Seri Setia by-election candidates pledge better quality of life in impoverished areas

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 29 Aug 2018

PETALING JAYA: Across the dusty, abandoned cars and decaying rubbish in one of Lembah Subang’s eight People’s Housing Programme (PPR) projects in the Seri Setia constituency, a playground lays deserted, the only sign of its last use is spray-painted graffiti.

There are no signs of children in this three-piece playground, the swings are missing, leaving only their metal structure, the plastic slide is cracked and the tiles in the rubber flooring are broken, posing a danger to children.

A few steps away in the dark apartment block, water leaking from a pipe among Astro satellite dishes on the fourth floor emits a foul stench.

Three schoolboys were spotted kicking a football against a wall spray-painted with gang symbols, breathing in the stale air.

Residents claim drug abuse is a big problem here.

This dilapidated PPR block is tucked away in the affluent upper class neighbourhood of Ara Damansara with luxury apartments having mushroomed recently, complete with swanky infinity pools, gyms and tight security.

Created in 2003, the Seri Setia state constituency has 53,492 voters, of which 30% are urban poor. The majority, some 70% of voters, are living in urban areas.

However, both Pakatan Harapan and PAS candidates have been seen scuffling for votes from the lower income group.

As the first week of campaigning wraps up, The Star found that campaigns by both sides of the political divide have focused their attention on impoverished areas.

Pakatan’s Halimey Abu Bakar has sent a strong message to B40 voters that he wants to end socio-econo­mic woes among the urban poor.

His pledge includes solving delinquency among impoverished minors, improving public facilities and setting up community counselling centres in the low-cost housing areas.

Not to be outdone, Dr Halimah Ali of PAS said her past experiences in servicing the urban poor in Selat Klang, where she served as state assemblyman for 10 years, has equipped her with the know-how to help low-income earners.

Dr Halimah’s campaign has also got a boost from Umno supreme council member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam, who spoke of Umno-PAS cooperation to defend Malay rights, Islam and the royal institution during a ceramah on Saturday.

Both the candidates’ campaign messages seem to have struck a chord with residents.

Mohamad Raya Ali, 40, who ope­rates a hawker stall in the Lembah Subang PPR, lamented that socio­economic issues in the impoverished neighbourhood had become worse over the past few years.

According to him, PPR dwellers faced infrastructure issues such as broken elevators, faulty water pipes and unattended rubbish, and are also victims of petty crimes on a regular basis.

He claimed that elected representatives seldom visited the neighbourhood.

“They should show up once a month and chair a residents’ meeting to address local issues,” he said.

Md Zainuddin, 64, who has lived in Lembah Subang for nearly two decades, said the time has come for PAS to unite with Umno to tackle local issues in the Lembah Subang PPR.

“Both parties have to combine to keep Pakatan in check,” he said.

According to Universiti Malaya political analyst Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi, it is important for the candidates to capture the 30% urban poor as a majority of them are hardcore Barisan Nasional supporters.

“This group will determine the increase in votes for the respective candidates. The other 70% urban voters have made up their minds and they are not easily influenced.

“But the poor are easily influenced because they are more concerned about their bread-and-butter issues.

“That doesn’t leave them much time to think deeply about politics,” he said.

He added that PAS and Umno’s use of racial and religious rhetoric might draw traction among the lower income group, which comprised conservative Malay voters.

For PPR resident Ahmad Awang, 63, the straight fight between Pakatan and PAS would be a tight race.

“We all know Dr Halimah as an experienced leader. On the other hand, Halimey is also a former Petaling Jaya councillor.

“I think this battle is 50-50 for both parties,” he said.

Seri Setia voters consists of 55% Malays, 20% Chinese and 24% Indians.

The seat has been a PKR stronghold since 2008.

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