Even before nomination day for the just-announced polls, GE14 is already living up to its hype

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The narrative leading to the 14th general election is nothing short of a bombshell.

There was the ‘keling’ racial slur by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the verbal sparring between former federal minister Rafidah Aziz and current caretaker Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, and the take by Johor crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim on the current sordid political scenario plaguing the nation, including his “forked tongue” insinuation about Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Four days ago, Mahathir, the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan chairman, had uttered the word ‘keling’ at an event and when berated on his racist stance, claimed that the word ‘keling’ had no derogatory connotation in Kedah, where he was born and raised.

“I’ve used the word ‘keling’ since I was little; there is no problem,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“My ‘keling’ friends never scolded me, so why is MIC angry?” he retorted.

While Mahathir was initially unapologetic over the uproar his ‘keling’ remark had stirred, he, however, ate humble pie amidst the brickbats received, tendering an apology four days later i.e. yesterday.

The ‘keling’ heat may have tapered off but not the attack on Rafidah’s credibility by Hishammuddin, who accused the former International Trade and Industry Minister of lying that the Defence Ministry (Mindef) land had been privatised and sold.

In a letter posted on her Facebook, Rafidah claimed that then defence minister Najib Razak had tabled a cabinet paper in 2007 to privatise 40,000 hectares of Mindef land to a company made up of three individuals.

Rafidah had said the proposal was approved by the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi government. The privatisation was based on a lease of four decades and done without open tender.

She added that when the prime lands were revalued, the company stood to reap hefty profits.

Rafidah also said that she had questioned then as to why the land was being privatised to an unknown company instead of the LTAT which could merge with large companies that had proven track record.

The former Wanita Umno chief said Najib told the cabinet that LTAT would be roped in later. Other ministers did not raise questions and the cabinet paper was approved, Rafidah had claimed.

The plan she said has been put on hold due to opposition from various quarters even though funds were obtained from the company of three individuals.

Rafidah demanded that Najib come clean on the following issues: naming the company and the three individuals behind it; details of the privatisation exercise and whether several key ongoing projects such as Bandar Malaysia which is on the former Sungai Besi Air Force base, the Majidee camp relocation, the East Coast Rail Link, the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail project, a large-scale commercial agriculture project and the sale of the Butterworth Air Force base, all of which involved privatised military land.

Pre-GE14 imbroglio

While Rafidah makes no bones in grilling Najib over the Mindef fiasco, in comes news that the police are busy probing netizens who apparently insulted Tunku Ismail via vile comments in response to his recent statements that touched on sensitive political issues.

“We have received reports and investigation is currently underway. That is all that I can disclose at the moment. I cannot share at the moment how many reports were received.

“The police will investigate this case as usual and will prepare the investigation papers before they are brought to the prosecutors,” Malay daily Harian Metro quoted Johor police chief Mohd Khalil Kader Mohd as saying.

In the face of the ongoing cacophony comes the clincher – of the much anticipated polling date fixed for a Wednesday. That Malaysians back home will end up casting their votes on May 9, a working day, has not gone down well with the people, leaving the Election Commission (EC) to bear the brunt of its decision to go with May 9 as election day.

The EC was lambasted for the “undemocratic” move, with PPBM Youth chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman pleading with Malaysians via Twitter to cast their votes.

“Dear Malaysians, I beg you all. Please take leave on May 9 to cast your votes. The announced day is a working day (Wednesday). Mid week,” he said.

“This is BN’s tactic to ensure outside voters don’t return to vote. Every vote counts!”

Another user, who tweets from the handle @Iqbal2606, took the trouble of listing all the voting days in Malaysia’s general elections since 1959. He noted that this is the second time a Wednesday was chosen for election. The first was in 1959.

So why May 9, a Wednesday, 2018? A plain-spoken Mahathir has labelled the move by EC as “undemocratic” and a violation of voters’ right, saying it would be deprive Malaysians abroad of their right to vote.

“Instead of setting the date on a weekend, they fixed it on Wednesday, in the middle of the week. Most people working abroad cannot come back and this is one way to cheat voters of their rights to vote in the elections,” Mahathir decried after chairing the Pakatan Harapan presidential council meeting.

“During my time, there was a time it was not at the end of the week but because it was on a holiday, so the date was fixed as such,” he bemoaned.

Exciting times ahead? Hardly, given the pre-GE14 imbroglio and muck raking beleaguering the nation.

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