Kuala Besut by-election: Pulau Perhentian bleeds blue for Barisan

  • Nation
  • Friday, 19 Jul 2013

BESUT: Dozens of motorboats with Umno and Barisan Nasional flags greeted the arrival of Terengganu Menteri Besar Datuk Sri Ahmad Said as he approached Pulau Perhentian onboard a Customs boat.

Many more people, all dressed in blue were on hand to greet and cheer on as Ahmad set foot on the popular tourist island on Thursday.

The applause given to Ahmad and his entourage reflected the sentiments of the islanders who value the ruling coalition and use slogans such as  " BN dihatiku" (BN is my heart).  

In Pulau Perhentian, Barisan has a guaranteed vote bank in the July 24 Kuala Besut by-election which was called due to the death of former assemblyman Dr A. Rahman, himself a native of the island.

There are 734 registered voters on the island which is one of the eight polling districts in the constituency. In the May general election, 448 or 70 percent voted for Barisan while 179 voted for PAS.

Both the PAS candidate Azlan Yusof and Barisan Nasional candidate Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Rahman have made their rounds on the island but there is no indication that voters will change their mind as to which party they wanted.

There  are 2,165 residents living in 210 houses on the island. Their livelihood depends mostly on fishing or the tourism. Most earn an average of RM800 to RM1200 a month.

Many islanders believe Barisan is behind the Pulau Perhentian tourism boom in the island.

Ibrahim Abdullah, 62, is one such resident who really believes in Barisan’s  “Janji Ditepati” (promises fulfilled) tagline.  He said that he did not have to pay for his house and the government has provided a lot of infrastructure such as a jetty, a primary school and a police station.

“Whatever we ask we get. Although sometimes it’s delayed, the promises are still fulfilled,” he said.
Wan Sabariah Wan Salleh, 44, also believes that Barisan government’s promises were fulfilled especially since Dr Rahman was assemblyman.

“He really got things moving around here,” she said referring to the infrastructure and the help given to the islanders 

She is also thankful to the government for the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BRIM) and the monthly RM200 her father received from the Welfare department. 

“Even a child can’t give her parents that amount of money,” she said.

Even though she laments over the rising cost of living in the island, she is still grateful to Barisan.

“My family has never voted for PAS. That has always been the case,” she said.  

A boatman who wanted to be known as Ja, 30, said that tourism industry has grown under Barisan and that made it easier for people to make  a living.

“Last time, people had to climb the hill to irk out a living. Now they can go to the beach for that (tourism),” he said, adding jobs were available with  lots of chalets built on the island.

He also explained that there would be uncertainty if PAS ruled Terengganu  because the island was known as a "party place" for backpackers. Things such as liquor would be essential in a tourist place like this, he said.  

Another important aspect was that Barisan helped out the islanders, said Ja.

"The government gives us all sorts of things from diesel subsidies to BR1M. If you cut me open it will bleed blue,” he said.

A political observer said that most households were Barisan supporters as they were dependent on the government for lots of things for a long time.

He said that even when Terengganu fell to PAS in 1999, most of the islanders voted for Barisan. He, however, admitted  that each household would have at least one person voting for PAS.

“They (PAS campaigners) are not very loud and go around in whispers. It’s very harmonious here,” he said
The observer said that Barisan should increase their margin in the by-election.  He believed  that about 80% of the voters living outside were for the opposition but they might not come back to vote because they would have to return again during the Hari Raya holidays in August. 

PAS supporters in Pulau Perhentian appear to be not swayed by Barisan attempts to win them over.

A PAS  supporter who did not want to be named  said that Barisan was full of empty promises – pointing out to the long delay in building houses and a mosque.   

“They have been promising this since 2008 but nothing much has been done,” he said.

He said  four or five families live under one house. "Overcrowding is a big problem here and it is common to hear of 15 people living in a house with three rooms," he said, adding that the construction of a flats project with 200 units has hardly taken off.

Lamenting  the lack of a hospital on the island, he said that people had to go to Kuala Besut if there was an emergency.

He said that although PAS gave the villagers grants for their houses and brought 24-hour supply to the island during its tenure in 1999, he  had voted for Barisan in the 2004 elections.

When asked why, he said that he just wanted to give Barisan a chance.

“I have learned my lesson and am only voting for PAS  from now on,” he said.

Acknowledging the  overcrowding issues, the Mentri Besar said there were logistical problems and was not sure when the flats would be completed.

Ahmad, however,  said  the housing projects carried out in  Pulau Perhentian had started started last year and had nothing to do with the by-election.

“We have always been helping the people,” he said.

He was confident that the islanders would continue to put their faith in Barisan.

“We can’t get 10 percent of the votes because it’s a democracy and people have the right to make a choice. But we are confident of getting more votes because of  our  party machinery,” he said.

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