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Saturday, 15 October 2011

Malay Politics Playing a Different Tune!

Siti NurhalizaCover of Siti Nurhaliza

Politics playing a different tune


Malay politics is very personality-driven but it is also becoming celebrity-driven and the trend has caught on as both Umno and PAS vie to attract glamorous names to their side.

SOME people imagine that election fever is about to descend on us but for political parties hoping to cover new ground, it has been a case of celebrity fever.

Umno Youth’s latest celebrity connection is via pony-tailed Malay rocker Awie.

Awie and several other entertainment personalities have come onboard Umno Youth chief Khairy
Jamaluddin’s latest brainchild – a sort of Justin Bieber-inspired music talent show where aspiring artistes upload their performances on the Internet.

The established artistes will then pick through the videos and the finalists will vie for the top spot at a finale at the Umno PWTC headquarters.

Khairy described it as a new approach to source for talents in music.

But who is he kidding? It is Umno Youth’s latest attempt to get the attention of the young and it is a pretty cool idea. And if all goes well, Khairy should get the prize for most original idea by a political party to get Generation Y’s attention.

Umno Youth’s effort is a value-added response to Bob Lokman joining PAS in February.

Bob does not have the rocker appeal of Awie but he was famous in the Malay entertainment scene and his grandfather was the revered Tok Kenali of Kelantan.

He acted in a variety of movies including as an ustaz. He had a popular series called Taxi Tunai and his last major showbiz appearance was as a jury in the reality show Raja Lawak. He is also the composer of mega-hit Isabella, made famous by Search.

But Bob, now 47, has walked away from all that and is making waves as a crowd-puller at PAS ceramah. He has helped to modernise the party’s image among the Malay middle ground.

His physical appearance has become more PAS than even the long-time PAS members. He is rarely seen without his white kopiah and now sports a bushy and wiry black beard.

Bob, whose real name is Mohd Hakim Lokman, has been used as the “opening act” at PAS ceramah all over the country. There is no denying his impact.

He is said to have gone through some family crisis and his talks often start with an account of how religion gave him a new lease in life, and how PAS has met his spiritual needs.

PAS considers him such a big catch that he is featured alongside Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat on banners.
PAS has come a long way since the day s when it frowned upon music at its functions.

Earlier this week, Bob was hauled up by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) for giving a religious talk in a mosque in Hulu Langat without tauliah (accreditation).

Jais does not care whether the speaker is a famous mufti or a celebrity; it is very strict about people from outside the state preaching without tauliah.

Umno Youth’s celebrity hook-up is somewhat different. It is borrowing on the fame of Awie while drawing in the younger cohorts through music and entertainment and via a channel that has become such an integral part of young lives – the Internet.

“It’s a way to attract young and first time voters.

“Young Malays have different aspirations; they are not keen on politics or serious issues, let alone ideology. Music and showcasing people like Awie will help us tap into this group,” says Pasir Salak politician Dr Faizal Tajuddin.

Many celebrities are actually quite wary of being associated with any particular political party. The Malay consumer market is not as extensive as, say, Indonesia; and if the supporters of one party reject you, it could take a huge chunk out of one’s marketability.

However, says Dr Faizal, some of entertainment’s biggest names have no qualms about being associated with Umno.

Film maker Tan Sri Jins Shamsud­din is a Barisan Nasional senator, crooner Jamal Abdillah signed on with Umno recently and songbird Datuk Siti Nurhaliza has performed at Umno gatherings.

Bob is not the first rocker to associate with PAS. Before him, there was the long-haired rocker Akhil Hayy, whom PAS people called the “ustaz rocker”.

But his appearances at PAS events dwindled off after he divorced his first wife to marry another celebrity, Wahida.

Malay politics, already personality-driven, is also becoming celebrity-driven.

Observers of subcontinental In­­dian politics say it is hardly new. Some of India’s most successful politicians were movie stars, such as the late MGR and former leading lady Jayalalita, who is currently the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

The White House had Ronald Reagan and California had the Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger. And who can forget former Philip­pines president Joseph “Erap” Estrada, whose politics was more colourful than his acting career.

The day when a Malaysian artiste makes it big in politics may not be too far away, and as one cynical journalist put it: “After they become politicians, they can continue to entertain us with their antics.”

Can politicians also make the transition into acting? Why not? So many of them are already such good actors.
But the reality is that most politicians are actually quite staid and serious.

Otherwise political parties would not be trying to attract artistes and entertainers to add glamour and glitz to their agenda.