By Giam Say Khoon and Humayun Kabir
(From left) BN candidate Ismail Saffian, PAS’s Datuk Seri Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin and independent candidate Kamarul Ramizu Idris.
IPOH (March 29, 2009) : The Bukit Gantang parliamentary by-election on April 7 will see a three-cornered fight by Barisan Nasional (BN), Pakatan Rakyat-PAS (PR-PAS) and an Independent.
The "combatants" are BN's Ismail Saffian, 49, from Umno, PR's Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin, 52, and entrepreneur Kamarul Ramizu Idris, 42.
Election Commission (EC) returning officer Datuk Mahmud Mursidi announced the three candidates at 11.20am after rejecting three objections in the Taiping Town Hall yesterday.
Nizar, the Perak PAS deputy commissioner, was the first to arrive at the nomination centre at 8.45am, followed by Ismail at 9am and Kamarul at 9.20am.
Ismail was accompanied by Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, BN's Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and thousands of supporters while Mohammad Nizar was accompanied by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa and Perak state assembly speaker V.Sivakumar and their supporters.
About 2,000 BN supporters marched their way to the nomination centre with Ismail while Nizar was accompanied by about 10,000.
Said Muhyiddin: "Ismail is the best candidate the coalition can offer for Bukit Gantang. We try to meet every one voter to explain a few important matters like the status of the party, the correct interpretations of the constitution and other issues which we expect will be exploited by the opposition.
"We hope that the new BN leadership under the reign of (prime minister-in-waiting) Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak will be well received by the voters. If Ismail is elected, he would be able to raise problems faced by the people in parliament," he said, adding that he would also be campaigning in Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai.
Muhyiddin said he would be spending at least six days in Bukit Gantang as it is a big parliamentary seat which "we need to spend more time to talk to them and convince the voters to support us".
Nizar said democracy must be seen living through the ballot boxes of Bukit Gantang voters and this should reflect to the rest of the country that democracy is still alive in Perak.
"I have been a victim of BN's conspiracy to seize power in Perak which denied me the right to head the PR state government which is an insult to the intelligence of Perak voters who had made their choice of state government on March 8 last year.
"This wrong must be corrected democratically by the voters on April 7 and the BN must be taught a lesson that they cannot take the voters for a ride to fulfil their political agenda in the state," he added.
Nizar wants voters to stand united as Malaysians in their stand against the BN tactics of divide and rule for the past 50 years.
Earlier, DAP chairman Karpal Singh and his family visited Trong and was heading to the nomination centre when they were attacked by BN supporters with bottled drinks watched by the police.
No one was injured in the incident but Karpal later lodged a police report with the Larut Matang police district headquarters in the afternoon.
Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said the PR was fighting an uphill battle against BN's powerful political machinery "which is hell bent on winning the seat through all means at its disposal".
He dismissed speculation that PR would win by a 5,000-vote majority as a BN propaganda to confuse and mislead the voters into a false sense of security.
The main roads leading to the nomination centre like Jalan Kota and Jalan Taming Sari were sealed to allow for the gathering of supporters.
It's no state or national referendum on BN, says Tee Keat.