The ‘Nusi-Pudin’ tic-tac-toe and the battle to best the bloke buoyed by support

04 Aug 2023 09:36am
Caretaker Kedah menteri besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor. Picture by Zaidi Azmi.
Caretaker Kedah menteri besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor. Picture by Zaidi Azmi.

ALOR SETAR - The first thing he did when he went to the rostrum was to raise his right hand — like how one would when wanting to ask questions in a classroom.

The crowd went wild; bursting into a clangorous cacophony of cheers over the iconic pose he appropriated from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

It was a stance steep in a long and coloured history of political defiance; an apt posture to emulate given his aggressive politics and the looming Aug 12 Kedah polls.

The next thing Caretaker Kedah menteri besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor did at the night hustings in Jitra on August 2, was to utter the nickname of his fiercest critic.

“Pudin,” he spoke, humorously. “Have anyone heard anything from him today? Been awfully quiet.”

The crowd also went wild.

They flung jeers and boos against the person whom the petname was given to: Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution.

Pudin and Nusi — what Kedahans called Sanusi — have been at loggerheads since before nomination day; with the former launching incessant missiles against the latter with utmost fervour.

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But the controversial rare-earths theft that Pudin has been harping on seemed ineffective in denting Nusi’s clout and popularity.

In fact, the reverse happened.

With each volley, Nusi - the incumbent Jeneri assemblyman - grew ever the more stronger.

And on the other hand, every time he returned fire, Pudin’s credibility continued to dip, regardless of how eloquent the latter explained on the magnitude and the convoluted web of the mineral thievery that happened under Nusi’s watch.

“I’ve shown evidence, letters, documents and pictures. He merely deflects and spins a new narrative,” said Pudin at a press conference on Aug 3 in Jitra.

Indeed, Pudin was right.

At the Aug 2 hustings, Nusi joked about how Pudin was already too old to be Anwar’s lackey and naturally, the crowd there was ecstatic.

Some argued that the Malays in Kedah have been bewitched by Nusi’s uncouth way with words; that they have been reduced to brainless followers of Nusi’s cult.

But they are wrong.

The Malays in Kedah still have their faculties intact; their agency was still their own.

But Nusi’ bearish outspokenness, resonated well among the locals — they liked him despite his flaws.

He speaks their language and walks their gait. They can relate to him. A leader who they saw as the real deal amidst the swelling political lethargy made worst by the increasing cost of living.

Not to mention that many had also gotten sick and tired of Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) incessant volley on the rare-earths theft.

It was a broken record that they were no longer interested in listening to; a trite one-hit-wonder that has already lost its luster due to overuse.

This was hardly surprising.

Because the pillage was given so much prominence, it eclipsed PH’s plan for Kedah should the coalition wins the state poll.

And the one thing many Kedahan knew what was going to happen if the coalition became the state government was that PH would “mine rare-earths systematically.”

This sales pitch was viewed with a much unkind lense among Kedahans; as many claimed that it attested PH’s supposed duplicity.

While such belief might be erroneous but it is what is being said on the ground and during election seasons, prevailing sentiments — no matter the veracity — are keys to victory.

Plus, when it comes to matters of rare-earth, PH is saddled with its own baggage.

A case in point was its controversial stand against the sole rare-earth refining plant in the country, the Pahang-based Lynas.

It is rather tricky for PH to convince the masses of its seriousness in venturing into the rare-earths industry against the backdrop of Lynas’ judicial review to challenge the government’s decision to prohibit the company from importing its raw rare-earths deposits for processing.

For the record, the Australian company does not mine rare-earths in Malaysia; it merely processes and refines the raw inputs from its mine in Mt Weld, Western Australia.

A ban from importing its raw materials to its Malaysian facility essentially renders the Gebeng-based rare-earth refinery useless as no input equals to zero output.

Now back to the Nusi-Pudin’s political tic-tac-toe in Kedah.

Later tonight, tentatively at 10:30pm, Pudin’s will have reinforcement here at ground zero.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is expected to deliver a sorely needed morale boost for Kedah PH right smack in the eastern interiors of Kedah — the heart of Nusi’ clout.

In the promotional poster of the event, Anwar was seen flanked by his key generals: Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Amanah president Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu, Gabungan Rakyat Sabah chairman Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, Gabungan Parti Sarawak chairman Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg, DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke, Warisan president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, Kedah Barisan Nasional chairman Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid and Amanah vice-president Datuk Seri Mahfuz Omar.

Oh my. What an impressive optic.

A full-blown battalion just to go against Nusi — a relative nobody in national politics.

Gosh, to have triggered such a massive counterattack, Sanusi Md Nor must have been quite the bloke.