Lembah Pantai: Old vs New Slug It Out In a Three-Cornered Tussle


Lembah Pantai: Old vs New Slug It Out In a Three-Cornered Tussle

The BN is banking on five years of shoring up its support to wrest the Lembah Pantai seat from PKR. AWANI Review’s Zakiah Koya weighs the chances of not two, but three contenders as PAS has also thrown its hat into the ring.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate for Lembah Pantai Datuk Seri Raja Nong Chik is no small name political novice and his reputation precedes him. So visible and busy he was building his base in the constituency that at one point, he says he was called Menteri Lembah Pantai (Minister of Lembah Pantai).

While Nong Chik, 65,​ takes pride in the title, his opponents belittle his efforts which they considered was merely discharging duties expected of him as Federal Territories Minister between 2009 and 2013. Indeed, despite his ministerial position, Nong Chik lost to PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar in GE13.

This time round, he is intent on winning.

For the past five years, he worked tirelessly as a "non-elected MP", fronting FT Ministry and government-sponsored events.

Political observers believe he stands a better chance of becoming MP this time round as PAS has thrown its hat into what has now become a three-cornered ring. This only serves to work to BN’s advantage as the Malay votes that was united against the BN in GE13 will now be split two-ways.

PKR is fielding 37-year-old Fahmi Fadzil while the PAS challenge is mounted by 58-year-old landscape architect Fauzi Abu Bakar.

Even though I lost in 2013, I have been consistent in servicing Lembah Pantai

Nong Chik is quite certain his toil and sweat for five years will definitely pay off this time, although Fahmi is banking on his youth and broader national issues that is considered damaging to the government.

All three candidates claim much affinity to Lembah Pantai.

"I grew up here, married here, my politics is ​also here. I have known Lembah Pantai for more than 30 years. My emotional sentiment is Lembah Pantai. I have seen how Lembah Pantai - from a mix of squatter areas and (city-like) Bangsar - have all been developed. I would say 99 percent of squatters have been rehoused," says Nong Chik.

His supporters are told that he has done more for them than their previous two-term MP Nurul Izzah.

"By not giving up, even though I lost in 2013, I have been consistent in servicing Lembah Pantai."

"My strength is in the Malay and low income areas such as Kerinchi, Abdullah Hukum, Petaling Selatan. These are areas where BN won in the previous elections. With BN commitment, we hope to increase our majority this time around," says Nong Chik.

Nong Chik says that he has improved the welfare of the lower-income group in the constituency, not only materially but also in quality of life. He lists the Tabung Penyelenggaraan 1Malaysia residential facilities maintenance fund that pays for the upkeep of low-cost housing and the setting up of designated areas for small-time traders in Lembah Pantai.

"The BN government will upgrade and redevelop areas that have been run down. For example, 800 residents of Sri Pahang Flats are going to get half a million ringgit house at the price of RM42,000," says Nong Chik.

When I speak to those in Pantai Dalam or Sentosa, it is very clear that everyone is affected by the rising cost of living

He also stated that the GST is not a big issue as it is the incomes that have not risen and the costs of living in Malaysia is comparatively low as compared to other countries in the region.

"Much of the issues raised are problems of perception. It is not so much that our cost of living is high, it is just that our income has not risen to a level which the rakyat expects. Having GST allows the government to help the hardcore poor through Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M). A number of the recipients are from Lembah Pantai."

His GE14 opponent Fahmi Fadzil, however, says that there are so many promises of the government which has yet to be fulfilled such as fixing broken down lifts in low-cost flats and the provision of proper recreation opportunities for Lembah Pantai voters.

"When I speak to those in Pantai Dalam or Sentosa, it is very clear that everyone is affected by the rising cost of living. This time round, the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed factor, the sense of disgruntlement that people has towards BN policies and 1MDB, will contribute to any candidate's attempt to slay giants in their respective constituents."

"I believe GST itself is a giant killer. If we do not kill the giants, then the rakyat will be killed metaphorically," shoots Fahmi, who knows the area well, having been the political secretary of the incumbent for years.

While both are vying to draw support from the lower income groups, they both know that the votes from the affluent areas of Lembah Pantai will also be crucial.

Nong Chik is banking on using his past experience as Federal Territories and Urban Well Being Minister to work out a strategy to discuss with the government on better development plans while Fahmi says that the richer residents are fed up with the unsustainable development and lack of green spaces in their areas.

Fahmi is sure he will attract the support of young voters who are technologically-savvy and concerned about job prospects. As as he says he propogates more use of technology and better job opportunities.

He also intend to push the government in Parliament to fulfil their promises.

"Keep your promises, not merely make them," says Fahmi.

Unfazed by the challenge posed by younger voices who are generally very demanding, Nong Chik is sure that he has what it takes to get to Parliament.

"I do not think I will have a hard time convincing people - they have to look at the bigger picture. What sort of wakil rakyat do they want? They just want someone who makes noise but do not service the area? They want someone committed to the area? I represent BN and I represent someone more committed to Lembah Pantai - I have proven that," says Nong Chik.

As for Fauzi Abu Bakar, the architect in him points to the roaring development, especially in the Kerinchi area that has caused the loss of rural space to high-rise development.

He dismisses talk of playing the spoiler’s role and in fact is confident that enough voters will desert both BN and PKR to vote PAS.