‘I’ve a good track record and an untainted character’
Former academician and PKR state deputy leader, 58-year-old Mansor Othman is PKR’s choice to contest the Penanti by-election in Penang on the behalf of Pakatan Rakyat coalition.
The seat fell vacant when its incumbent representative, former Deputy Chief Minister 1 Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin resigned on April 16.
If elected on the May 31 polling day, Mansor is set to assume an executive councillor seat and helm the hot seat of DCM 1.
The positions are part of PKR’s quota in the DAP-led Pakatan state government.
Mansor, a former professor from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), was Anwar’s political secretary from 1996 to 1998when the parliamentary Opposition Leader was the deputy prime minister in the Barisan Nasional government.
He earned a Masters degree in social science from USM, and a Masters in Arts and a Masters in Philosophy from Yale University.
Mansor, the PKR Balik Pulau division chief, is married to housewife Aishah Zainul, 58, and has three sons – Mohd Fadzli, 28, Mohd Ashraf, 19 and Mohd Afnan, 18.
He has served in PKR’s supreme council for 10 years and is currently the party national election machinery deputy director.
Mansor is a highly-respected figure within PKR circle and seen as a politically strong and untainted character who could not be bullied by rivals.
PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim has said Mansor was chosen because the party needed a capable leader to work closely with the Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and contribute efficiently to the state administration.
Mansor however, has a black mark in his CV – a history of losing streaks in general elections.
He lost to Zain Omar in the Balik Pulau parliamentary duel in 1999, to Ariff Shah Omar Shah in Seberang Jaya state seat contest in 2004 and to Muhammad Farid Saad by 294 in Pulau Betong state constituency.
He hopes to end the unwanted record and strip off his loser’s tag with a win in the Penanti by-election.
Penanti comes under Anwar’s Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency – a PKR stronghold.
Here Mansor talks about his chances and future plans, if elected, to Malaysiakini in an exclusive interview:
Malaysiakini: Why you offered yourself as a PKR candidate for the by-election?
Mansor: I did not offer myself. The party picked me due to my seniority, credentials, qualifications, political experience, and my working experience in the government.
I am the founder member of the party and, was the first and longest serving Penang PKR chief. I have a good track record and an untainted character.
The party thought my experience would be useful for the Pakatan Rakyat state government. My inclusion will be to compliment the already strong state leadership of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Do you think Umno will field a candidate?
Umno will surely field a strong candidate to give me a tough time. It’s not Umno style not to contest. It’s not the party culture. The party will contest although it claims to be the underdog.
Umno is playing the mind game by making us favourites. We cannot afford to be complacent, be carried away or be fooled by this psychological warfare. We must stay united, campaign hard and reach out all voters to ensure victory.
How you rate your chances and do you foresee facing many independent candidates, like in Bukit Selambau?
I rate my chances of winning at more than 60 per cent. It is not being arrogant or over confidence. It’s because Penanti is under Permatang Pauh – Anwar’s territory. He has the support of vast majority of Penanti voters.
No doubt Umno has strong presence in the area, but PKR election machinery is strong now and can deliver the votes. It’s more a contest between two parties – PKR vs Umno, not among individuals. The general public mood now is against Umno and Barisan Nasional.
I don’t think I would face so many independent candidates. But there will be some sponsored candidates by certain people, including former PKR local leaders like ex-women chief Aminah Daud. But I am up to the challenge.
What was your party boss, Anwar’s advice to you for the by-election?
He told me to always smile (laughter), be humble, willing to work hard and help the people. Basically people now want to elect a visionary representative who is service orientated.
I have my vision for Penang and want to deliver it for Penangites. I will talk about it in details if and once I am elected. I have something to do for Penang, not just for Malays but for all.
What will you offer to Penang if you were elected and appointed as DCM 1?
I will complement the chief minister’s work and assist him effectively to address problems and issues affecting the administration and people. I will be a strong and dynamic partner for the chief minister.
I will provide a new dimension and perspective to Malay leadership in Penang. I will not be a DCM for the Malays only, but to all.
We in PKR and Pakatan are moving away from the outdated BN/Umno style of racial based political governance. I personally want to change the perception for better.
I want to be a Malay leader for all, not just for the Malays. We can no longer follow the BN concept of Malay leader for Malays, Chinese for Chinese and Indians for Indians etc. We fall back if we follow that.
I will also help the state government to address the Umno’s connotation that Penang Malays had been left out from mainstream development. I will tackle the issue heads on to change the perception.
PKR is still losing out to Umno among older rural voters?
Yes it is true. But generally Anwar command a strong following in Penanti. There is a strong support for him. My chances of winning are not only based on my credentials, but also the party and Anwar. Our machinery in Permatang Pauh is strong.
We should address this problem this time. Losing in Penanti is not in our mind. It’s our pride at stake. Our supporters must work hard because Penanti and Permatang Pauh are important to us.
Some feel that the party did not provide enough guidance and protection to Deputy Chief Minister 1 Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin. How will your campaign address this problem?
No doubt there are undercurrent sentiments for Fairus. PKR by-election strategic team will address it during the campaign.
Is factionalism affecting Penang PKR? Can you stabilise and bring some calm influence to the state PKR?
Of course there are bound to be problems and differences in any party. But our problems are not as bad or as big as in Umno or Barisan Nasional component parties.
Our problems are not that serious as claimed by some. The party did not choose me to stabilise the state PKR. No. Not true.
How is the relationship between PKR and DAP in Penang?
We have a good working relationship. But there is room for improvement. I will work towards improving it.
How is PKR relationship with PAS, especially given that Permatang Pauh PAS division wants to contest Penanti too?
We have a good relationship with PAS state leadership. I personally have a good relationship with state PAS leaders. There is no problem among us. We will address the issue of cooperation for Penanti by-election.
About PAS Permatang Pauh’s intention to contest, we will resolve the issue. It’s normal for one of the component party to offer itself to contest a seat during election time, especially if it was a winnable seat. It’s the party democratic rights.
But we have our Pakatan Rakyat presidential council to address it. It decided that PKR should contest Penanti. Even BN component parties fight among each other for seats. Gerakan and MCA have fought over so many seats.
Recently Umno wanted to contest Bukit Selambau by-election at the expense of MIC. But, of course, no BN parties will dare to ask Umno’s seat (laughter).
You were originally supposed to contest in Penanti in 2008 general election. Why you contested Pulau Betong instead? By now you could have been the Deputy Chief Minister, right?
Well I did not contest Penanti because I could not get a suitable replacement for Pulau Betong. Further I was confident of winning Pulau Betong.
Indeed I won in the first count of votes at 7.30pm, only for the result to be different in the official announcement later.
Funny! How could that happen?
Same thing happened in Teluk Bahang where PKR’s Abdul Halim Hussain (now Penang House Speaker) was initially said to be winner before Dr Hilmi Yahaya was declared as the victor. The newsflash on television has already showed me as the winner early on.
Indeed the eventual winner Muhammad Farid Saad has already left the counting centre because he thought he had lost.
I lost in Pulau Betong because of dubious postal votes. The cast postal votes were actually more than the numbers stipulated in the electoral roll. Of course I should have taken the case to court.
But one of my agents lacked the documented evidence to substantiate my claims.
So I dropped the case.
What types of issues will dominate the by-election campaign?
The local issues are still unclear. Of course Umno will play up the issue that I am an outsider contesting Penanti. But I have worked in Penanti since 1999 when I was PKR state chief. I am not alien to the area. I know the people and they know me well too.
I think national issues especially on economy, corruption, judiciary, royalty and police will gain prominence.
The appointment of Najib Abdul Razak as Prime Minister will not make much difference because in the end it’s Umno the party which is the issue. It’s PKR versus Umno, Pakatan versus BN, not individuals. Umno lifespan is coming to an end.
No party in the world can last in power for more than 50 years. Umno is a crumbling empire. Time has come for Umno to step aside and allow for new politics.
Athi Veeranggan, Mkini