PUTRAJAYA, Oct 31 — Senior lecturer Noraishah Mydin Abdul Aziz knew the challenges she would face when the Pakatan Harapan (PH) leadership decided she would contest the 15th general election (GE15) in Putrajaya — a stronghold for Barisan Nasional and Umno’s Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor.
Wheelchair-bound, Noraishah, who suffers from spina bifida, made it clear to her supporters in the federal administrative capital yesterday that she is tougher than she looks, and has no qualms about going wherever needed in order to meet voters.
“Although I’m in a wheelchair, I’m quite hardy,” she told some 50 volunteers in her first meet-up in a restaurant in Precinct 11 here.
“I’m willing to go anywhere to visit any constituents no matter the conditions of their homes. Even if I have to climb the stairs, it doesn’t mean I can’t do it by scooting on my bottom. If there are those who can carry me around, I am willing.”
Noraishah Mydin Abdul Aziz, who suffers from spina bifida, made it clear to her supporters in the federal administrative capital yesterday that she is tougher than she looks. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
It was ironic, however, that an early obstacle turned out to be Putrajaya PH’s headquarters for GE15 campaigning, situated on the first floor of the building, above the restaurant.
To reach it, there are only stairs. There are no lifts to ensure that the headquarters would be easily accessible by Noraishah on her own.
Talking to several members of the grassroots before the event, they seemed bewildered on how to ensure their campaigning would be inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities (PWD, or OKU in Malay) such as their own candidate — perhaps a reflection of how PH, and its component PKR, were not prepared to field someone from the community.
Eleventh hour candidate
She told the media that she had submitted her candidacy application last month when deputy president Rafizi Ramli called for public submissions, saying she was frustrated by the lack of opportunities in research by the current government and the Ministry of Higher Education.
“I had never imagined to be a member of parliament, I just wanted to help the nation ... Maybe there’s a reason why Rafizi wanted me to contest here,” Noraishah told the Putrajaya volunteers.
Prior to PKR’s announcement, it was widely expected that Parti Amanah Negara would be contesting Putrajaya instead — with the party holding a fundraising dinner for its “road to Putrajaya” earlier this month.
A few days prior to that dinner, several Amanah division and wing chiefs released a statement decrying the seat negotiation process for the Federal Territory (FT) seats, saying PH was reneging on a previous agreement to allow Amanah to contest three seats — Putrajaya, Titiwangsa and Bandar Tun Razak.
According to them, a previous agreement within FT PH in March 2021 proposed that PKR would contest four seats and DAP five, in return.
In the end, only Titiwangsa will be contested by Amanah, who named former Shah Alam MP Khalid Abdul Samad. Bandar Tun Razak will be contested by former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
“It’s the tradition in politics. Of course each party will push for its own candidates... After a thorough process of vetting and seeing other factors, we’ve identified the candidate.
“We accept the decision of the top leadership. What’s important we work as a team. Here in Putrajaya, Amanah and PKR we’ve worked together for a long time,” Putrajaya Amanah deputy chief Zaharuddin Saidon told reporters.
Another election, another outsider
PKR has had its foothold in Putrajaya since at least 2003, when the constituency was first formed. Its candidate Abdul Rahman Othman was the first opponent of Tengku Adnan who has been incumbent since.
In following years, PKR has seen a number of candidates brought in from elsewhere to wrest the seat away from Tengku Adnan, such as Datuk Husam Musa from Kelantan (formerly with PAS, now with PKR) in 2013, and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s academic Samsu Adabi Mamat in 2018.
Another general election with an external candidate has caused frustration with Putrajaya PKR Women’s wing chief Rohani Hussin, who expressed her feelings with the volunteers.
Noraishah Mydin Abdul Aziz takes a group photo with volunteers in Putrajaya, October 30, 2022. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
“It’s not wrong for Dr to help our struggle,“ she said to Noraishah and drew a comparison to former broadcast journalist Ras Adiba Radzi, who was appointed a senator under the Perikatan Nasional administration to represent the PWD community.
“I am actually despondent, I’ve been trying to console myself. If this is the candidate chosen by the top leadership, then we are ready,“ she said, expressing her concern over the added responsibility to present the image of a PWD candidate to Putrajaya voters.
“We are actually disappointed. Confess, we’re all disappointed, no?” the veteran campaigner asked the grassroots, using the metaphor of someone new entering to live in a house that has previously been built by others.
In a response to the media later, Noraishah scoffed at the comparison to Ras Adiba.
“God has given me an opportunity to become an MP, and that is important. I don’t want to be someone who enters lawmaking through the backdoor. I don’t want a senatorship.
“That will not empower people like me or other PWDs. We have to go back to our laws and legislation. We have to correct the policy based on scientific facts,” she said.
Long road ahead
A few hours after the meeting with volunteers, Noraishah embarked on a walkabout in the Precinct 9 food court, her first face-to-face meeting with Putrajaya voters.
She was driven to the venue by grassroots members who helped her get off the vehicle to her motorised wheelchair, and at least three women accompanied her at all times or to push the wheelchair. Rohani was one of them.
The spaces between the tables in the food court were fairly wide and she had little difficulty moving around to chat with locals, several of whom were surprised by a woman in a wheelchair running for office to represent them.
Noraishah Mydin Abdul Aziz talks to residents during a walkabout at the Presint 9 food court, October 30, 2022. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Compared to other constituents, Putrajaya may have more wheelchair or PWD-friendly facilities, but Noraishah found that it is still a long way for a candidate like her.
“Well, it’s not like there are no wheelchair ramps there. But you know how Malaysians are, they would park their cars right in front of the ramp,” she told Malay Mail later.
“There are parking lots for PWDs, but they are at the back, a bit further. It’s okay, now I know where they are I will look for them next time.”
Nomination day will be on November 5 with polling day two weeks later on November 19.
Noraishah will face incumbent Tengku Adnan, Perikatan Nasional’s Datuk Mohd Radzi Md Jidin, and at least one more candidate expected from Gerakan Tanah Air.
In 2018, Tengku Adnan won against Samsu Adabi in a three-cornered fight also involving PAS by a 3,372-vote majority.