KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 — When he was declaring his commitments for the betterment of Gombak should he win the parliamentary seat in the 15th general election (GE15), Pakatan Harapan (PH) hopeful Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari described Ulu Klang as his rival Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali’s stronghold.
“In theory, Azmin’s stronghold is Ulu Klang,” he told reporters last Thursday afternoon at a press conference after revealing his manifesto for Gombak.
However, Gombak voters based in the area seem to be divided in their perception of Azmin and how much the 'Sheraton Move' in February 2020 weighs in their GE15 vote.
Azmin had played a significant role in the political manoeuvre, as he led his faction of lawmakers and supporters — dubbed the “Cartel” — out of PKR to throw their support behind Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), which abandoned PH to partner with the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and seize control of the federal government.
For some Gombak voters, this reeked of betrayal.
Making a mockery of the people’s mandate
First-time voter Adelle Adrian was studying abroad when the 'Sheraton Move' happened, which heightened the fear she felt over the situation, and it is something that she feels has coloured her decision in who she will be voting for.
“All I had to go on was Twitter updates and some news portals to figure out what was going on and why there was suddenly a shift in power to a government we as Malaysians didn’t vote for,” the 24-year-old graphic designer said, describing the matter as “terrifying”.
“I don’t blame Azmin solely for the 'Sheraton Move', but I do distrust everyone who was involved in it, so when it boils down to my vote, it does play a big part in my decision.”
Lim Hsin I, a 32-year-old waitress in a family-owned restaurant, took it more personally as someone who had voted for Azmin during the last election.
“I have no respect for him,” she said, adding that the unexpected Sheraton Move had shocked and enraged her when she found out about it.
For her, it is a deciding factor in her GE15 vote.
“We should learn from the past and this taught me not to trust these people.
“The move was a loophole that undermined our democratic vote and supplanted our choice of government for the benefit of a power-grabbing, corrupt few,” she said.
Harris Sivapatham, a 65-year-old civil contractor, agrees with Lim regarding the violation of the people’s mandate.
“Basically, those that participated in the 'Sheraton Move' stabbed the people in the back,” he said.
He also called Azmin “selfishly ambitious”, before adding, “Azmin should be finished once and for all in GE15”.
A retired teacher, KJMK (who prefers not to reveal her real name), said that she had high hopes for Azmin, but lost all confidence in him after the 'Sheraton Move'.
“It has certainly opened my eyes to all the trickery of conniving politicians whose personal agenda is more important than the welfare of Malaysians,” the 69-year-old said of the political coup.
Just another day in Malaysian politics
But for others, what Azmin did was nothing more than the usual political chaos in a country that, to them, has spawned bigger scandals.
“For me, it’s just a political move. It’s just politics.
“These things happen,” said Shahril Adnan.
Ultimately, the 43-year-old believes that the Sheraton Move is the sort of thing one expects of Malaysian politicians.
As for PN, there was little he could say about the coalition though he thinks that it needs more engagement with non-Bumiputera.
Ranita Abdul Rahab expressed similar sentiments: “The 'Sheraton Move' is just Malaysian politics.”
As a recent observer of the local political landscape, she said she has no idea what PN is like though she believes that all parties must have their own internal problems.
Azmin seems like an OK person to her outside of that, but she stressed that what she really wants is a representative who helps the people.
“I have not seen what he (Azmin) has done so far to help,” the retired 65-year-old said.
Harris, on the other hand, felt that the 'Sheraton Move' was something more out of BN’s playbook, saying that it felt more like “typical BN politics” and came from a “greed for power”.
True son of Gombak
Shahril Anuar disagreed with the opinion that Azmin had done little to help the residents of Gombak as he felt that Azmin had so far looked after Taman Melawati and the road works in the area.
To the 41-year-old, the 'Sheraton Move' is a big deal but Azmin’s status as a true son of Gombak is a factor in his favour.
“It was not good. They are representatives of the people.
“They should not do things like that,” the engineer said of the Sheraton Move and those involved in carrying it out, adding that he hopes it will never happen again.
“But he’s from Gombak. His mother is also from the area,” he said, expressing his dislike for “parachute candidates”.
To him, Azmin is someone who has ties to the area and has reasons to look after it.
After all, the incumbent Gombak MP has held the seat for three terms thus far.
Shahril Aznan, despite his apathy towards the 'Sheraton Move', did feel that Azmin had done good for Gombak under PKR.
But to him, at the end of the day: “Azmin is a politician.”