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Umno still faces an angry Indian electorate

PORT DICKSON,There is one reason why the majority of the 2,800 Indian voters in Bagan Pinang, who voted PAS in Election 2008, are likely to again vote for the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in the Oct 11 by-election.

The reason is total neglect of the community, not just between March 2008 and now but over several decades.

In fact the worst neglect happened during the 24-year tenure of Tan Sri Isa Mohamad Samad, the Barisan Nasional (BN)/Umno candidate in the by-election.

“It is such an irony that the man who is to be largely blamed for the neglect of the Indian community in Bagan Pinang has returned to become the candidate,” said Vasantha Kumar, a former Hindraf leader who is urging the Indian voters to back PR.
“BN/MIC/Umno have all neglected them,” he said. “Now they are facing the same voters again and making the same unfulfilled promises.”

His former compatriot P. Uthayakumar, who is head of the yet unregistered Human Rights Party, is urging the Indian voters to boycott the

by-election and refrain from voting to register their anger against their neglect.

The MIC and the newly formed Makkal Sakthi Party are also promising Umno that they can win over the Indians.

A cursory survey of the Indian votes, which form about 20 per cent of the total of about 13,000, shows they are marginalised and sidelined from mainstream development.

They are ripe for PR’s “change now” propaganda because they have suffered for many years watching development pass them by.

Issues close to their hearts — Tamil schools, temples, a Hindu lifestyle and upward mobility — have all been severely neglected in the past 30 years.

The seven Tamil schools in the constituency are in a dilapidated state with leaking roofs, creaking floors and crumbling walls.

The toilets are damaged, the pipes broken and the electrical wiring exposed, posing a danger to the students faced with an education that takes them nowhere.

One can see the same neglect in the temples, in the burial ground and in the sole crematorium which is so dilapidated that villagers are shy to show it to visitors.

Many of the youths have left the constituency and now work as unskilled labour in factories in Nilai, Seremban and in Johor, returning once a week with provisions for their aged parents and other siblings.

Many also do menial work in KLIA while others work in orchards and fish farms.

“I have tried my hand at many things — fish breeding, rearing cows and goats, lorry transport… you name it I have tried it,” said Ganesan, 37, who operates a tea stall by the roadside.

“We are on our own… no loans, no skills training, no recognition, nothing,” he said. “They have no eyes for us… they don’t see us.”

“Why should I vote for them?” he asked, referring to Umno.

How about the MIC? Ganesan snorts: “They take care of themselves… every branch chairman here has made it. It is tough to become a branch chairman… I tried but failed. I would have made it if I had succeeded.”

It is not that Ganesan and others like him in Bagan Pinang love PAS or they hate Umno. “It is more like we are frustrated… we want to be cared for, we want to be looked after, we want our children to have a future,” he said.

“I will vote PAS again because I am angry,” said Ragu, a patron at the stall. “We want to show our unhappiness. PAS is not great, it cannot change our lives but like us they are also poor, they are also struggling like us.”

“Like us they (PAS) are also under attack,” he said

A local Tamil school teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Isa was down to earth and respected but Indians who voted PAS in 2008 will stay with PAS.

“The older Indian voters would support Isa out of respect but don’t expect any kindness from the younger generation,” he said. “The youths are one angry lot… they are struggling to make ends meet. They will stay with PAS.”

Malays here have always liked Isa and it is home ground for him, said the teacher, adding that the former mentri besar has generated positive momentum and is leading the race.

He said the Indian votes are crucial for Isa to win by a big majority but he can still win just on the Malay and army votes.

By Baradan Kuppusamy/The Malaysian Insider

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