REMBAU, Nov 13 — Education, better job opportunities, and housing. These are the three basic needs among residents in Rembau which has a large population of low-income earners, according to Tinagaran Subramaniam.
The Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) candidate taking on four others for the 15th general election said anyone bidding to represent this suburban corner of Negri Sembilan in Parliament must have a well-thought out solution on how to elevate its bottom 40 per cent, called the B40 group.
“If we talk about education, the B40 families cannot afford to even think about sending their children to school — they don’t have the means to do so.
“So what happens? Children from these families don’t go to school, and they are exposed to all kinds of wrong teaching. Eventually social problems develop and that’s how you get crime,” he told Malay Mail during a break from stumping.
Due to their sparse formal education, jobs that are available to Rembau youths are limited, more so if they wish to dwell within the constituency, said Tinagaran who is better locally known as “Tina Sir”.
But he has chosen to put “Cikgu Tina” on the ballot paper in this general election for a wider reach.
“The cycle goes on for decades, and the town continues to be underdeveloped.
“Many now work in Kuala Lumpur or Seremban and they are only back here during the weekend,” he said.
Rembau is roughly an hour-and-50-minutes’ drive from Kuala Lumpur. And one of its main attractions is the famous Gunung Datuk Recreational Forest.
Tinagaran said youths whose parents can’t afford to send them for further their studies will have no choice but to jump into the workforce right after completing Form Five.
He added that many youths lose interest in continuing their education once they jump into the labour pool and start earning their own money.
“That’s something we need to stop or lose more youthful talents,” said Tinagaran.
A full-time tutor for 17 years, Tinagaran teaches four subjects — Form Six subjects (general studies and business studies), history and science.
He also holds tuition classes and tries to guide his students until they enter university.
He added those from B40 backgrounds need a lot of encouragement to stay the academic course as they do not have a role model to emulate.
“I have over 1,200 students and I can safely say that all of them have entered universities at different stages.
“But one of the things that we need here is a university. Many of these students have to leave the town to another state to further their studies, and most can’t afford to do so,” he said.
Not only the Rembau town is underdeveloped, Tinagaran said that there has been little effort to upgrade its public facilities over the years, including those for health.
“There is nothing there. Everything looks rundown and he was an assemblyman in Rantau for many years,” he said of his Barisan Nasional (BN) rival, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan who is also the incumbent assemblyman in the state that is currently under Pakatan Harapan (PH) control.
Like other PH-led states Selangor and Penang, Negri Sembilan is not holding concurrent state polls on November 19.
Tinagaran said the pandemic years have driven home the need to upgrade Rembau’s public medical facilities.
He said the construction of the Rembau Hospital started roughly 10 years ago, but was only completed three years back.
He recalled Mohamad, who was the former Negri Sembilan mentri besar, turning up to launch the public hospital twice during past elections.
He said that the hospital was only completed at the height of the pandemic months, after former Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin became the health minister.
Tinagaran said that the current hospital capacity will be breached soon and needs an upgrade to cater to the swell in patients.
“The Senawang Klinik Kesihatan is bigger than the Rembau Hospital,” he said by comparison, adding that it wasn’t right.
He said expanding Rembau Hospital would also ease the public burden on the Tuanku Jaafar Hospital in Seremban.
Khairy had announced the government’s plan to turn Rembau Hospital into a minor specialist hospital in September, by equipping it with a second operation theatre, one CT Scan machine and placement of specialists from fields including radiology, surgery, orthopaedic, anaesthesiology, paediatric, obstetrics and gynaecology.
Roof over their heads
Tinagaran said Rembau also lacks affordable housing, which locals have been asking for years.
He claimed that the BN and subsequent PH state governments had paid scant attention to this.
“There were previous projects announced in 2015, but until today these housing projects have not been completed,” he said.
The socialist politician said he had raised the issue in the 2019 Rantau by-election, which Mohamad retained by a 4,510-vote margin. Rantau is one of the four state seats under the Rembau parliamentary district.
The parliamentary constituency is made up of 66 per cent Malays, 11 per cent Chinese and the remaining 23 per cent include Indian and other races.
PSM fielded Tinagaran in Rembau after failing to form an electoral pact with PH.
The other four Rembau candidates – apart from Tinagaran and BN’s Mohamad whose name on the ballot paper is “Tok Mat” – are: PH’s Jufitri Joha, Perikatan Nasional’s Mohd Nazree Mohd Yunus, and Gerakan Tanah Air’s Datuk Ramly Awaluddin.
BN’s Khairy won Rembau for a third term in the 2018 general election with a total of 36,096 votes, beating two other challengers – PKR’s Roseli Abdul Gani who secured 31,732 votes; and PAS’ Mustafa Dolan who nabbed 6,028 votes.
Khairy is now contesting in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, his first election outside Negri Sembilan.