PORT DICKSON, Nov 17 — Decades ago, Port Dickson was practically the default beach holiday destination for Malaysians in the central part of the peninsula, hosting countless family trips and company teambuilding getaways.
Visitors from then might remember a green, glistening ocean and night walks on the beach during the low tide.
For those such as Sivan Archuthan, however, these were now a bittersweet memory of Port Dickson’s former glory days.
“Look at us today. It’s already 3pm, and I haven’t even made one trip,” Sivan, a taxi driver, lamented when met at the taxi station in the town area here.
According to the 57-year-old, tourist traffic was already on the decline before the pandemic hit. Now, Port Dickson has turned into a ghost town.
“There is so much that could be done but nobody did anything to give this holiday destination an upgrade for many years.
“Everything is so old and rundown, if you don’t upgrade these things, who will ever want to visit Port Dickson?” he said.
He added that if incumbent MP Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had been given more time to see his proposed upgrades for the constituency materialise, there would at least be some improvements to show.
Anwar contested the seat shortly after receiving his royal pardon in 2018 and won by a landslide. But the Pakatan Harapan chairman was leaving after just one term, in a bid to seize Tambun in Perak from a rival party.
“He had big plans, but before he could even start on them, Pakatan Harapan (PH) lost the government.
“So here we are again, a quiet ghost town,” said Sivan.
At the taxi station, another driver, R. Thangavelu, gives up a passenger to Sivan, explaining that the two were friends.
“I’m just driving as part-time job to earn some pocket money but since he (Sivan) hasn’t gotten any customers, he can take this one.
“Yes, whoever forms the next government needs to help us taxi drivers. How? By improving the tourism industry here.
“Every election, we are promised of help, but in the end, we just end up sitting on empty promises,” said the 73-year-old who used to work as a technician.
P. Nagarajan, a 60-year-old businessman and Port Dickson native, said he preferred PH governing the state instead of Barisan Nasional that lost Negri Sembilan in 2018, saying the latter did nothing to improve the local folks’ livelihood.
While the state was not holding its elections simultaneously with the general election, he said he still wanted to see PH win.
“Let PH win, since BN who sat here for many years did nothing, why not let someone else try to help revive Port Dickson,” he said.
From his observations, Nagarajan said it will be a tough fight for BN’s P. Kamalanathan as the latter was not from the area or even the state.
A Barisan National flag and a banner of its candidate P. Kamalanathan are seen at Port Dickson November 8, 2022. — Picture By Raymond Manuel
“He has no place here, because if he is depending on Indian voters, there isn’t as many as Malay voters here.
“Voters here still vote according to race, and the Malay voters will pick a Malay candidate.
“The mentri besar, he is a local boy, his kampung is right here in Kampung Pachitan, Chuah. That is a big winning point for him,” Nagarajan said referring to PH’s candidate Datuk Seri Aminuddin Harun.
Aminuddin, who is the state’s MB, will be contesting for a parliamentary seat for the first time. He has defended the Sikamat state seat consecutively for three terms since 2008 — two terms under Umno/BN and one under PH in 2018.
Chuah is one of the five state constituencies under Port Dickson, the other four being Bagan Pinang, Lukut, Linggi and Sri Tanjung.
In the 2018 general election, PH won four out of the five state constituencies, losing only Linggi to BN.
Another Port Dickson native, Alice Lau, said there are several areas that are PH vote banks, such as Lukut.
“Lukut is untouchable. No matter what you promise them, they will only support PH,” the 40-year-old said.
Various party flags are seen at Port Dickson November 8, 2022. — Picture By Raymond Manuel
Some, such as R. Devan, 55, felt both PH and BN were capable of winning.
“But Port Dickson folks just want development, assistance to help with economy recovery especially post-Covid-19, what’s next?
“So many businesses have shut down. We need a government that has a plan for the future, not dig a hole here to cover up another hole there,” she said.
Apart from its beaches, Port Dickson is a haven for foodies. Locals take pride in the area’s fish head curry, seafood, banana leaf rice, asam pedas and, in the last five years, coconut shake, Lau said.
Port Dickson will see a five-cornered contest between Aminuddin, Kamalanathan, Perikatan Nasional’s Rafiei Mustapha, Gerakan Tanah Air’s Ahmad Idham Ahmad Nadzri and independent candidate Rani Kulup.
The Port Dickson parliamentary constituency observed a by-election in October 2018 where its then incumbent Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah stepped down to let Anwar contest the seat and return to Parliament.
In the 14th general election, Danyal won by 17,710 votes and Anwar extended this to 23,560 during the by-election the same year.
A general view of the ‘Welcome to Port Dickson’ sign in Port Dickson November 8, 2022. — Picture By Raymond Manuel