CAMERON POLLS | The Cameron Highlands by-election campaign kicks off today, which will see Pakatan Harapan attempting to create history by wresting the seat from BN for the first time.
BN has decided to break from tradition by not fielding a candidate from MIC in the contest, but instead Ramli Mohd Nor, who is not a member of any BN coalition party.
Ramli, a local boy and former top cop, is currently the hot favourite to win the contest, because he is expected to appeal to the Malay and Orang Asli, who collectively make up slightly over half the electorate.
Harapan will be fielding M Manogaran, a lawyer who is making his third attempt at winning the Cameron Highlands seat.
BN had won the Cameron Highlands seat by a sliver in 2013 and 2018, making this by-election one that will likely go down the wire as well.
Polling is on Jan 26 after a 14-day campaign.
LIVE reports of the nomination process follow:
11.25am - This concludes our live coverage of the nomination process for the Cameron Highlands by-election. Follow our live blog for today's by-election campaign coverage.
Acting Umno president touts first Orang Asli MP
11.20am: Outside SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah - Acting Umno president Mohamad Hasan says if BN wins the by-election, the Dewan Rakyat will see its first ever Orang Asli MP.
"This is the first time someone from the Orang Asli community is being entrusted to contest and god-willing, if we win, it will be the first Orang Asli MP.
"This is important to allow the Orang Asli community to raise their concerns in the Parliament," he says.
Meanwhile, BN's candidate Ramli Mohd Nor appears media shy and slips into the BN crowd.
War of words between Harapan and BN
11.05am: Outside SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah - Pakatan Harapan and BN supporters exchange insults as leave the nomination centre.
BN supporters shout "barua" (lackey), "penipu" (liars) and "anjing" (dogs) at Harapan supporters.
Harapan supporters shoot back, shouting "rasuah" (corruption) and "Rosmah" in reference to the wife of former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak.
The war of words goes on for around 20 minutes before police instruct them to disperse.
Independents explain why they're joining the fray
11.05am - SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah - Independent candidate (hoe logo) Wong Seng Yee, clad in a farmer's outfit, says he is contesting to advocate sustainable development in Cameron Highlands.
"This is a small election, I see myself voicing out for the environment, farming community, tourism and last but not least, the Orang Asli community," he says.
Meanwhile, another independent candidate (book logo) Sallehudin Ab Talib, who hails from Felda Sungai Koyan 1, says he hopes to highlight Felda issues.
"I also want to defend the people, particularly the army veterans, the Malay traditional villages and the socio-economic development of the Orang Asli community," he says.
Manogaran distances self from Orang Asli 'threat'
11.00am: SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah - Pakatan Harapan's candidate M Manogaran distances himself from PKR senator Bob Manolan Mohd's alleged threat against the Orang Asli community.
"I will distance myself from that comment, and I think he has made some clarifications," he says when asked by journalists immediately after the completion of the nomination process.
Yesterday, Bob Manolan told Orang Asli village chiefs in Cameron Highlands that they could lose their jobs if they did not support Pakatan Harapan.
Manogaran says he hopes to see a clean campaign in the by-election.
"I hope the campaign in these two weeks will be done in a smooth and clean manner," he says.
He noted that the by-election was being held due to evidence of corruption in the previous election in Cameron Highlands.
Book and Hoe to join Harapan and BN logos
10.50am: SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah - The Election Commission officially announces the four candidates.
Apart from M Manogaran representing Harapan and Ramli Mohd Nor representing BN, independent candidate Wong Seng Yee will be contesting under a hoe logo while another independent candidate Sallehudin Ab Talib will contest under a book logo.
Sallehudin drew number one while Wong is number two. Ramli is number three and Manogaran is number four.
Not all convinced by BN's Orang Asli choice
10.30am: Outside SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah - Not everyone appears convinced by BN's choice to field an Orang Asli candidate.
Harapan supporter Jali Chayong, 47, who hails from the Orang Asli village of Kampung Lanchang, claims the move was merely tactical.
"We will not support them. They did not file an Orang Asli candidate for 60 years (when BN was in power), but now want to offer some voice to the Orang Asli community in Parliament.
'No way, no way," he says.
Meanwhile, another Harapan supporter Mat Demat says he had to trek for two hours to Pos Betau before taking a bus to the nomination centre. He adds that six other relatives did the same.
"It takes two hours to get to Pos Betau from our village, it is not accessible by car, only by foot or motorcycle.
"We didn't sleep for the night, we're willing because we want Harapan to win," he says.
Four-cornered fight in Camerons
10.10am: SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah - The Cameron Highlands by-election will see a four-cornered fight, with no disqualifications after all four candidates filed their nomination papers.
The candidates are now drawing lots for their numbers.
The two heavyweights are Harapan's M Manogaran and BN's Ramli Mohd Nor.
Two independent candidates will also try their luck, namely Sallehudin Ab Talib and Wong Seng Yee, with the latter arriving at the nomination in a pair of yellow boots.
Disputed MyPPP president M Kayveas did not file his nomination papers after declaring support for Harapan.
Kayveas turns up, backs Harapan
9.40am: Outside SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah - Disputed MyPPP president M Kayveas, who had indicated his intent to contest, arrives.
However, he does not enter the nomination centre. Instead, he meets acting Umno president Mohamad Hasan, also known as Mat Hasan, and they hug.
He later reveals that he will not be contesting in the by-election.
In a surprise announcement, Kayveas says he will be backing the Harapan candidate.
"I hereby announce that I will not be running in this by-election. I will openly and aggressively support the Harapan candidate.
"Harapan is what Cameron Highlands needs to see a change it has needed for years.
"Hope is what will defeat the domineering ways of the previous administration," he says.
Four candidates registered
9:30am: SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah - As of now, four aspiring candidates have registered with the Election Commission.
They are Pakatan Harapan’s M Manogaran, BN’s Ramli Mohd Nor and two independent candidates namely Sallehudin Ab Talib and Wong Seng Yee.
Disputed MyPPP president M Kayveas, who previously announced his candidacy as an independent candidate, has not been seen all morning.
Nomination closes at 10am.
Also present in the nomination hall is EC chairperson Azhar Azizan Harun.
Orang Asli reinforcement for Harapan
9.30am: Outside SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah - Around 30 Orang Asli are among the Pakatan Harapan crowd as they waved the coalition's red flags.
Harapan supporter Mat Demat says they came from Kampung Ulu Tenian in Pos Betau.
"We came on a bus prepared by Harapan, we departed at around 6.30am," he tells Malaysiakini.
Meanwhile, Jantan Lagan said another 40 Orang Asli from Dusun Pak Senam in Sungai Koyan are at the rally.
"We're all Harapan supporters, we want to show support to Harapan's candidate," he says.
A delegation of 50 supporters from Kelantan DAP are also present, led by its chief Chua Chin Hui.
He says the group comprises Malays, Chinese, Indian, Thai and Orang Asli.
"We arrived yesterday and we'll be helping with the campaign in Sungai Koyan 1 as we are a multiracial group," he says.
Also spotted in the crowd is Bersatu supreme council member A Kadir Jasin.
The BN crowd, meanwhile, chant "Hidup BN, Hancur Harapan! (Long live BN, crush Harapan)" and "Harapan U-turn!"
BN supporter Najjauna Nzuwi (second from right in photo), 34, says she travelled from Temerloh at 4am to turn up at the nomination centre.
"There rarely is a by-election here so I wanted to experience the atmosphere even though I had to wake up at 3am.
"The BN candidate has a good chance of winning as he is a local compared to the outsiders," she says.
Harapan and BN leaders greet
9.20am - Outside SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah - Acting Umno president Mohamad Hasan approaches the Harapan tent along with the other BN leaders.
He greets the Pakatan Harapan leaders sat in a row including DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, DAP deputy chairperson Gobind Singh Deo, PKR deputy chairperson Mohamed Azmin Ali and Bersatu secretary-general Marzuki Yahya, among others.
The other BN leaders, such as Umno vice-president Mahdzir Khalid, Pahang Menteri Besar Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail, MIC’s M Saravanan and Umno Wanita chief Noraini Ahmad, also greet the Harapan leaders warmly.
They exchange pleasantries and take pictures and selfies together, along with PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan.
Noraini also takes a selfie with PKR vice president Tian Chua, Bersatu secretary-general Marzuki Yahya and other Harapan leaders.
PAS veep shows up for BN
9.15am: Outside SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah - PAS vice-president Iskandar Samad is spotted in the BN crowd of around 300 people as they accompany the BN candidate to the nomination centre.
Near the nomination centre, Ramli then proceeds to the school to submit his registration to become a candidate.
At the same time, Harapan supporters also arrive at the nomination.
Later, PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan is also spotted in the BN crowd.
Local MIC chief: We're happy to give Orang Asli a chance
9.05am: Tanah Rata basketball court - Cameron Highlands MIC chief Ravee Nallian says his members are happy to “give a chance” to Orang Asli former top cop Ramli Mohd Nor to contest in the traditional MIC seat.
“The Orang Asli have supported BN for the last 60 years so we want to give them a chance to contest,” he tells Malaysiakini, adding that he was confident that the coalition will retain the seat.
Similarly, MIC Jelebu information chief P Appalanaidu says the party had no problem “loaning” the seat to a non-MIC candidate.
“I am confident it will be returned to MIC during the next general election,” he says.
The crowd of BN supporters grows to about 250 people.
BN candidate Ramli arrives
8.50am: Tanah Rata basketball court - BN's candidate Ramli Moh Nor, a former senior police officer, arrives as the crowd cheers.
Clad in a blue baju melayu and a songkok, Ramli greets supporters as they cheered on him.
Later, he joins acting Umno president Mohamad Hasan and Pahang menteri besar Wan Rosy Wan Ismail in prayer.
Harapan begins march to nomination centre
8.45am: Tanah Rata - The Pakatan Harapan crowd grows to over 300 people.
Bersatu secretary-general Marzuki Yahya joins the crowd shortly before they begin the 1km march to the nomination centre at SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah.
Traffic is building up on the main road and the Harapan supporters decide to march to the school through the inner road, past the field where the BN supporters are gathered.
The two groups are separated by a field and a monsoon drain, around 300m apart.
They chant “Pakatan! Harapan!” and “Lawan tetap lawan (the fight goes on)" as they march to the school.
Meanwhile, the BN crowd also grows to more than 200 people as Umno Wanita chief Noraini Ahmad and vice-president Mahdzir Khalid join them.
Many supporters are carrying blue BN-themed umbrellas and fans distributed by BN Cameron Highlands volunteers.
The BN supporters appear to be in no hurry as their gathering site is immediately next door to the nomination centre.
8.30am: Tanah Rata bus terminal - Pakatan Harapan's candidate M Manogaran arrives at the rally site.
More Pakatan Harapan leaders and supporters also arrive as their number grows to around 150 people.
Other leaders who are also present include PKR deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu and DAP national vice-chairperson M Kulasegaran.
Meanwhile, a number BN supporters are seen walking across the road from the Harapan gathering to get to their meeting point.
The two groups do not acknowledge each other apart from the wary looks and occasional pictures.
MIC and MCA turn out in force despite strained BN ties
8:15am: Tanah Rata basketball court - MIC members turn out in force despite having to make way to a non-party member in this by-election.
Walking with them is Umno Pontian MP Ahmad Maslan.
The spirited group of MIC members shout “Hidup MIC! Hidup BN! (Long live MIC! Long live BN)."
Cameron Highlands is traditionally a MIC seat but it made way for direct BN candidate Ramli Mohd Nor to contest in the by-election.
Earlier, MCA members were seen distributing button badges with the words “sehati sejiwa” (one heart, one soul) bearing the logos of Umno, MCA and MIC.
MCA ties within BN had been strained after the party called for the coalition's dissolution after its defeat in the 14th general election.
However, the party appear to be mobilising all its resources in support of BN for this by-election.
Also present are Umno supreme member Lokman Adam and Umno acting deputy president Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Harapan gathers at bus terminal
8.00am: Tanah Rata bus terminal - Some 20 Pakatan Harapan supporters gather at a parking lot here.
The location is around 1km away from the nomination centre at SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah.
Many more supporters are spotted having breakfast at a nasi kandar restaurant across the street. Among them are DAP's senator Liew Chin Tong and PKR's Seberang Jaya assemblyperson.
Meanwhile, around 30 more Harapan supporters gather behind the bus terminal, where several leaders are also present, including DAP deputy chairperson Gobind Singh, DAP Pahang chief Leong Ngah Ngah and Amanah secretary-general Anuar Tahir.
Breakfast for BN
7.45am: Tanah Rata basketball court - About 50 BN supporters gather under two white tents at the basketball adjacent to SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah, where the nomination process will take place.
The supporters are helping themselves to a breakfast buffet prepared by Cameron Highlands BN.
BN's candidate Ramli Mohd Nor has yet to turn up.
There is considerable police presence including two light strike force trucks.