THE GAME PLAN: Kelantan Umno liaison chairman committee Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed says the time has come for Barisan Nasional to finally wrest the state from Pas' grip. He shares how this can be done in the upcoming general election with Zubaidah Abu Bakar and Rahmah Ghazali
Question: What's the political situation in Kelantan?
Answer: Let me begin by sharing our chances of winning the upcoming general election. We believe, we have some way to go. At the moment it is 50-50. It can go either way. In all fairness, we have a lot of work to do on the ground. There is a lot of unfinished work. As to where we currently stand against Pas... in the last one year, we have gained some momentum in terms of moving our machinery. Our worries involve both national and Kelantan issues. Therefore, we have some way to go because some people do not yet understand what we can do for Kelantan. Through our engagements with them on the ground we found that we needed to do more explaining.
As far as winning over the younger voters, we realised that the social media is very important and on this, there's been some improvement. We started very badly two years ago, but in the past few months, we have picked up some momentum and our boys have been very active on the social media front. But as for holding ceramah, we have got some way to go.
Question: You have speakers for ceramah?
Answer: We do have speakers, but what we lack are perhaps religious speakers. If we want to compare the number of religious speakers on our side and their quality, we have a lot more to do. That's why for the longer term, we need to attract more young ustaz to join us. This remains our weakest department.
Another weakness of ours would be in winning the psychological warfare. I mean, if we look at what we have done and the level of support, there's a big disconnection. We have put in a lot of efforts, but it has not been translated into votes.
Some issues cannot be addressed in one or two days. We need to keep on working very hard. I am not working only for the GE13, but also GE14 and so on, because we need to look at things on a long term basis.
Question: Are you all geared up for the election?
Answer: Let me talk about the party wings. The women have been extremely effective via Jalinan Rakyat. The veterans are old timers and more organised while the (BN-friendly) NGOs are reaching out to the people more intensively. These are the segments that have made a lot of progress. I am not saying that others are not playing any role, but these three are the most active.
I would also like to share with you about our outstation voters. They make up about 15 to 20 per cent of the total voters in the state. That is a lot because I have been in this for a few elections and I know what we have done before and we are much better organised now. We have weekly meetings, we have proper setups every Tuesday night and we have appointed a head for every parliamentary constituency and each of them is in charge of their respective areas. I have also gone down to the ground elsewhere to meet these outstation voters, such as a week ago in Kulaijaya, Johor where there were 500 of them. Earlier in the morning on that same day, I was in Shah Alam and met 200 of them.
The previous week while in Bangi, I met 200 of them, while in Kajang a month ago, there were about 1,000 of them at our function.
Our people are in high spirits and they like this sort of engagements. So, women, NGOs, veterans and outstation voters -- these are important segments of voters who we have picked up.
Question: But in 2008, it was the outstation voters who voted against BN.
Answer: There were some weaknesses and it was part of the national trend then -- the "tsunami". The outstation voters were influenced by whatever happened in the Klang Valley. So when Klang Valley had this big swing, they brought back the sentiment to Kelantan. No force could have prevented the strong tide from affecting Kelantan. But having said that, we were not well organised in the past as far as outstation voters were concerned. As I said, I have been in a few elections, and therefore I am quite sure that there have been improvements on the ground.
Question: When did you start reaching out to the outstation voters?Answer: A couple of years ago, but it's picking up speed of late. In the last one year, there have been more activities and people know about that.
There are two types of Kelantanese -- one who has settled elsewhere and has decided to vote in his current place and the other who goes back to Kelantan to vote.
Question: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has openly declared that if Kelantan were to return to BN's fold, you would be appointed as Kelantan menteri besar. Do you think you can take up this challenge or do you think there is a better person to fill the position?
Answer: He (Najib) was probably saying that in jest (laughs). But as you know, there are a lot of processes. First, one has to go through the election. Second, the sultan must give his approval. I'm just doing my job. If I'm chosen to take up the position, I would do my best.
Question: If for some reason, it is not you, is there any other candidate?
Answer: Number one, we have not finalised the candidates' list. So the winnable candidate can be either in the state or in Parliament, but this has not been sorted out. We have a list of winnable candidates, but it has not been decided where the PM is going to put them.
Question: So, do you think that it will be an advantage for Umno if the candidate lives in Kelantan?
Answer: If it's a state assemblyman, no two ways about it. An assemblyman needs to live in the area otherwise it would be very difficult to win the election. People expect you to be close to them all the time, especially in Kelantan where they depend a lot on the state representative.
Question: Kelantan has been under Pas rule for more than two decades and maybe the people are already used to Pas. What can Umno offer the people of Kelantan in this election?
Answer: Pas is indeed quite entrenched now. They control the state administration, civil service and other state institutions. What can we do? I have been telling the people that we can do a better job. I am not saying that they (Pas) have not done anything. That is not correct and not being objective. In politics, we have to be mature. But we (BN) certainly can do a better job especially in building smoother ties and closer rapport with current leaders. Number two, some of us have experience in running ministries, departments and this experience will be useful in managing Kelantan. In the private sector and government, we believe we can do a better job. In anything you do, you need fresh and strategic ideas and I believe we can do better.
There's been some progress in Kelantan, but part of that, mind you, is because of the federal government's help. Let me share with you a story