On Polling Day on April 1, 2000, either Sanggang will lapse into obscurity if the Barisan Nasional candidate wins the seat or it will gain the hall of fame in the annals of Malaysian parliamentary democracy if the Barisan Alternative candidate becomes the State Assemblyman for the constituency.
In the November 1999 general election, if the Barisan Alternative had won the Sanggang constituency, the present Pahang state government would most probably be a Barisan Alternative government and not the present Barisan Nasional government.
This is because in Pahang in the recent general election, although the Barisan Alternative won eight seats out of 38, the Barisan Nasional could have been ousted from the state government, as it won 11 seats with less than 1,000-vote majority (with six seats having razor-thin majorities ranging from 86 to 321 votes) and another six seats with majorities ranging between 1,038 to 1,305 votes.
If the Barisan Alternative had won Sanggang, which it lost by 1,038 votes, the Barisan Alternative might have won 20 out of 38 seats in the Pahang State Assembly to capture the Pahang state government.
In this by-election, the Sanggang seat is not of such pivotal importance in determining state power, for even if the Barisan Alternative wins the seat on April 1, it could not affect state power and the state government would continue in the hands of Barisan Nasional.
However, the role entrusted on the voters of Sanggang in the by-election on April 1, 2000 is even more important than that during the recent general election or at any time in the 43-year history of the nation.
Being a double-first, the first by-election after the 10th general election and the first in the new millennium, the impact of the Sanggang by-election will be far, wide and deep - well beyond Sanggang or Pahang state.
Locally, the Barisan Nasional will be using the development card to woo voters. Ironically, the best way to ensure that Sanggang becomes the pampered constituency of Pahang for all voters, regardless of race or religion, in the next four years is for the voters to support Barisan Alternative and reject the Barisan Nasional.
This would serve notice on the Barisan Nasional in Pahang that the possibility of its losing state power in the next general election is very high and force the Barisan Nasional state government to direct more development projects to Sanggang in the next four years unless it is prepared to concede state power to the Barisan Alternative in the next general election.
The importance of Sanggang by-election, however, goes beyond Pahang and affects the whole country and the future of democracy because it would be seen as a barometer of people’s aspirations in the new millennium after the recent general election.
The last general election was greatly flawed because it was the dirtiest general election in history, with 680,000 new voters undemocratically disenfranchised, the Barisan Nasional campaign of lies and falsehoods and the politics of fear about May 13 and racial riots.
Malay and non-Malay voters reacted differently to the fork-tongued Barisan Nasional campaign, on the one hand warning the Malays that "DAP Plus PAS = Hancur Islam" while on the other hand trying to frighten the Chinese and non-Malay voters that "a vote for DAP is a vote for PAS and Islamic State where there would be no pork, no alcohol, no karaoke, no temples, no Chinese schools, Chinese women have to cover their heads, pretty women would have no work and that there would be chopping of hands and feet".
This fork-tongued Barisan Nasional campaign is palpably dishonest, untrue and totally contradictory of each other that both lines cannot stand together and be true. At most, only one of the two can be true. In actual fact, both lines are untrue.
By and large, the Malay voters rejected the Barisan Nasional campaign of lies and falsehoods while the Chinese and non-Malay voters succumbed and fell victim to it, resulting in their unprecedented swing against the DAP and the Barisan Alternative where I was even defeated from entering Parliament for the first time in 30 years.
The Sanggang by-election is important because it will be the first test since the general election to find answers to three questions:
Firstly, whether it is true as claimed by UMNO leaders that Malay voters are returning to support UMNO after the general election.
Secondly, whether the Chinese and non-Malay voters can see through the lies of the Barisan Nasional propaganda that "a vote for DAP is a vote for PAS and Islamic State where there would be no pork, no alcohol, no karaoke, no temples, no Chinese schools, Chinese women have to cover their heads, pretty women would have no work and that there would be chopping of hands and feet".
Thirdly, whether Malaysian voters can continue to support the Barisan Alternative to bring about a paradigm shift in Malaysian politics and create a new Malaysia where politics will be less dominated by race and religion and more issues-centred as on questions of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
In this regard, Sanggang voters have the great opportunity to do Malaysians and future generations a great service by telling Barisan Nasional to stop the undemocratic politics of spite, vendetta and vindictiveness initiated by Malacca Chief Minister, Mohd Ali Rustam from becoming a new national policy.
They also have the great opportunity to express the national disgust at the light and lenient treatment received by the former Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor for the assault on a defenceless, handcuffed and blind-folded former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim when in police custody in Bukit Aman lock-up on Sept. 20, 1998 with nearly fatal consequences.
Most important of all, Sanggang voters have the opportunity to send out a clear and loud message to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the UMNO and Barisan Nasional leaderships to respond positively to the cries for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance made by 44 per cent of the national electorate in the November 1999 general election.