May 27, 2014
COMMENT She is no mummy’s girl.
But, as the daughter of Yammy Samat, an Umno loyalist, Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud who is contesting a by-election in the northern state of Malaysia is a roaring tiger.
Although soft-spoken, Dyana is the kind of ‘no holds barred’ young woman who would challenge Umno, which has been the backbone of the ruling party since 1951.
As a Malay candidate for the predominantly Chinese DAP, where 41.9 percent of its voters are Chinese, Dyana has a tough battle ahead to woo voters in Teluk Intan, dominated by three major ethnic communities – with a total of 25,310 Chinese, 23,301 Malays and 11,468 Indian voters.
Traditionally, a seat held by Gerakan, from the ruling BN, her DAP predecessor, Seah Leong Peng, was able to win the seat in last year’s general election with a majority of 7,000. Seah’s unexpected departure on May 1 due to cancer left the seat vacant.
Dyana is up against the 53-year-old Mah Siew Keong, who is both Gerakan party president and a two-term MP for the constituency, before losing to DAP’s M Manogaran in 2008.
Mah was a former deputy minister, while Dyana has only entered into politics when she was first introduced by DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang at the DAP national conference in January 2012.
But her entry into politics has already riled, among others, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had chided Yammy for her failure as a mother to inculcate in her girl about the numerous contributions Umno has made to the Malay race.
Yammy’s statement showed that she, too, was a woman of fibre. “I tried to raise her like Mukhriz, but she turned out to be another Marina,” she was quoted as saying, referring to the two grown-up children.
In a country largely populated by Muslims, she was also not spared a variety of allegations, including posing nude. Sex scandals are often used to bring down an opponent. In the run-up to the by-election, doctored pictures of her in a pink bikini were posted on Umno-linked blogs.
It was meant to discredit the 27-year-old lawyer and political secretary to Kit Siang, but netizens and online media friendly to the opposition immediately identified the body as belonging to a Filipina actress. This, however, has worked to Dyana’s advantage.
According to Malaysiakini, since her candidacy for the by-election was announced, Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud has been a key word for Internet searches, with more than 4.3 million results on Google.
”The number of fans on her Facebook page, which was set up less than three days ago, has skyrocketed to over 30,000,” the online portal reported.
Now, Dyana’s name is spoken of not only within her party, but talked about by her opponents. Even Umno strongman and former editor-in-chief of the New Straits Times Press group, A Kadir Jasin, wrote in his blog: “When I woke up this morning, I saw five messages from a former Umno divisional secretary on my cellular telephone. One read: ‘Dyana is said to be the latest state of the art Samsung 5S (sic) while Mah is Nokia. Sigh!’”
‘Traitor to her race and sex’
Umno is largely infuriated by Dyana’s entry into politics as a candidate of the DAP, because they believe she is a traitor to her race and sex.
Despite the seat being a Chinese majority, Dyana is slated to win the by-election against Mah, but whether she will be able to garner 25 percent of the Malay voters, as her predecessor, Seah, did, will send a strong message to Umno. Broadly, the Chinese and Indian sentiments have been with the Pakatan Rakyat since 2008.
When Umno Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil (right) called her a traitor of the Malay race, Dyana’s rebuttal was quick, saying that she will certainly not be a traitor of all Malaysians. “I will not be a traitor of the country, Malaysia!” she roared during a political speech.
She was also quick to rebut the offer by Communication and Multimedia Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek, who tried to woo young voters with better Internet connections if the ruling party won the seat.
“It doesn’t matter who wins this coming by-election, it is still the responsibility of the ministry to improve broadband speed in the area,” Dyana told an online portal. “Not necessarily just for Teluk Intan, but the entire country.”
The Internet connection in the township has remained sluggish, despite the country’s push for a knowledge-based economy since 1996. Currently, the broadband speed in Malaysia is 5.48 megabytes per second (MBps), but in Cambodia, it is already 5.9 MBps while in Vietnam it is 14.2 MBps.
Another Umno minister, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, had labelled all those who vote for a pretty face as ‘stupid’ but to Dyana, what matters most is her ability to carry the people’s voice to Parliament, not just a pretty face.
Social activist Marina Mahathir is probably among those who have given a more flaterring description of Dyana.
Calling her ‘a smart girl who can think’, the daughter of Mahathir gave Dyana Sofya the thumbs up. “She can articulate. She can write,” Marina wrote in a Facebook posting recently. “That’s three up over most politicians already.”
Her opponent, Mah (right in photo) had conceded that he, too, did not mind Dyana’s popularity. A pragmatic Mah agreed that extravagant events used by his coalition in the past to woo voters no longer work, with the current sentiments to change the ruling party.
The 57-year-old regime that Mah represents is increasingly alienating itself from the rest of the country’s population, with Umno’s hardline position already turning voters against the ruling coalition in the past two general elections.
Although she is prepared to accept the people’s decision, on one hand, Dyana Sofya’s win against Mah will undoubtedly send jitters to Umno, post-2008, that their strategy of ‘divide and rule’ no longer works, as voters are now less likely to vote along ethnicity. On the other hand, she is the epitome of a younger generation of Malaysians, whose sentiments are turned against the ruling party led by Umno.
Putting Teluk Intan on the map
And for the voters, Teluk Intan may yet again boast that it not only has the famed Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan (named after the Tower of Pisa) but this third largest town in the state of Perak has one of the youngest Malay ladies as its parliamentarian.
Her name bring memories of the late Lady Diana Spencer. “My father named me after the late princess,” Dyana chuckled as she revealed this to Asia Sentinel. “The sudden focus on me has been overwhelming in some ways, but I think it is a great opportunity to highlight the beautiful town of Teluk Intan, and given the chance I would use this to further the cause of the good people of Teluk Intan.”
As to her style, should she win the election and become a parliamentarian, she said: “My approach has always been to speak my mind and uphold the principles I share with the party. I think people of all communities can accept me for who I am and I don’t see myself being alienated by anyone.”
It is the voters in Teluk Intan to decide this coming May 31 election, whether this young and inexperienced, but witty and smart ‘David’ will beat the strong and mighty ‘Goliath’ and his entire Philistine army in the battle of generations and ideologies.