Sunday, May 5, 2013

GE13 : A tricky choice for Serdang folk

Free Malaysia Today, May 2, 2013

They will have to decide between an experienced old-school politician and a rising star riding the wave of change. 

BANGI: When they go to the polls this May 5, the 133,139 voters in Serdang will have to make the tricky decision of choosing between a veteran Barisan Nasional leader and an erudite young politician from Pakatan Rakyat for their MP.

MCA’s Yap Pian Hon, 70, is in a straight fight with 38-year-old DAP candidate Ong Kian Ming, who has made a name for himself as a political analyst.

On the surface, Yap seems to have the greater advantage. He was born in the Serdang area and was its MP from 1995 to 2008, when BN chose not to field him as a candidate. Even before Serdang became a parliament seat, he was its state assemblyman for three terms from 1974.

Ong is DAP’s election strategist. His political analyses have been widely published in several popular online and print publications. He was a Fullbright scholar and has a PhD in political science from the US-based Duke University. He also has economics degrees from the London School of Economics and Cambridge University.

Before becoming active in politics, he lectured at UCSI University and was a consultant for the Blue Ocean Strategy regional centre.

A Serdang new village resident, speaking to FMT, succinctly described the choice open to Serdang voters as a choice between “maintaining the traditional past” and “shaping the future”.

Yap’s political rhetoric is typical of the old school. He talks about development at the local level, promising a better traffic dispersal system, environmentally-conscious planning for a new industrial zone and other socio-economic benefits that BN could bring to the constituents he hopes to be representing after the election.

The Chinese make up 48.6% of Serdang voters and the Malays 39.6%. The rest are Indians and others.

To woo the Indian voters, Yap has promised an additional service centre in Bangi that would cater specifically to the community.

But a veteran political observer disagrees that Yap has an advantage over Ong. He reasoned that while local concerns were important, Serdang’s voters were sophisticated enough to place BN’s promises and baits against the larger background of national or “bigger” issues such as the rising cost of living and the deteriorating standard of education.

Indeed, a random survey of local voters revealed that national issues were important to them. Many spoke disparagingly of the moral integrity of the BN administration, questioning its sincerity in stamping out corruption and its abuse of public facilities and the instruments of government to serve its political interest.

BN has failed

Even when it came to Yap’s promises of developing the local economy, several respondents said they doubted that he could fulfil them all.

“For 56 years,” said a voter, “the BN had so much opportunity to develop Serdang. We repeatedly elected its candidates. Yet, many promises get forgotten, to be resurrected only at election time.”

Nevertheless, according to Ong, local issues do crop up during his campaign rounds. “People are concerned about traffic congestion, rising crime and difficulties in getting licences for petty trading and the like,” he told FMT.

He said he had so far been well received during his campaign rounds despite his lack of proficiency in Hakka, the predominant Chinese dialect spoken in Serdang. However, he makes amends by speaking in Mandarin.

He believes he has the advantage of being identified with the “wave of change sweeping through the nation”.

An FMT reporter spent a few hours last Sunday listening to conversations at a coffee shop serving a new village in Serdang. It was interesting to hear the many ways of saying “enough is enough” in the various local dialects.

Pakatan supporters in Serdang agree that local development, as a political issue, should not be taken lightly, but they say Ong should be able to deliver such development if Pakatan wins the general election, especially if it also retains Selangor.

“Yes, Yap has the advantage of experience in the constituency, but Ong can deliver better in Parliament,” said one of the volunteers at his operations centre.

“Ong has the intelligence and the experience to advance proposals to the Pakatan coalition in terms of economic, political and educational reforms, which will definitely benefit Serdang residents directly. But more crucially, Pakatan is likely to reactivate local council elections, which will give citizens a say in the administration of their community.

“Yap cannot do all this because he will have to abide by BN policies, which are determined by Umno, not MCA.”

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