Sunday, April 28, 2013

Scenes: Sarikei General Election 2013 - Down to the wire

After the watershed 2008 general election (GE12) results, Sarawak and Sabah have become the king makers of Malaysia for GE13. The GE13 results in East Malaysia may decide who forms the majority in the parliament. Sarawak (31 seats) and Sabah (25) have 56 out of 222 seats in parliament.

Sarikei billboard war of words, GE13.
L - BN (SUPP)'s Mr Ding Kuong Hiing.
R -DAP's Mr Andrew Wong Ling Biu.

BN ("Don't Change the weather; Keep the good weather") vs 
DAP ("UBAH. Change. Clean up Malaysia now").
Source: Sarikeians

Choosing a candidate for Sarikei (seat P208) is not just about future of the district but it's also about the future of Malaysia. The incumbent, BN/SUPP's Mr Ding Kuong Hiing, won the last GE12 election in 2008 by a whisker of 51 votes vs PR/DAP's Dr Wong Hua Seh. Dr Wong later won the State Election 2011 vs BN/SUPP's incumbent David Teng in a big upset.

GE12 results in 2008.
Source: malaysiakini

In GE13, Sarikei has 36,324 eligible voters with 70 % Chinese, 26 % Dayaks and 4% Malays/Melanaus. 

 GE13 candidates on nomination day at Civic Centre.
L - BN/SUPP's Mr Ding Kuong Hiing.
R - PR/DAP's Mr Andrew Wong Ling Biu.
Source:Lu Huong Chin

The BN/SUPP incumbent, Ding, 58, is an engineering graduate. Ding was a political secreatry to the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Taib Mahmud. In the PR/DAP corner is Wong, 55, an Accountancy graduate. Wong's expereience came from his former role as a political assistant to SUPP's David Teng Lung Chi before moving to DAP in 2011 before the state election..


GE13 poster war of both parties at Repok Road, 2013.
Source: Lu Huong Chin

What are the significant issues that Sarikeians care about to cast an informed vote? Below is a contant but not an exhaustive list.

 1. Lack of jobs - Brain drain and labour drain
A dearth of suitable jobs drove huge migration of young people to other towns and countries. Sarikei is left with a rapidly ageing pooulation and a pool of students up to secondary school who will migrate too. Sarikei needs to move up the value chain to light industries beyond agriculture. Eg:

Sarikei and Bintangor's harvest from the more than 10,000 acres of oil palms have to be transported at extra cost to the mills at Saratok and Sibu. This cost can be saved with a local palm oil mill.

In Johore, the Lee Pineapple Company has a cannery for canned pineapple and juice from the local pineapples. Can Sarikei attract a cannery to set up a branch for our top notch fruits?

 Sarikei's ageing population,
Merdeka foodcourt. 2012

2.  Healthcare - Enough medical specialists?
A wealth of healthcare hardware in the massive Sarikei Hospital (completed in 2006) did not attract enough medical doctors and specialists. Sarikei has churned out more than 100 doctors and specialists but they prefer serving other towns and countries for various reasons beyond the scope of this discussion. Any patients of an emergency or a critical illness will need to travel to Sibu, Kuching, KL or Singapore. How can we attract and retain medical experts?

Sarikei Hopsital, 2012.
Source: Nyaring Selan

3. Infrastructure - Link Sarikei to growth areas
The road link to Tanjung Manis (half an hour away by boat) has been on Sarikei's wish list for ages. Sibu has been linked by road to Tanjung Manis in 2011. BN/SUPP announced a MYR45M road link to Tanjung Manis. The Opposition rebuted by saying that the lack of details or tenders of any project may end up like the Bintangor TAR college (it was not built). Read the media report at this link.

BN/SUPP's vision of the Tanjung Manis road link.
Rejang River Esplanade. 2013.

 PR/DAP billboard: 
"After 5 years, where is Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) college?"
Sarikei Repok Road traffic light junction.
Source: DAP Sarikei facebook page. 2013

PR/DAP announced that a toll-free Pan Borneo Highway will be built from the tip of Kudat in Sabah to Kuching within the next five years if PR wins GE13. This will be funded by an increase from 5% to 20% in oil royalty to Sarawak (the 95% is currently shared with all other states). Sarawak is one of the richest state in natural resources but is one of the poorest states in Malaysia.

PR/DAP's vision of a toll free Pan Borneo Highway

How will Sarikeians vote? Do you cast your vote based on the candidate or on the political party? Do you agree with BN/SUPP's positioning of investment and keeping the status quo versus PR/DAP's cry for UBAH (change) to clean up Malaysia? Do you care only about Sarikei or the bigger picture of Malaysia? Do you vote along racial, religious or economic lines? Will you be tossing a coin instead?

This will be Sarikei's and also Malaysia's closest election to date. Think again.

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