February 23, 2013
The state is a favourite destination for both Najib and Muhyiddin.
SEREMBAN: What is it about Negeri Sembilan that makes it such a frequent destination for official visits by both the prime minister and his deputy?
This is the question political observers are asking as the state prepares for yet another working visit by Najib Tun Razak tomorrow (Sunday). It will be his fourth in a year.
If one were to take into account Muhyiddin Yassin’s five visits within the same period, then Negeri Sembilan can boast that it has, on average, hosted one official visit by either the PM or his deputy every one and a half months in the past year.
Another interesting fact about the visits is that most of the official programmes have been held in opposition-held constituencies.
During his February 2012 visit, Najib attended functions in the parliamentary constituency of Seremban and the state constituencies of Rahang and Sikamat. Seremban and Rahang are DAP seats and Sikamat belongs to PKR.
His next visit was in March. This time he went to the PKR strongholds of Teluk Kemang, a parliamentary constituency, and Port Dickson and Chuah, both state seats. He also visited Lukut, a DAP state seat.
Last September, Najib had a breakfast meeting in Ampangan, another PKR state seat, and attended a Janji Ditepati programme in Paroi, which is a PAS state seat.
Tomorrow, he will launch the Seremban Railway Station re-development project and a PR1MA housing project in the state capital. Then he will launch another PR1MA project in Temiang, a state seat that is also occupied by DAP.
After lunch in Klana Resort, Najib will attend a closed-door briefing by Menteri Besar Mohamad Hasan. Mohamad will update him on Negeri Sembilan BN’s final preparations for the 13th general election.
At 2.30pm at the Port Dickson Polytechnic, Najib will announce the Jejak Anak India Malaysia education scheme, which is aimed at helping Indian students with average SPM results to continue their education in the country’s polytechnic institutions.
March 2012 also saw Muhyiddin visiting Negeri Sembilan. He attended events in Sikamat and Ampangan, both PKR-held state seats, although he also went to the BN-held Johol, a state constituency. He had a closed-door meeting with state BN chiefs.
Last July, Muhyiddin attended several official functions in Repah, a DAP state seat. In November, he was in Seremban to launch an education conference attended by school teachers. In December, he attended another official programme in Port Dickson.
Last month, Muhyiddin was in the state again to launch a Gelombang Biru programme in Paroi. He also visited Senawang, a DAP state seat.
Why are the top two guns in BN spending so much time and energy in Negeri Sembilan? Do they believe that the state is likely to fall into Pakatan Rakyat hands unless they give extraordinary attention to it?
Many observers think so, and they include pundits from among Pakatan supporters, fence sitters and even those who are moderately supportive of BN.
Sikamat state assemblyman Aminuddin Harun interprets these visits as a sign that the Menteri Besar has been pressing the panic button.
“I believe Najib and Muhyiddin have been coming to the state on the request of Mohamad,” he told FMT. “He probably needs their presence to boost the confidence of BN supporters.
“This gives the lie to his public statements that he is confident BN will get back its two-thirds majority.
“If Najib says that his frequent visits here are just part of his normal work as BN chief, then why hasn’t he gone to the constituencies that are still under BN?
“To me, it’s quite clear that BN is not confident of retaining the state. Of course, to us Pakatan supporters, this is a sort of morale booster.”
Aminuddin noted an irony in the disproportionate attention given to Pakatan-held seats: the people of Sikamat, Ampangan, Paroi, Senawang and Port Dickson are blessed with economic projects because they voted against BN in 2008.
“This is what you get when vote for Pakatan,” he said. “BN gets worried and tries to win back voter support with its goodies.
“I have heard a lot of people in BN-held constituencies complain that their areas are being ignored.”
PAS Negeri Sembilan’s secretary, Mohd Hassan Tamby, expressed similar views.
He told FMT: “You can go to places like Juasseh, Sungai Lui, Palong, Simpang Pertang or Serting and gauge for yourself the level of frustration among the residents there. You will hear many of them complaining that Najib and Muhyiddin do not care for them as much as they care for opposition supporters.
“Some have told me they feel that BN leaders have abandoned them. Obviously, they resent being taken for granted as BN supporters.”