Putrajaya Voters Unfazed By Noraishah’s Wheelchair

“I want change,” says a 22-year-old male PH supporter in Putrajaya. “For me, a leader is a person who does their work. The important thing is their thoughts and mind.”

PUTRAJAYA, Nov 8 – Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) Putrajaya candidate Noraishah Mydin Abdul-Aziz appears to have no trouble campaigning like her able-bodied counterparts in what is touted as the mother of all elections.

Last Saturday afternoon, Noraishah Mydin went on a walkabout – or rollabout, rather – at the Alamanda Shopping Centre in the federal constituency located in Malaysia’s administrative district, eager to meet voters, to get to know them, and to discover their concerns.

Cruising about effortlessly in her electric wheelchair on the ground floor of the shopping centre, Noraishah Mydin, accompanied by her team and supporters, was armed with an arsenal of campaign flyers and a bright smile, speaking to anyone and everyone she could. 

“Hi! I’m Noraishah, the candidate representing Pakatan Harapan. What is your precinct?” was amongst one of the many phrases she used when approaching shoppers.

It was a phrase that easily allowed her to identify her voters amongst the multitude of people enjoying their day. 

Amongst the people she approached was 22-year-old Muhammad Arif Norinzan, a PH supporter who was working at an electronics store. 

Seconds into the conversation, Noraishah Mydin asked him for his mobile number, with the promise that she would get in touch with him. 

“For me, I know the leader here and what the situation is like here, and, for me, I want change. Maybe something is not good in here,” Muhammad Arif told CodeBlue in an interview. 

“I want to see what improvements a new person can bring to this place from the point of creativity or development. Things like that. So, for me, I already know what the previous person was like. Who knows! Maybe we can try someone new.”

Putrajaya has been held by Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor for Barisan Nasional (BN) for four terms since the constituency was created in 2004. The Umno politician is seeking a fifth term in the race against Noraishah Mydin and Perikatan Nasional’s Mohd Radzi Jidin, former education minister, among other contenders.

When asked whether he thought Noraishah Mydin’s disability would impair her ability to serve, Muhammad Arif was quick to refute this.

“I don’t think that is a problem. For me, a leader is a person who does their work, has creativity…Things like that. The important thing is their thoughts and mind.”

Muhammad Arif told CodeBlue later that evening that someone from Noraishah Mydin’s campaign had indeed followed through and contacted him. 

Rolling along, Noraishah Mydin made it a point to interact with people in wheelchairs — all of whom were elderly. Though they appeared completely uninterested in the interaction at first, some of them gradually warmed up to Noraishah Mydin, and she, in turn, was quick to scribble her number down on a flyer and give it to them. 

Though all her fliers contained a QR code which linked constituents to her Linktree page, on which one can find various ways to contact her and her team, Noraishah Mydin freely handed out her personal number to many voters, proving “I personally contact everyone” was not just a line to captivate voters.

Pakatan Harapan’s Putrajaya candidate Noraishah Mydin Abdul-Aziz greets a blind woman in Alamanda Shopping Centre in Putrajaya during a walkabout on November 5, 2022. Picture by Sharayu Pillai.

However, the bright red vest, the PH logo, the presence of a wheelchair, and the handing out of flyers caused some shoppers to rush past her with a quickly raised hand and shifty eyes. It was a familiar tactic, most often seen with charity organisations hoping to procure a donation, and translated into “I’m not interested”.  

Though many people affably entertained Noraishah Mydin, a researcher who was born with spina bifida, her posse of supporters, who were also decked in the same bright red PH vests, could have created a negative impression of her among some voters. 

With their hard sell tactics and “Vote Pakatan! Vote Pakatan, okay!” when handing out every flyer, some people were visibly turned off. There was even a moment where, before Noraishah Mydin could interact with a man, who was feeding his daughter a cup of ice cream, one of the women who had been interacting with the man steered her away with a shake of her head. The man, on the other hand, looked rather put out and refused to make eye contact with anyone from the group. 

The event, however, ended on a positive note when Noraishah Mydin caught the warm familiar scent of freshly baked bread and golden butter — Rotiboy. Shafiq, one of her assistants, directed the group into Aeon supermarket that had a travellator. 

Within minutes, they were on the lower ground floor and running into Ivy Lojipan, a 56-year-old who was out shopping with her two daughters. Although Lojipan hopes to cast her vote in Sabah, she lives in Precinct 11. 

“If there is anything you want to reach out to me, please do. Don’t be shy. I’m not,” said Noraishah Mydin, as she scribbled her number down once more on a flyer and handed it to Lojipan. 

Menang, kalah (win, lose) does not matter. You’re my friend,” Noraishah Mydin said with a grin. 

Her words, though appearing careless, carried a peculiar weight to them. Not once had she uttered those words to any other of her constituents during the entire day CodeBlue shadowed her, but, in that brief brush in narrow white aisles piled with everyday items, there appeared to be a bonding of kindred spirits. 

In an interview with CodeBlue, Lojipan, a single mother, was unsure whether she would be able to vote in the 15th general election, as air tickets are pricey.

But when asked about her political leaning, she said: “I put it like this, I always go for the best fighter. I think it tells you enough.”

“I was amazed when I first saw her on TikTok and Facebook as well,” said Lojipan, when asked about her impression of Noraishah Mydin. “You see people with a disability, you know, dare to stand, and it is commendable.”

When asked whether she thought Noraishah Mydin’s disability would hamper her chances in the election, Lojipan said: “Oh, no. People shouldn’t judge her that way because people with disabilities – they are special people. And I follow closely with what [Senator] Ras Adiba Radzi is doing.”

Ras Adiba, a former veteran newscaster and national paralympic athlete, was the third person appointed to represent people with disabilities at the Senate. 

“Here in Putrajaya, most of the Sabahans are doing volunteer [work],” Lojipan said. “We have Sabahan volunteers in Putrajaya. During Covid-19, we did our part in distributing food, and we collaborated with the Food Aid Foundation. So, you know, I would be happy if I get to know her more.” 

Later that day, during an exclusive interview with CodeBlue, Noraishah Mydin pulled out a stack of flyers and scribbled her number down on them as she answered questions. 

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