“I was involved in GE14 as an election campaigner and as a voter concerned about Malaysia’s future”
Cerita Undi by Estée Lim.
I was involved in GE14 as an election campaigner and as a voter concerned about Malaysia’s future. Here are some impressions I had during the days leading up to, during and after the elections.
1) During our campaign rounds, there were quite a number of people who asked for gifts or some-thing similar when we asked them to vote for PKR; they said that the BN had done so. Once I was even reprimanded for saying we couldn’t pay for their meal as it was against our campaign policy to “buy votes”.
2) My mother, who lives on her own in another state, mentioned the neighbours had been going to ceramah because they got RM30 for each one they attended, plus there were lucky draws with priz-es from motorcycles to cars! I told her if she had the opportunity, to just go and take whatever gifts that were offered because that was the rakyat’s money.
3) Another experience of people being victims of the “hadiah” culture was when I encouraged friends from another state to volunteer as PACAs. Unfortunately, most seemed to have absorbed the prac-tice of getting paid or receiving something in return for their time. One suggested that if the party didn’t pay for the volunteer PACAs — as many people we knew were not willing to give up their time without any pay — that I use my own money for this. I rejected the idea outright, and asked them to stop this subscribing to this culture. I understand if the request were to come from people struggling in life. But coming from people with a comfortable life and no financial issue, I got real-ly annoyed.
4) When performing outreach activities or going on campaign walkabouts in our party outfits, very often people, mostly strangers, would pay for our meals — breakfast, lunch or dinner — if we ate in public spaces. We would usually find out when we tried to pay the bill, only to be told by the opera-tors of the eating outlets that someone else had already paid for us. I was a bit surprised by this gen-erosity to us! Once, after a gentleman paid for our lunch, he came and told us that since people like him couldn’t go out and campaign like us, he wanted to help, show support, and encourage us by paying for the bill which was the least that he felt he could do. I was truly touched and felt really good that I was helping a party that received a lot of support, rather than a party that needed to give “support” to the rakyat to win (buy) their votes.
5) We met many different groups of people during our outreach work. On Monday, two days before polling day, one such group was the pengundi awal comprising police and army personnel who had already had their index finger inked. I was surprised to hear them say that they supported PKR and they also told me, “This round make sure you all win, otherwise there is no more hope for us and all the rakyat!”. They talked about “mesti tukar kerajaan” and “reformasi”. One personnel told me that many of them felt glad as this round all of them were able to cast their vote. Apparently, in previous GEs, their bosses would do this for them so they were denied the right to pick candidates for themselves. I was not involved in previous elections thinking that there was no point wasting my time since nothing would change. In this GE14, however, I was glad and felt really proud that my involve-ment provided me with a lot of insight into what actually happened. The feedback and encourage-ment from all the people including these civil service personnel made me feel it was worth my 1.5 months of effort.
6) While busy campaigning in the Klang Valley, I did not forget friends and relatives living in other states or overseas. Constant messages were sent to them despite knowing that some were BN sup-porters. I was privately reminded by family members and friends that there were BN supporters in our group. I guess during the campaign period, there was no time to care about the other party’s feelings as long as you put up facts and were trying to educate people to decide wisely. At any rate, the BN supporters seemed to be in silent mode in the group. Separately, I received many individual messages to show their support, they gave words of encouragement, thanked me for being involved in the campaign, and twice I was mistaken by distant relatives as a candidate in GE14. Haha, what a joke! Many people also sent me messages to voice out their frustration when someone that they knew or family members couldn’t find their name in the electoral roll. I helped them to check their voting status, and upon confirming that there names were not there, I asked them to lodge a report at the Pemantau website. Looking again at the data, I guess many did not bother to report this dis-crepancy.
7) One of the major concern from my mother was if BN defeated as they have been brainwashed with all sort of fake news during the campaign periods, for instancfe, their BR1M will be withdrawn im-mediately, another 513 if BN defeated, never voted for PKR as parties members were fighting among themselves and rakyat will suffer as their time would be spent in fighting!
1) I woke up in the morning and called my mother (who lives on her own) to remind her which logo to cross. My sister told me that there was no point taking our mother to vote as she would vote for BN. But I had faith in mother as I had been talking to her. At the same time the family WhatsApp group also became very active and everyone was showing pictures of their inked fingers. A nephew shared that he had successfully insisted that the SPR officer allow him to have his right index finger inked since he was left-handed, and how happy he was with this achievement.
2) When I got to my polling station, I was glad to see the big crowd of voters queueing outside the school waiting for their turn to vote. While standing in line outside my saluran I suddenly heard my name being called out. So when that lady came out, I asked if her name was also xxx, and haha, it turned out that she and I had the same given name, and that it was only our surnames that differed but still were close enough — Lim and Lee — to sound the same.
3) I purposely wore slippers to go to vote. My intention was to tell people that there was no such rule. But I guess people only though I was lucky as I heard them whispering among themselves, when I exited the saluran room, that I was in slippers!
4) I believe people were very proud at having voted or participated in GE14 based on all the happy photos with inked fingers on FB, with messages like “yes, we have voted, have you?”.
5) In the afternoon, a cousin from my hometown called and asked if I heard or had seen the news that the SPR had purposely mixed up the ballot boxes to confuse voters, and to say that all the previous ballot papers were considered spoilt. She called me to clarify as she believed I (as a PACA) would have the information. In fact when she called, I had already received two similar news reports with the same video she shared, with everyone claiming that the incident had happened in their area, i.e. from Subang to Kedah! I had to repeatedly explain how the ballots that had been mixed up would be put back into the correct box before the actual counting started. I decided to send out the same message to a few of my Whatsapp groups to explain the situation and how counting was done. Half an hour later, one of my sisters posted the same news in our group chat, so I, annoyed at this stage, asked if she had read my message. She said that this had happened in her area and was not fake news. I was really speechless and felt many people really “enjoyed” sending out messages without verification. I also realised that in this GE14, everyone was too careful and too sensitive to the point of creating unnecessary tension and worry.
6) In my role as a Counting Agent, I felt curious and didn’t understand why an independent candidate (contesting under the “kunci” logo), wanted to contest as there was only one miserable vote for him in that saluran.
7) The night the results were announced, 10 May, many of us were still active in our WhatsApp groups way past 3am. Some even called, talked to each other, to share the news. There were friends who said they wouldn’t sleep until all the results were officially announced. A friend who is an MCA man was very annoyed and exclaimed “bastard” in our chat group when the MCA head was defeat-ed. Guess this is a very common reaction when you put high hopes on something that doesn’t turn out well (for you). At 1:30am, I called my brother to check on the news from his state. We chatted for half an hour and he assured me that in that state PKR already won even though the result were not yet announced. We all knew PKR had won in many states and started to cheer even before the official announcement. I, myself couldn’t keep up and went to bed by 3:30am with lot of satisfac-tion and hope!
1) I had a conversation with a cousin about how, back in our kampung on polling day, the younger ones dealt with the older family members. Basically, they had asked the older ones, “Which logo are you going to pick?”, and upon being told that the oldies were going to vote for BN, the younger family members decided not to fetch them to the polling station to cast their vote. I found this funny, though also sorry for the older family members who couldn’t cast their vote. But this showed me how desperate most people were about changing the government; they only wanted to make sure that every vote went to PH!
2) A few days later, MyBurgerLab was giving out free burgers for PACA volunteers who showed their tags. I didn’t take up the offer because I’m not a fan of burgers. But my husband was a beneficiary with his PACA tag 🙂
3) Friends started to say “Hi, for the first time after so many years, I am now reading The Star!” or “I am watching TV3 now!”. I guess people could feel the ownership of their freedom. I, as a person who felt politics in our country was too dirty for me to bother also subscribed to Malaysiakini because now I want to know in advance, the current hot issues! I also realise I have spending most of my time in front of Astro Awani, reading the news and chatting to various people. The excitement level is still high even though it is now already more than two weeks since 9 May 2018.
Cover image: Hitoribocchi, Flickr