, The People of Malaysia, have spoken! Well done. Now, lets bury the hatchet, whatever our political affiliations are. Lets reconcile to continue building our beloved nation, our motherland, according to our aspirations. We have proven that democracy is alive and kicking in Malaysia and that we, the People, hold the power to decide on the destiny of our nation. We have done it today. Hidup Rakyat! Hidup Demokrasi! Hidup Malaysia!



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Vote Wisely For A Better Malaysia

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Tomorrow, 10 million Malaysians will be voting for candidates who have innumerably vowed, if elected, to protect the people’s rights and interests for the next five years. Tomorrow, 10 million Malaysians will also be electing a government who will run the country for the same number of years.

We get the government we choose. Good or bad, we have to live with it for the next five years. Before we mark the ballot paper, whatever faith we may profess, pray for wisdom to distinguish between the true and the false. Stand up and be counted. Malaysia needs you to make that right decision.

Godspeed Malaysia!



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