Thursday, April 26, 2007

More violence in Ijok, Keadilan candidate speaks

By: Susan Loone

Since several bloggers - some of who were part of All-blogs pro-tem committee - visited Ijok this morning and met up with 38 year old K. Parthiban, the Barisan Nasional candidate, I thought I visit Ijok virtually and have a chat with Keadilan candidate 61 year old Khalid Ibrahim.

When I called the Tan Sri about 5.45 pm Bangkok time, Khalid was at a police station, with his campaign entourage, lodging a report on another violent attack on him and his Tamil spokesperson P. Krishnasamy.

Khalid alleged that they were attacked at Ladang Coalfield at about 4.30 pm, during their campaign trail, which begun on 19 April. Earlier, Khalid and his team had visited about 15 houses in the vicinity and shook hands with villagers and estate workers without any interuption. However at Coalfield, about 10 men guarded the gates to the estate area, and refused to let Khalid in. Subsequently, Krishnasamy was punched, leaving his shirt torn and spectacles broken. The groups quickly led Khalid away from the scenario before further mishap happenned to him.

The estate is not the only area where Khalid is being prevented from meeting potential voters.

“I’ve also been threatened not to enter this area called Kampung Rantau Panjang, a Malay dominant area,” Khalid told me over the phone.

“Eventhough I called the village head to explain what we would be doing in the area, he simply refused to let us in,” he added.

I asked Khalid if he felt deterred by the violent acts (as on 21 April, Saturday, 20 people, several in BN Youth uniform, allegedly tried to intimidate him and two photographers-bloggers - Paul Choo and Jeff Ooi.

He said “No. I am not in the least afraid. This is a democracy”.

I querried if the estate workers had prevented him from entering the area because of his past as CEO of Guthrie, who is unpopular to the former due to poor wages and several eviction incidences. (Khalid had written a letter to Malaysiakini setting some record straight).

“I am prepared to explain to the estate people about myself, about what I did in Guthrie. They can question me on the matter. I will not stop them from asking me any question, and no one should stop me from speaking to them,” he said.

“I am also prepared to debate with the government on TV about the matter,” he added.

In analysing the violent attacks on his group, Khalid said Barisan Nasional was becoming increasingly desperate to ensure that Keadilan lost at all cost.

When asked about his personal background and if he thought that his opponent, BN-MIC’s K Parthiban, had a better chance of winning since he was a local boy from Ijok, Khalid said he was born (and studied in his early years) in Jeram, Kuala Selangor, which is near Ijok.

“I used to cycle all around this area. My parents, who are now deceased had also lived here. So, there’s no question about me being not a local boy,” he told me.

I asked Khalid what new developments or changes he would bring to Ijok if he were to win the elections, scheduled for this Saturday, 28 April, he said “The people here need a scheme to improve their incomes”.

“This should be a community programme, where people can participate in and decisions will be made from bottom to top, involving all segments, and not the other way around,” he said, adding he will draw from his experience as a coporate man to try to improve the financial situation of the Ijok folks.

“For years, we have been segmented. The position must change to include the totality, and not favour one sector alone”.

“However, their financial capacity must also match their mental capacity,” he offered.

“Or else, the young boys would just sit on the street and count how many beautiful cars are passing by, without knowing a thing about car, or how to drive them”.

When asked how he felt about his first campaign trail, he said there was “much excitement and opportunities, and felt motivated”.

“I used to think that there was only Barisan Nasional, now I can see that I, too, can make a difference”.