IN THE last three elections, voters in the Ipoh Timur parliamentary seat and its three state constituencies — Canning, Tebing Tinggi and Pasir Pinji — have favoured the Opposition.
Barisan Nasional’s MCA helmed the seat for the two terms immediately after it was created in 1995 but since 2004, DAP has won the seat with higher vote counts in every election.
Although the recently passed redrawing of the seat’s electoral boundaries has increased voters to 89,218 from 81,818 previously, parties contesting the Chinese-majority Ipoh Timur seat will be treading carefully and not leaving anything to chance.
While MCA will be fielding local candidates who are familiar with the area’s issues and people’s concerns to appeal to voters, DAP will be seeking to maintain its hold on the state seats following the redelineation exercise.
DAP’s Ipoh Timur MP Thomas Su Keong Siong said the additional voters would have an effect, especially in the Pasir Pinji and Tebing Tinggi state seats, as some voters have been transferred to other seats.
“We have to be careful with the state seats, even though the sentiment on the ground still seems good for us this time around.
“Some police and army votes have been brought into Tebing Tinggi while over 7,500 voters were moved from Tebing Tinggi to Pasir Pinji, but we still have chance to win if there is a Malay-vote swing.
“We hope we will be able to maintain a significant majority this time,” he said.
The two-term MP thinks DAP will still win the seats, despite the redelineation.
“The urban voters here want an end to many pressing issues, including the high cost of living that have not been addressed properly.
“People realise it is more important to improve things now,” he added.
Ipoh Timur MCA division deputy chief Tony Khoo Boon Chuan points out that change could be imminent as voters realise that there has not been much development in the city over the past 15 years.
“The city is ageing as a large proportion of the younger generation leave for bigger cities seeking better prospects and job opportunities.
“Although Ipoh is the third largest city in Malaysia, development here has been way behind states such as Melaka, Johor and Negri Sembilan.
“The industrial sector has slowed down so much. There is almost no foreign investment here and people can see that,” he said, adding that the average monthly salary of workers is RM1,600.
Although tourism is doing well in the older quarter of the city, Khoo said more could be done to tap into the state’s potential so young people have a reason to stay.
“We must not passively wait for international features in Lonely Planet or the New York Times to make us famous.
“We should work on something bigger, such as getting Ipoh listed as another Unesco World Heritage site in Malaysia or branding and promoting Ipoh properly as a food destination at the international level.
“More should be done to revive the city’s glory to something resembling the tin-mining and rubber-planting era,” he said, adding that issues such as development and economic growth were the biggest concerns for the Chinese community.
Khoo noted that after three terms of DAP representation in Ipoh Timur, he hopes voters will take into consideration MCA’s ability to serve.
“A Barisan representative is needed to ensure the government hears the aspirations of the people in Ipoh Timur,” he added.
Su, on the other hand, cited the rising cost of living as the foremost issue on the minds of people.
“Problems with the airport have still not been solved. I brought this up several times in Parliament,” he said.
Although sentiment may still favour DAP this time around, a strong people-oriented Barisan candidate might still stand a chance in reducing the majority, if not win back the seat.
“I do not care what party my elected representative is from.
“All I see is whether they are sincere about serving and how efficient they are in helping to solve problems.
“There is a Chinese saying: It does not matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice,” said a trader at Pasir Pinji wet market who gave his name as Yew.
The 46-year-old who has been selling homemade buns, cakes and pastries for over three decades, said the work of an elected representative carried more weight than party logo.
Yew’s view is shared by another resident, who only wished to be known as Kak Mah, a long-time resident from Kampung Temiang in Tebing Tinggi.
The 40-year-old, who runs a food and drinks stall near the Malay village, said it was important for any elected representative to prioritise the people’s needs instead of the party’s.
As Kampung Temiang’s population is mostly made up of retired senior citizens, she pointed out that the welfare of the people there should not be neglected.
“Most of our children have left the village for a better life and career opportunities in big cities.
“Most of the villagers are basically happy with the infrastructure that has been well taken care of, but there are still many poor families and old people who need assistance.
“I think the elected representatives should reach out and help them,” she said, adding that squatters in rundown homes could still be found in nearby Kampung Paloh, Kampung Cempaka Sari and Kampung Seri Murni.
Kitchen helper Laila Mohammad, 42, who has been squatting on reserve land in Kampung Paloh for decades, said her family could not get a People’s Housing Project (PPR) unit because they did not have a grant.
“The house is breaking apart and I really hope to get a proper roof over my head for my family,” she said, adding that she hopes to live near Kampung Temiang.
A political observer who declined to be named opined that voters in general were not happy with numerous issues.
“Education, economic development and opportunities are the main concerns of the Chinese community.
“Voters want a government that prioritises merit, performance and equal opportunity to make a living.
“Unfortunately, the frustration is still there and the Opposition parties are likely to focus on these issues during their campaigning,” he said.
The rising cost of living, he added, was another factor in voters’ decision, as many city dwellers struggled to stretch their ringgit.
According to the redrawn electoral boundaries, the Chinese community accounts for 78% of voters in Ipoh Timur, followed by 18% Malays and less than 5% are Indian voters.
The Canning state constituency has 31,817 voters from the polling districts of Taman Ipoh Timor, Taman Ipoh Selatan, Taman Wah Keong, Simee Barat, Simee Timor, Taman Ipoh, Taman Ipoh Barat, Canning Garden Barat, Canning Garden Timor, Lumba Kuda, Taman Cempaka and Desa Cempaka.
The Tebing Tinggi state seat has 24,379 voters from the polling districts of Jalan Dato Maharaja Lela, Jalan Sultan Yusof, Jalan Tun Perak, Sungai Kinta, Tebing Sungai Kinta, Kampung Paloh, Tebing Tinggi, Kuala Pari Hilir, Kampung Seri Kinta, Pengkalan Barat, Pengkalan Gate and Pengkalan Pegoh.
The Pasir Pinji state seat has 33,022 voters from the polling districts of Jalan Bendahara, Kampar Road, Housing Trust, Pasir Pinji Utara, Pasir Pinji Selatan, Pinji Lane Utara, Pasir Puteh Utara, Pasir Puteh Baru, Pinji Lane Selatan, Pasir Puteh Selatan and Taman Pengkalan Jaya.
MCA’s Khoo has been tipped to contest in Ipoh Timur, while there is talk that Su is likely to be fielded elsewhere.
Ipoh city councillor Chew Junn Weng is contesting the Tebing Tinggi state seat on Barisan ticket and Ipoh Timur MCA division secretary Ng Kai Cheong will be fielded for the Pasir Pinji state seat.
It is still not known who will be the candidate from Gerakan contesting the Canning state seat.DAP candidates for the three state seats have yet to be confirmed, but it is likely that DAP Youth executive council member Jenny Choy Tsi Jen will be up for the Canning state seat, while a Malay candidate will be fielded for the Tebing Tinggi state seat.
Currently, Wong Kah Woh is Canning assemblyman, while the Tebing Tinggi assemblyman is Ong Boon Piow and Pasir Pinji assemblyman is Howard Lee Chuan How. They are all from DAP.