Tanjung Piai folk turn the tide to chart their own fate


  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 19 Nov 2019

PONTIAN: It had started drizzling when the counting of the votes for the Tanjung Piai by-election started.

In the Chinese fishing village, Bagan Ayer Masin in Kukup, a fisherman who wanted to be known as Tan said he had voted for Barisan Nasional, and that the majority of the villagers also supported the coalition this time round.

Voicing the villagers’ grievances, he said his belacan (fermented shrimp and fish) business was down by half because of the poor economy.

“Cost of living is high but business is down, ” he said, adding that this was contrary to what Pakatan Harapan promised them just 18 months ago.

At 58, he also feared that he might not be able to go fishing soon because it was so difficult to hire foreign workers now.

“And I cannot go to sea alone, ” he said.

Tan’s situation is reflective of the 52,698 constituents in Tanjung Piai, a predominantly agricultural community consisting of 57% Malays and 42% Chinese, while Indians make up the rest.

Irrespective of race, the majority of the constituents are in oil palm smallholding, fishing, fish breeding, small businesses, odd jobs, hawking and trading are struggling with living more than a year ago.

The prolonged complaints from oil palm growers are about the low palm oil prices, which has gone on for more than a year.

Many smallholders are in dire straits, as well as those in downstream economic activities like lorry drivers, odd job workers, and those dealing with agrochemicals like fertilisers and herbicides.

While problems plaguing the people have been highlighted, including in Parliament by Ayer Hitam MP Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, not enough have been done by the Pakatan government.

Within such a backdrop, laments that Pakatan has appeared to be oblivious to the situation have been going on for quite a while already.

The Pakatan has also not only failed to convince the voters that steps would be taken to help them, but also some blunders made, like Pakatan candidate Karmaine Sardini saying the people in the village could survive with RM1,000 a month, questioning their expenses except to buy petrol and telling them to plant their own vegetable was like rubbing salt into the wound.

The fishermen who lost their allowance were also crying for help, with dwindling catch, some said only enough for their own family consumption.

In times of hardship, their former two-term MP Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng, who had helped them with quiet understanding is certainly the person to turn to.

There were 5,400 poor households in the constituency who received basic essentials like rice, cooking oil, flour and sugar from Wee every three months, valued at RM1.2mil a year.

He helped them without any publicity.

On Saturday, the voters voted with their heart, and convinced that the Opposition is the one with them, returning Wee to Parliament with 15,086 majority, beating Karmaine and four other candidates.

Wee received 25,466 votes against Karmaine’s 10,380 votes.

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