The Batang Ai Constituency in Sarawak, the batang with the two bukits, Selambau and Gantang, will be facing bye-elections with polling scheduled for 7th April. Compared with the two bukits, Batang Ai is so deep in the interior of Borneo that if you lose your way you'd be in the rural areas of Indonesia. The BN won Batang Ai previously, whilst the PR held both Bukit Selembau and Gantang. The PR has to exert all resources to maintain the present edge of denying BN two-thirds Parliamentary majority. Many have speculated BN will win Batang Ai hands down by rolling out the dough (RM4.0 mil as speculated by Sim Kwang Yang) and not exerting too much resources and thereby posing PR much risks in Selambau and Gantang. But no one will be complacent. The biggest risks is the use of money spooking greater corruption in the election process.
MAFREL, an election watch dog is presently beset with problems - management, institutional reincorporation, election abuses claimed to have occurred and reports not attended to. This sets up the scene as pretty for BN who'll stop at nothing to win an election as in KT Bye-Election, where The Government Ministry of Information staff was distributing cash in envelopes to media people; and Permatang Pauh where cash was openly handed out.
In Kuching last week, after "tahlil prayers" politics was not taboo. A retired Malaysian Information Services officer related an incident of an off duty Policeman accidentally discovering ballot boxes in a room during Sulaiman Taib's election as MP. Nobody breathed a word. In Sabah, same thing on ballot boxes happened, found by on the banks of some river; nothing happened. All these are no doubt undocumented and therefore unproven but the rakyat will keep silent with a knowing smile.
It is quite apparent that if civil action by all and sundry including that of MAFREL, could be harnessed and managed well, we could keep BN honest. But keeping them honest is a long haul, as the systems have aged 50, the worms will not come out of the woodwork, if we don't shake up the hangover after the long malaise.