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Indians in Perak ward scoff at BN ‘gimmicks’

 

Posted by Raja Petra

Friday, 07 March 2008

‘No, we are not buying all these election gimmicks this time. Do you think we Indians are stupid?’ – BUNTONG RESIDENT RAJAGOPAL MUNIANDY, a businessman, on last-minute projects in his neighbourhood

By Chow Kum Hor, THE STRAITS TIMES

IPOH – STEAMROLLERS and labourers race against the clock under the blazing afternoon heat to complete a road-widening project along Jalan Kampung Kacang Putih.

Just three weeks ago, the state government approved land for 437 households in Buntong New Village, an area just outside the city, for new homes for residents.

In the past, such rampant growth would be enough for the Barisan Nasional (BN) to haul in its usual bumper harvest of votes here. But times have changed

‘No, we are not buying all these election gimmicks this time,’ said resident Rajagopal Muniandy, 43, a businessman. ‘Do you think we Indians are stupid?’

Buntong, a state seat in the Ipoh Barat Parliament constituency, has the highest proportion of Indians in a ward. They make up 46 per cent of its 23,000 voters.

But Indians in the once staunchly pro-BN area have been switching allegiance since the crackdown on the Hindraf rally in November when thousands took to the streets to protest against unfair treatment.

Such an open display of anger had been unheard of in Buntong, which forms part of the Kinta Valley, a Chinese-majority area which includes the state’s capital and its surrounding areas.

Mr Rajagopal said Hindraf – the Hindu Rights Action Force – has opened the eyes of the community to several government policies that it claims discriminate against Indians.

Voters here are no longer ‘hoodwinked’ by government pre-election goodies such as roadworks, he said.

He pointed at two candies in wrappers with the BN logo in his mailbox. ‘You think these help? We are not kids.’

His friend, Mr Anthonysamy Das, 49, who lives in nearby First Garden, said that he had been applying for a licence to operate his sundry shop for years but had always been rejected.

By contrast, a Malay had no problems securing a licence although the application was only made three months ago, he said.

‘Why the discrimination? I just want to earn a decent living,’ said Mr Anthonysamy.

A perceived lack of economic and educational opportunities is the common gripe among the Indians here.

The Kinta Valley was one of the first areas in the country where Chinese immigrants settled down in the 18th century, escaping civil war and poverty in China.

Today, it remains largely Chinese, and includes the parliamentary seats of Ipoh Timur, Ipoh Barat, Batu Gajah, Kampar and Gopeng.

Only the last two were won by BN coalition member Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) in the last election. The rest are held by the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP).

The two parties are expected to retain these seats, except for Ipoh Barat where there is a tight fight between incumbent Mr M. Kulasegaran and the MCA’s Datuk Yik Phooi Hong.

In the last election, Mr Kulasegaran won the seat by 590 votes. ‘This time, I can count on all races, including the Indians, to help me retain the seat,’ he said.

Datuk Yik, who won the Buntong state seat in the 2004 election, claimed that Indians are still backing him.

But fighting in a parliament seat with 65 per cent Chinese voters and 22 per cent Indians, the veteran Perak leader must make sure that his appeal cuts across races.

‘With the MCA, it is about service,’ he said. ‘We help everyone.’

Malaysia Today: Your source of independent news

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