Over the weekend, the usually tranquil Jerlun, dotted by padi fields, jetties and traditional villages, came alive.
For two days, the convoy led by Umno information chief Tan Sri Annuar Musa was seen travelling to villages as part of Umno’s “Jelajah Jalinan Mesra” roadshow.
Kedah was the destination for the third series of Umno information bureau’s roadshow, which began on Friday, before the team proceeded to Perlis.
Clad in baju Melayu and songkok, Annuar strolled the villages, trying to penetrate the stronghold of former party comrade Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir. He was warmly received by the villagers and the veteran politician mingled freely with the local folk.
Annuar played his cards well by addressing the crowds in measured tones at each meet-and-greet session. He knew well that directly attacking Mukhriz and his father, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, would be an “overkill”. It may hand sympathy votes to the two, who have since formed Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM).
Several of the community halls where Annuar held the meet-and-greet sessions had plates bearing Mukhriz’s name as the latter had opened those places during his stint as Jerlun member of parliament and short-lived tenure as menteri besar of Kedah.
Annuar focused on addressing bread-and-butter issues raised by villagers instead of talking politics.
At a ceramah in Padang Sera, Annuar, who is also Kelantan’s Ketereh MP, shared his experience of serving as a cabinet minister twice under Dr Mahathir’s 22-year premiership.
He told the crowd how he had idolised the Kedah-born leader since his university days and joined politics upon graduating when Dr Mahathir was the prime minister.
Annuar related how he had defended Dr Mahathir in numerous crises in Umno back then.
“When the party was split into two camps — when Tun (Dr Mahathir) was challenged by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah for the Umno president’s post — I stood firm behind Tun.
“I faced critics, and threats, from my own people in Kelantan, who backed Ku Li (Tengku Razaleigh). It was hard, but I supported Tun because of my undivided loyalty to the Umno president.”
Annuar said he was doing the same for current Umno president and prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
“The moment Tun left the party and joined hands with the opposition, in particular DAP, he is no longer the same Tun whom I had known for decades.
“Leaders come and go, but the party remains. We must always be loyal to the party because it is the party that makes a leader great; no one can achieve remarkable success without members’ support.”
Annuar sent a clear signal to the crowd that they had to choose between Umno, the party that had been championing the Malays and Islamic cause, or their sentimental attachment to Dr Mahathir and Mukhriz.
He said the 14th General Election (GE14) would be a showdown between “pro-rakyat BN and pro-DAP opposition”, cautioning the crowd on the risks of electing a government controlled by the opposition.
He concluded his speech with a touching message. He said he was saddened that Dr Mahathir and Mukhriz were being manipulated by DAP to further split the Malays.
“I know that Tun still loves Umno and I pray that one day, he will return to the party,” he said.
Annuar also made clear Najib’s wish for Umno and Barisan Nasional to retain Jerlun, and Kedah at large.
Umno and BN lost Kedah to Pas-led Pakatan Rakyat in 2008.
As such, Annuar reminded the state, division and branch leadership to engage the people at the grassroots to address issues and resolve them.
With the clock ticking before Parliament is dissolved to pave way for the GE14, which is predicted to be held some time this year, Jerlun Umno and Kedah Umno will have to work harder to defend their fortress.
Failing which, Jerlun risks becoming the Permatang Pauh of Kedah.
Facing a battle with former comrades is trickier than dealing with “just” enemies.
Adie Suri Zulkefli is Kedah NST bureau chief