Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How will Buntong Indians vote...? (N30 Buntong)

Source : M'ini
Image : Net

The Buntong state seat in Perak which Barisan Nasional had let slip several times in the last 11 general elections is likely to see another keen contest this time round.

Coupled with the fact that Buntong has 46.2 percent Indian voters - the largest in the country in terms of percentage - the outcome on polling day would definitely be closely watched.

Buntong, a former mining town, began as a Chinese new village after World War II. In the 60s and 70s, new Indian settlements were built around the area to house local council workers and Telekom staff during the People's Progressive Party reign of local councils in the area.

DAP's A Sivasubramaniam is giving the seat a second try. He would meet MCA newcomer Lee Tung Lai, 52, as incumbent Yik Phooi Hong would be taking on the Ipoh Barat parliament seat. All three are local boys.

In 2004, Sivasubramaniam lost to Yik's by 2,382 votes. In all, he had managed to reduce Yik's majority by about 1,000 votes. There are 21,682 voters in the area.

Other than the Chinese supporters of DAP, Sivasubramaniam is hoping to cash in on the new wave of anti-government sentiments among Buntong's 10,131 Indian voters and finally wrest back the seat, which DAP held in 1990, from the BN.

Subramaniam has a lot going for him. He is known locally as an aide to Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran and has been keeping his Buntong service centre running since 2004.

"If I am elected then all your rubbish and drainage woes would be resolved. Why? Because that is the carrot Barisan would dangle to win back this seat," Sivasubramaniam told a crowd of 300 during a ceramah near the Buntong market last night.

MCA rookie

His opponent Lee however, despite being an rookie, is no pushover. Lee is a MCA branch chairperson and has been active in local politics, local guilds and parent-teacher associations for the past 20 years.

Met in Buntong today, Lee, who runs a small engineering firm near Buntong, appeared to be still soaking in the fact that he had been made a BN candidate.

"I was hosting a dinner for a friend from overseas when I received the call from (MCA secretary-general) Ong Ka Chuan. After he said that I have been made candidate, I was so stunned I couldn't even finish the rest of my meal," said Lee with a smile when asked on his unexpected candidacy.

Lee said "it should be okay" when asked on his chances of retaining the seat for Barisan and that his track record as a local activist would bode well to win substantial support of Buntong's 10,190 Chinese electorate.

However, he appeared less confident when quizzed about Indian voters.

"There will be a difference (in the way they vote this time)," said Lee, who plans to tackle this by banking on his MIC comrades to help introduce him in an intensive house-to-house campaign.

Lee also brushed off suggestions that a recent confrontation between disgruntled Indians here and Menteri Besar Tajol Rosli was reflective of the entire Indian community in Buntong.

During the Feb 19 incident, a group of Indians jeered Tajol during a meet-the-people session. Other victims of public dissatisfaction included Perak MIC chief G Rajoo and Yik. An egg was also thrown on stage but missed all three VIPs.

"There are only a small group of people who are causing trouble," said Lee.

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