RAUB: It is the last leg of campaigning for the 15th General Election and Barisan Nasional candidate Datuk Chong Sin Woon is not losing any time in reaching out to as many voters as possible – including those in the outskirts and remote areas.
In his battle to be Raub MP, Chong said issues surrounding old infrastructure, land matters and water cuts were the main things that needed immediate attention, which he is offering to solve if he wins.
"The first thing I will do is to ensure the people of Raub will have water during the coming Chinese New Year," he said.
Chong said solving water woes in the area required huge funding and Federal-state government collaboration, which is also among his pledges.
"I will liaise with the relevant state agencies and ensure they are prepared to assist with water tankers at proper locations. This ensures the people get water even when their taps are dry," he said, adding this would be a short-term solution for people celebrating the festive season.
On land matters affecting durian farmers, the MCA secretary-general offered to be the bridge between farmers and the Pahang state government to resolve the problem.
Denying Opposition allegations, Chong said MCA had never run away from the issue despite not having any positions in Raub.
Chong said the farmers should give MCA a chance to approach the matter using a different method.
"Compared with staging protests or dragging the issue to Parliament, we don't want to make things worse to the point that it reaches an impasse."
As land matters are under the state, he said it was best to engage all relevant stakeholders to work out a win-win solution through engagement and talks.
"The farmers and the people know we have engaged them and are aware of their plight. We know that if we win, we can solve this matter amicably," he added.
In 2020, durian farmers in Raub who had been cultivating land without permits were unhappy over a joint venture between a company and a state entity, saying that the agreement was unfair and would result in the small-scale farmers incurring losses.
The Pahang government said it had adopted a rational approach to tackle land trespassing involving durian farmers in Raub instead of completely tearing down the illegal farms.
Last year, the farmers initiated a lawsuit to defend their rights.
Chong also noted the need to develop downstream activities of durian farming to create more economic activities and job opportunities, as "not everyone in Raub owns a durian orchard".
As more youth return to Raub to get involved in agriculture, Chong said the new trend helps the popularisation of urban farming and Malaysia becoming more self-sufficient in food supply.
"I set up the Koperasi Petani Muda Malaysia (KPMM) or Malaysia Young Farmers' Cooperative in 2014 when I was MCA Youth chief after seeing many youths face problems in the agriculture sector.
"They were also unaware of the facilities and assistance from the government, making their venture more challenging.
"This was where KPMM came in, providing free training and helping farmers apply for suitable government grants and loans," he said, adding that KPMM could play a more significant role in helping budding farmers.
"Farming is not a sunset industry. We can develop our agriculture better with Malaysia's weather patterns and fertile soil.
"We can do more for Raub's development of a sustainable agricultural ecosystem that can maximise the economic sustainability value of the country's agro-food sector," said Chong.
He also pledged to upgrade old infrastructure that often breaks down during heavy rain such as access roads and bridges due to flash floods and landslides.
Chong, 48, is in a four-cornered fight for the Raub seat with Chow Yu Hui from Pakatan Harapan, Norkhairul Anuar Mohamed Nor (Gerakan Tanah Air) and Datuk Mohd Fakrunizam Ibrahim (Perikatan Nasional).
Following the implementation of Undi18, Raub has some 75,000 voters, mostly from 15 Malay villages, 10 Chinese new villages and five Felda settlements.
The Raub electorate is 51% Malay, Chinese (36%), Indian (11%) as well as Orang Asli and others (2%).