SLIM POLLS | PKR vice president Chang Lih Kang has called on whoever wins the Slim by-election to deliver on promises to voters who are more interested in seeing long-standing local issues resolved than hearing 'big guns' speak at ceramahs (political rallies).
"I don’t think people are very interested in attending ceramahs with big guns, as speakers on both sides did not attract many locals thus far."
"They are keen on bread and butter issues like the lack of agricultural land for farmers, very few job opportunities, housing issues for estate workers and workers who are overly-dependent on commodity prices," Chang told Malaysiakini.
Chang was responding to questions about the participation of PKR leaders to support independent candidate Amir Khusyairi Mohamad Tanusi, who is backed by Pejuang and Pakatan Harapan parties.
"I think the campaign is still lukewarm compared to other by-elections. Maybe because of Covid-19 and the movement control order," said Chang who is the MP for Tanjung Malim.
"I said from the very beginning, Slim is a tall order for the opposition," he added.
Slim is under the Tanjung Malim parliamentary constituency which was held by MCA candidates from 1959 until 2018, when Chang broke that stranglehold.
The Slim seat fell vacant after four-term incumbent Mohd Khusairi Abdul Talib passed away on July 15 due to a cardiac arrest.
However, based on voting patterns in the 2018 general election, most predict an easy win on polling day (Aug 29) for whichever candidate Umno/BN fields in the seat held by the late Khusairi since 2004.
In the 2018 general election, Khusairi won the Slim seat defeating Bersatu's Mohd Amran Ibrahim and PAS’ Muhammad Zulfadli Zainal, by a majority of 2,183 votes. The combined votes for Umno/BN and PAS amounted to 65 percent.
It is notable that the voters in Slim are overwhelmingly Malay (75 percent) and that Indians form the second-largest group (13 percent) with Chinese (10 percent) and others (two percent).
In the last general election, of the three state seats within the Tanjung Malim parliamentary constituency, Sungkai and Behrang supported Harapan, while Slim stayed loyal to Khusari and Umno.
"Aside from myself, my party secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution, Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari, and senator Yaakob Sapari are scheduled to speak. I think more will come nearer to polling," Chang said.
Perak PKR chief Farhash Wafa Salvador Mubarak who initially announced that his party would be standing in Slim has notably kept a low-profile.
It was decided that the opposition's candidate would instead be from ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad's faction of Bersatu, which is now regrouping in the newly formed Pejuang party.
Chang (photo) was also asked about the announcement made yesterday by former PKR deputy president Azmin Ali and other PKR defectors that they were joining Bersatu.
He brushed off the announcement when asked if it had any impact on the Slim polls, saying, "Azmin and gang are totally irrelevant to this by-election."
Meanwhile, despite consistently supporting Umno throughout the years, parts of Slim are lagging behind.
Orang Asli residents in Kampung Sungai Teras have to source their water supply from wells and use generators, oil lamps, and candles to light up their houses at night.
Meanwhile in Pekan Trolak, about only 7km from Slim River town, residents have been complaining about flash floods that have persisted since 1968.
Last year in Parliament, Chang raised the matter of flooding in Pekan Trolak, citing two floods that occurred on Oct 18 and 19.
On Nov 19, the deputy minister of water, land, and natural resources at the time, Tengku Zulpuri Shah, acknowledged the seriousness of the problem.
He said that funds would be allocated under the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025) for the Department of Irrigation and Drainage to address the critical issue.
Tengku Zulpuri had said that the funds would cover the Sungai Trolak Flood Mitigation Plan for Kampung Trolak Pekan and the Sungai Klah Flood Mitigation Plan for Kampung Felda Trolak Utara and Kampung Klah Baru.
It is unclear whether these plans will be followed through as the Perikatan Nasional government has since replaced the Harapan administration that Tengku Zulpuri represented.