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Saturday March 1, 2008

Barisan going all out to retain all four Raub seats


RAUB: If you travel to Raub from Bentong, chances are you will see more Barisan Nasional flags and banners as you get nearer to your destination. 

These blue waves are a clear indication of the ruling coalition’s determination to maintain its clean sweep of the district’s parliament seat and three state seats. 

While Barisan won the parliament seat of Raub and the state seats of Dong and Batu Talam with comfortable majorities in the last general election in 2004, the same could not be said for Tras, a state seat encompassing several new villages and the main town of Raub itself. 

That year, MCA’s Datuk Chan Choon Fah (pic) won the seat with 7,194 votes, just 1,196 votes more than the ones received by Leong Mee Meng from the DAP. 

The margin was even smaller in the 1999 general election when Chan secured a 119 majority over current Pahang DAP chief Lip Tuck Chee. 

Now seeking his third term as Tras assemblyman, the incumbent is fully aware that he faces an uphill battle. 

The DAP had always been able to garner support from Chinese majority areas and Tras, with about 68 % of its 20,419 voters being Chinese, was one such area. 

Aware of this trend, Chan who was a school teacher prior to becoming an assemblyman has made the development of the seven Chinese schools in his constituency a priority. 

However, a more pressing issue this time round is something that has to do with the reason Raub town was founded over a century ago - gold mining. 

Residents of Bukit Koman, where a plant is being built to resume gold mining activities on a mine in use since 1890, are concerned with the possible health effects arising from the proximity of their homes to the site as cyanide would be used. 

The ad-hoc committee opposing the use of cyanide pointed out that the houses of the 3,000 residents of Kg Bukit Koman are located as near as 300m from the site. 

It is a known fact that the DAP will capitalise on this issue. 

A senior DAP leader disclosed that there had even been some internal jostling for the Tras seat before nomination day, an incident which Pahang DAP secretary Choong Siew Onn brushed off as a mere misunderstanding. 

Pahang DAP vice-chairman Leong Ngah Ngah has expressed his optimism in capturing the seat, but Choong said it was still a 50-50 fight as the Barisan machinery was not something to be taken lightly. 

Asked about the Bukit Koman issue, Chan said he had voiced the villagers’ worries at meetings with the local authorities as well as the state assembly. 

Of course, the state government made its stand based on professional reports, he said 

Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen, the incumbent for the Raub parliamentary seat, said she was confident in the safety measures put in place by Raub Australian Gold Mining Sdn Bhd. 

Dr Ng, who is seeking her third term as MP for Raub, said she saw the gold mining project in Bukit Koman as a way of developing Raub into a tourist town and generating other economic activities much like the Australian city of Ballarat, where its legacy of wealth from the 19th century gold rush is still visible today. 

“If the mine is not safe, I will be the first one to ask for its closure,” the Wanita MCA chief stressed. 

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