GEORGE TOWN: It’s a predominantly Chinese constituency yet lawyer R.S.N. Rayer of DAP has won in the last two elections, beating MCA candidates.
This time, DAP is taking a bigger gamble. It’s fielding a Malay candidate in Sri Delima and appears confident that the voters will stay with the party.
It is very like the gamble that failed in the Teluk Intan by-election in 2014. Then, the party wanted to project a Malay face and fielded new face Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud but she lost narrowly to Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong of Gerakan by 238 votes.
This time, the party thinks it has a winner in Syerleena Abdul Rashid (pic), 38. This new face has been picked to contest in the Seri Delima seat, a middle class constituency that runs from the Universiti Sains Malaysia campus in Minden to Island Park. One of the better known areas in the constituency is the former Kampung Buah Pala.
Syerleena is expected to face an MCA candidate and Malaysian United Party candidate Tan Yang Yung, a 37-year-old financial specialist.
There are a total of 25,431 voters there with the Chinese comprising 65.7%, Malays 22.3% and Indians 11.3%.
The constituency was once an MCA stronghold but Rayer won in 2008 and 2013. The last time round, he beat MCA’s Low Joo Hiap.
Rayer has been making his rounds in the constituency since 2013 to woo the many Malay voters there. But he has been moved to the neighbouring Jelutong parliamentary seat.
Although Syerleena is the choice for Seri Delima, her base has always been in the Bukit Bendera parliamentary constituency.
Now that she is being fielded in the Bukit Gelugor parliamentary constituency, there’s a WhatsApp message going round questioning her candidature and saying fellow councillor Kala Durai Raj should have been the candidate. Kala represents Bukit Gelugor in the city council.
Syerleena may well have been picked because DAP could find no other seat for her.
“It appears she was dumped there only because there was a vacancy after Rayer was moved to Jelutong,” said a DAP leader.
Syerleena has been quiet as a councillor and usually takes a back seat during public meetings.
“She is certainly not in the same mould as councillors Ong Ah Teong or Chris Lee who know the issues well,” says a journalist.
Ong will be fielded in Batu Lancang and Lee in Pulau Tikus this time.
Former DAP member Dr Shamsher Singh Thind feels Syerleena is in with a chance. He said he has seen her giving speeches and feels she is definitely better than some other candidates.
“I think people in urban areas will blindly vote for DAP and PKR. She stands a good chance,” he said.
Syerleena joined DAP in 2013 and lashed out at those who said the party only favoured one race.
In December 2014, as Bukit Bendera Wanita DAP political education director, she hit out at PAS Syura Ulama Council member Zaharudin Muhammad, the son-in-law of PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, over the hudud issue and even challenged him to a debate.
She was involved in Aliran and a local anti-trafficking group before joining DAP. She may have strong views but has not shown her mettle.
The party could have chosen her for a seat with a higher percentage of Malay voters such as Sungai Pinang (34%) and Datuk Keramat (29.2%) but that would mean dropping incumbents Lim Siew Khim and Jagdeep Singh Deo.
For Syerleena in Seri Delima, it’s a gamble. If she wins, it will be a huge bonanza. Seri Delima has become a seat to watch for, joining the Sungai Pinang and Datuk Keramat state seats.
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