N.29 BABE Scenes

BABE's Grand Finale

Revisiting memories: With Mum and Dad and brother and sisters at the Batang Ai Dam in 1982

This will be Nadai Nama's final installment for the Batang Ai coverage and some reflections on how it has been for Nadai Nama Nama. As one of the comments indicated that this has to be the most covered By Election in the State so far. I agree and I have a few journalist friends who took tonnes of photos for the event that I think if they were to combine all those photos - including the ones by MAFREL we would have a unique opportunity to 'feel' BABE. Each picture taken has its own story and photographer taking it took it the way they did to capture the 'story' and later describe it to reflect on what happened during the 'still moment". Hopefully someone undertakes that project in the near future.

Kapit town (Bahagian Ke Tujuh) being visited by the then Chief Minister YAB Datuk Patinggi Abdul Rahman Yakub,in the 1970s (my late grandad is in black lounge suit on the left and Sarawak's flags were different then) - the number of voters are majority Ibans like in N.29 Batang Ai. Unlike present Lubok Antu the towns of Kapit and Song in Kapit Division are still not linked by any roads as the Rajang River is the main mode of transportation.

Dayak centric themes were raised and considered at its peak in the late 80s. That was a different time however, a different event and different circumstances. There were influential Dayak and Non Dayak leaders fanning the Dayakism flame via Kumpulan Maju comprising of PBDS and PERMAS then. I could remember the moment as if it was yesterday. I happened to be in Kapit when the State Election was being held in April 1987. My parents were voters there and being a young boy they brought me along. Staying at home in Sibu at that time was considered not 'safe' as news and rumours of violence and 'explosions' appeared in the papers. The newspapers owned by different camps then were considered 'Blogs of the Day' and each hurling counter accussations against one another. Please note that the word BLOG has not come into existence then.

The Polling Station at SK Sebangki for the N.29 Batang Ai by Election was one of the places I visited to view the voting process. Turnout of voters here by 1:00 pm was almost 70%

Tension was quite high in the small town of Kapit then and voters coming up and down the jetty looked aggressive. The different political alignments resulted in the longhouse being split into two in some areas. The scene in small town Kapit was pretty interesting if not scary. Some of the farmers were carrying the duku kebun around their waist - like a cowboy would carry his pistol so it could have turned ugly. If only digital cameras had been invented those days. We stayed at one of the shop lot where the ground floor had been turned into the Barisan Nasional candidate's operations room. Observing the the modus operandi then I can say its rather jurrasic as compared to now. Campaigning via physical and verbal mobilisation of party workers - minus handphones, computers and reliable four wheel drives was no easy task. The aspiring candidates then were Encik Kenneth Kanyan (BN), Encik Philomon Nuing (PBDS), Encik Sng Chee Hua (Independent), Encik Jangi Ak Penghulu Jemut (Independent). Barisan Nasional lost by 16 votes to PBDS then - a sign of how divided this town of Iban majority voters was. And now in N.29 Batang Ai, we are transported into another time zone ~ its like deja vu except that now we have a different level of technology with it being the age of digital mass media and blogs. Long time bloggers like me sometimes cannot escape the tempias or 'trickling effects' of politics even if I try to avoid it at all cost and people tend to question your neutrality when you blog about the subject. They will catch you and say - "Ahah! Your statement and the pictures in your blog indicates that you are in support of this party or that party". One of the political bloggers I met labeled me as a Government Blogger. Hello I told them, I have been blogging before you did and even before the Government paid attention to blogs. But if its true, I hope YB Datuk Seri Utama Dr. Ras Yatim can see if I can be in his Ministry's (Information Ministry) payroll then. The extra income will help me get that new Proton Exora.

A semi paralysed voter exercising her rights to vote and assisted by her relatives who also voted at SK Sebangki

On the Election Issue and Dayak spirit: Someone asked me on my view of Dayakism and being a Dayak "what role will it play in modern day Sarawak". Honestly I would not be able to answer that. For me I am more of a Sarawakian first and the rest comes after that. Why not a One Malaysian yet? Will One Malaysia and Dayakism be able to meet eye to eye? I have to see it thoroughly explained first. It will take time to assimilate, almagate and accustomize the concept when one is still arguing that Malaysia is 51 years old versus Sarawak's 45th years in Malaysia. My Maths may be bad but when a teacher tells you that 2009 minus 1963 equals Fifty Two Years Old - its like reinventing history.

Voters and Future Voter of different generation: Udah ngundi ini? I asked this veteran voter whether she has voted to which she replied in the affirmative. "Udah uchu...benung nganti kerita datai ngambi tu". Some quarters believe that the elderly voters have no place in the democratic system as they are hard headed, easily bought or influenced. But if one views the democratic process, a vote is a vote and its heart warming to see the elderly folks participate, not for the sake of making the numbers but that they remain a significant part of what democracy means. Some try to degrade them as mere tools for certain parties (third class or lower class voters) but look at it this way. Both sides of the parties have their elderly voters and one cannot label one side as being wiser than the other. I remembered one elderly voter who smiled at me as he left my polling station at which I was the Presiding Officer during the 2006 State Elections "This may be my last vote as I am old now but I want my vote to make a difference". My two weeks stint in Lubok Antu also saw that the voters are smarter than anyone thinks. They managed to push their development agenda not because of Party A or Party B or Candidate A or Candidate B. The 'feel' i got was that both parties or candidates could not predict the voting trend until the very last vote was counted. The voters played their cards close to their chest (most longhouses did not display any party flags or logos in their vicinity) and anyone who think they claim credit for the win or accuse someone of their loss, the Lubok Antu folks, with 45 years of political experience, are smiling away to their future bank site.

Polling agents observing the ongoing voting process in the SK Sebangki Polling Station - what I love about this photos is that the two agents representing the different parties projected different images, from the hair style and their preferred drinks. I could not tell who was with which party - could you? How are Polling Agents important? They need to ensure and keep tally of the ongoing process from the time the polling station is opened. They are there to make sure that there is no hanky panky at the polling station as when the empty ballot boxes will be displayed to them and sealed in front of them before voting starts. On top of that they are there to ensure that when the polling station closes they will witness the no tampering is done before the ballot boxes are brought to the tally centre. If the vote counting is going to be done at the Polling Station itself they will record the vote counting process in their own tally sheets which will be signed by them and the Presiding Officers. The tally sheets bearing the results will be kept by the agents themselves to report to their respective parties.

At the Vote Tally Centre at the Lubok Antu Sports Complex - the Returning Officer, Mr. Nelson Mujah Girie was making preparations for the vote counting process - especially for Ballot Boxes that are to be counted there. Sometimes the place requires a large Police presence as most of the supporters from the various parties will be converging here.

The vote counting process starts for ballot boxes brought to the counting area. The Presiding Officer's Team will be with the polling agents of the different parties and they will inspect the seal on the ballot box before it is opened. If they agree that the ballot box has not been in any way been tampered the counting process starts - otherwise the agent can register their protest.

The ballot box will then be opened by the Presiding Officer before the votes are counted in front of the Parties' Polling Agents

The vote counting process will be similiar to that is in the Polling Station. The whole content of the ballot box will be put into a box labeled : Undi Belum Dikira (Uncounted Votes). The next step will be to count the total ballot papers and arrange them in order of tens - preferably ten ballot papers per bundle to ensure easy counting. So if a station has 100 voters there will be 10 bundles. If at any time the numbers are less, then it will be considered 'ballot papers that are not put in the ballot box'. This is because some voters tend to take away the ballot papers outside the polling station for reasons known best to themselves. After verifying that the number of ballot papers are similiar to the numbers issued by the Presiding Officer then the vote counting process will begins. The Polling Clerk will show the Ballot Paper to the polling agent (above picture) one by one. Depending on which area on the ballot paper is marked 'X' or any markings (a 'tick' or 'dot') pointing to the party symbol of choice, the vote will go to the assigned boxes representing that party.

In the above picture the mark on the Ballot boxes belongs to Barisan Nasional and the Polling Agent (in red) indicates that it should go into the BN box. If it is marked for the Parti Keadilan Rakyat it will go to the PKR box. If it is marked for both parties or not marked at all or the ballot paper is spoilt it will go the Rejected Vote box (Ditolak). If the vote is considered undecided, let's say the 'X' or indication is outside the ballot paper marking space - it will be in the Ragu (undecided) box. The decision will only be made after all the other votes have been put in the various allocated boxes and the final conting will be made. The polling agents will jot it down in their tally sheets which will then be signed by the Presiding Officer and the Agents.

At the same time, the postal votes would also be opened and counted at the District Office in front of the Polling Agents and the results delivered to the Vote Tally Centre for the finalising of total results

The Returning Officer will be busy collating the results from the various tally sheets reported by the Presiding Officers from the various Polling Stations.

The Returning Officer will then announce the result one by one as it is reported and finalized - signed by the Presiding Officers again. In the above picture Election Commisssion senior officers from Kuala Lumpur will be observing the result and the score sheet from a flat screen television while the people at the Dewan will be able to see it on a bigger screen as seen in my previous Cover It Live Blog

Before the official results are announced, the candidates and the party would have already known the rough results as the Polling Agents would have returned with their own copy of Tally Sheets for their own counting. They would have known the results earlier, only that they have to wait for the official score.

Once the results are known the Presiding Officer will call the contesting candidates to his table and inform to them the official final tally. In the case of N.29 Batang Ai, the PKR candidate ex-YB Mr. Jawah Gerang not able to make it and so the Sarawak PKR Liaison, YB Encik Dominique Ng represented the candidate/Party.

Crunch Time: The candidates/contesting party's representative goes on stage with the Returning Officer and the Assistant Returning Officers for the official announcement.

As usual once the announcement has been made - there will be some form of celebrations in the Dewan for the victorious camp plus live television announcements. The contesting candidates and parties, whether the winning or losing candidate/party will also be given an opportunity to address the media.

Favourite Scenes

When politicians are not debating they would usually be like any normal people in a coffee shop. Which is why gentlemanly and gentlewomanly behaviour is still a big plus in Sarawak. It is always the supporters that get carried away sometimes when they go out campaigning. When our representatives speak in the Legislative Assembly it is sometimes seen as a 'shouting match' instead of a 'heated debate' in the newspapers. But as it is in the Legislative Assembly they have a certain degree of immunity and code of conduct to abide, provided for in the Standing Order.

PRS and DAP Chiefs saying hello at the Lubok Antu Kenyalang Market

YB Encik Wong Ho Leng, YB Dato Sri Dr. James Masing, YB Tuan Chong and Mr. Philomon Nuing greets one another at the Kenyalang Market

DAP Sri Aman Mr. Leon Jimmy Donald (in blue cap) greets YB Dato Sri James Masing's entourage at the Kenyalang Market

The gentleman's handshake: YB Encik Dominque Ng of PKR Sarawak and the newly elected N.29 Batang Ai representative Mr. Malcom after the official vote tally is known

Wrapping up the show: At the end of the day it was time to pack up and go. It has been a challenging moment for everyone who had been part of this election process. For me it was another chapter to add to my years or service. With God's will, I hope to see more as our State progresses and mature in this democratic process. No one knows what lies ahead but one thing for sure - the power of the people always prevail.

Alexander Donald - PRS Bintulu Youth Chief

To my schoolmate and friend of more than thirty years, Alexander Donald who asked me this question: "What progress has this small town of Lubok Antu experienced since you transferred here?" Allow me to answer that Sir, "Its going to see major development as you had promised my friend....I do not know how much but it goes into tens of millions of ringgit. I hope you can deliver".

Once again I wish to thank everyone who were part of the election machinery, the Election Commission, the Police, Government Agencies, Government Linked Companies, Political Parties, Individuals and independents, members of the media and MAFREL, companies (billboards, posters and banners), other NGOs and many many more but mostly for the people of Lubok Antu (N.29 Batang Ai especially) for the successful and peaceful outcome of BABE. It has been great being able to meet my buddies and friends from all over Sarawak who converged into this small town of Lubok Antu with some spilling over into Sri Aman town. The event has brought the thrills into this April 2009, after the floods in the early year and helicopter rides last month.


Uchu Keling said…
Ehh brother, when can we train our resident office officers to blog?

We won't need to mobilise a van like before, but just one pen drive will do today.. LOL
UK I am still waiting for YB Datuk Seri Utama Rais Yatim to call me :)
cyrildason said…
very comprehensive 'behind the scenes report...hehehe