MUAR: Independent candidate S. Jeganathan is banking on his community service record and his ability to speak two Chinese dialects to sway voters in the Simpang Jeram by-election on Sept 9.
The 55-year-old businessman said he picked up Mandarin and Hokkien from his neighbours and friends at a very young age.
“There are more Indians in the constituency now, but when I was growing up, there were only about two Indian families here,” he told The Star.
“My neighbours and friends are mostly Chinese and they are the ones who taught me how to speak the dialects. With years of practice, I was able to master Mandarin and Hokkien, which are the two most commonly used Chinese dialects in this area,” referring to the semi-urban constituency next to the historic town of Muar.
Apart from the two Chinese dialects, Jeganathan also speaks Malay, English and Tamil.
During his walkabouts, Jeganathan puts his fluency in Hokkien to good use.
Some locals also greeted him in Hokkien when he made stops at coffeeshops to introduce himself as a candidate.
“As the chairman of a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), I work very closely with people from all walks of life, and many know who I am,” said the Bakri Indian Social and Welfare Association chairman.
“Apart from handing out aid to the poor and assisting them in getting help from the relevant government departments, I also attend funerals.”
He said his house in Taman Bakri Jaya was regarded as a service centre by locals, with people coming almost every day to ask for help.
Jeganathan was an MIC member for about 10 years before deciding to leave the party in 2015.
“I feel that there are more things I could do to help the people as an NGO than being in a political party,” he said, adding that he has no plans to join any political parties at the moment despite receiving several offers.
Jeganathan is in a three-cornered fight against Pakatan Harapan’s Nazri Abdul Rahman and Perikatan Nasional’s Dr Mohd Mazri Yahya. He is unfazed by the strength of his rivals’ machinery.
“I only have about 10 people helping with my campaign and am depending on my own savings to fund myself.
“However, I do not see this as a problem, as I believe that people here know me well and will give me a chance. Despite losing two elections previously, I still continued serving the people,” he said.