Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Battle of ‘frenemies’ in Segamat: Jui Meng vs Subra

P.140 Segamat (13th General Election on May 5, 2013)
46,262 (20,093/43.43% Malays; 21,393/46.24% Chinese; 4,641/10.03% Indians)
Vote for Change, for our children’s future

Thursday, 25 April 2013 08:42
Battle of ‘frenemies’ in Segamat: Jui Meng vs Subra 

SEGAMAT - Some call it the battle of the ministers, others regard it as a battle of "frenemies", but whichever way one looks at it, the heat is on in Segamat.
The face-off between former allies, MIC deputy president Datuk Seri Dr. S. Subramaniam and Johor PKR chief Datuk Chua Jui Meng, in the Segamat parliamentary seat has generated excitement in this sleepy town.
Locals converge at coffee shops and kopitiams to exchange latest political gossip and snippets over coffee and roti bakar.
Subramaniam, the incumbent, is human resources minister and Chua, previously an MCA strongman, was health minister from 1995 to 2004.
Chua was also embroiled in a controversial tussle with DAP for the Gelang Patah seat, which was eventually given to DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang.
Chua, who had proclaimed himself "homeless" at the time, said as a result, he had to start campaigning earlier than expected as he had to get to know the grassroots.
"Initially, PKR's presence here was low because we were not active compared with Gelang Patah, where I was.
Because of that, I have to start with human resources to help me in all aspects," he told theSun.
Describing Subramaniam as "a person of good standing", Chua said he expected the fight for the seat to be friendly and with integrity.
Subramaniam has admitted that his strategy to woo voters would have to be different this time.
"Chua is a friend who had campaigned with me in 2004, and now I'm going against him. He is a strong opponent," he told theSun.
However, he said he has the advantage in the form of Barisan Nasional election machinery to spread the message of his promises for better development in the district.
"DAP is reeling from the fact that its seat has been taken away, and may not contribute much," he said. (Subramaniam won against DAP's Pang Hok Liang in the 2004 and 2008 elections.)
He also said Chua is a newcomer in the region, and cast doubts over his allegiance to Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
"He was in MCA for more than 20 years, and could have said many things as a leader then, but then he decided to join PR to criticise the system that supported him for so long," he added.
However, the locals seemed convinced of Chua's credentials.
A Kampung Abdullah resident, who declined to be named, said the "winds of change" are blowing in Johor with the arrival of many political stalwarts, adding that fielding Chua in Segamat was a good choice.
"He used to be a minister, so he must be capable of doing his job, and serving the community," he said when approached at a kopitiam. However, he was not willing to discredit Subramaniam.
"Subramaniam is one of the most hardworking MPs we have. He promised to solve our problems by pouring money into flood mitigation projects. He also oversaw the completion of the Segamat-Muar highway," he said.
Private tutor Kong Chock Wai said many of the Chinese are fed up with MCA for trying to manipulate issues to play up the incompatibility between DAP and PAS.
"PAS has also changed its image. They are fielding more professionals now compared with previously when we only saw religious teachers," he said.
A longtime MCA member, who identified himself only as Low, said it was a tough choice between Chua and Subramaniam as both are credible leaders in their own right.
Interestingly, she advocated a two-party system, saying it would benefit the people.
When asked about their pledges to the people of Segamat, Subramaniam said he will give priority to developing the local economy, following many business projects enabled by the Iskandar development zone.
"I hope we can develop this town by creating more business opportunities through better infrastructure," he said.
Meanwhile, Chua said he too would focus on bringing more commerce to boost the local economy as well as deliver promises yet to be fulfilled by the government.