All eyes on 8,700 Chinese voters in KT

KUALA TERENGGANU, Jan 7 – Despite the situation turning havoc because of the impending Kuala Terengganu by-election on Jan 17, the daily routine for a local Chinese man who is in his early 60s, here, has hardly changed.

In the morning, the man who only wanted to be called “Cikgu” (Teacher), goes about his teaching duty, and in the evening, spend hours chatting with friends at their favourite coffee shop in Jalan Sultan Sulaiman.
In his thick local dialect, Cikgu said: “Orang dok sibuk dengan pilihang raya kecik, dok bercerita calong mana molek, parti mana bagus. Ada kata hok ni bagus, orang laing pulok kata hok tu bagus. “Saya senang saja, tengok calong tu buleh ganti tempat arwoh Datuk Razali ke dok?” (“Everybody is busy with the (Kuala Terengganu) by-election. They are all talking about which candidate is good and which party is better. Some say this one is good and other say that one is better.
“For me, it is simple. I’ll just pick the one who can really take the place of the late Datuk Razali Ismail.”)
Although he can speak English fluently, the Maths teacher always take pride in using the local dialect when speaking with strangers.
“I was born here. My ancestors were also born here. We are Terengganuians. Why should we change?
The Malays and the Chinese here are equal,” he said. Commenting further on Razali, Cikgu said Razali was a caring person and had done much for teachers during his tenure as the State Education Director and later as the Member of Parliament for Kuala Terengganu.
“The late Datuk Razali was a good hard-working man. It will be hard to find a substitute,” he said.
Razali, who was appointed Deputy Education Minister after he won the parliamentary seat by a 628-vote majority in the March 8 general election, died on Nov 28.
He secured 32,562 votes, defeating Pas’ candidate Mohamed Sabu (31,934) and Independent candidate Maimun Yusof (689).
The by-election is seeing a three-cornered fight involving Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh, Pas’ Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut and Independent candidate Azharudin Mamat@Adam.
The change in the country’s political landscape since the March general election has made it difficult to anticipate the outcome of the by-election.
Rumour has it that the Chinese hold the determining votes. Of the 80,229 voters eligible to vote on Jan 17, 10.89 per cent or 8,735 are Chinese and only 518 or 0.65 per cent are Indians.
The argument given by the “coffee shop political analyst” was simple – most Malay voters are Pas’ members because only 38 per cent or merely 26,747 of the total number of 70,834 Malay voters are Umno members. Hence, to win the by-election, BN needs the votes from the Chinese and the fence-sitters.
Looking back at the March election where BN only won one of the four state seats in Kuala Terengganu, the argument might be true.
The BN only won the Bandar seat – a state constituency in which the majority are Chinese, while Pas took Wakaf Mempelam, Ladang and Batu Burok.
The Chinese in the east coast of peninsular Malaysia are unique because unlike their west coast counterparts, they mix well with the Malays and can converse in the local dialect.
The Cikgu is a living proof. Furthermore, a first-time visitor to Terengganu will also be amazed to find a signboard in Jawi at a Chinese-owned premises.
A political observer said differences hardly arose between the Chinese and Malays in Kuala Terengganu as they understood each other’s culture, customs and religion.
“They won’t like it if someone from a political party comes and try to point out their differences because it is not their way,” he said.
The owner of a shop who only wished to be known as Ah Keong said he would choose a leader who could represent all the people in Kuala Terengganu.
“We do not want an outsider to come here and make blind remarks about us. Our ancestors were local people here, why should we fight? We want to live, earn a living and raise our children in peace. “We are living in a big town now. We have everything. Stop making promises. Whoever he is, what matters is that he will be there for us when we are facing problems and that he will listen to all of us,” Ah Keong said.
Cikgu and Ah Keong might not represent the Kuala Terengganu people, but they are definitely the voice of the voters.-  Bernama