Dissecting politics in Kajang

Philip Golingai

In other words, if you get the support of the bulk of the Sungai Chua voters, you would win Kajang.

Philip Golingai, The Star

With the by-election drawing closer, speculation about its possible outcome is ramping up.

ON Saturday, I was at a cendol stall next to a Chinese temple in Jalan Mendaling, Kajang. It was lunchtime and I was talking politics with a former Kajang assemblyman.

Not with Lee Chin Cheh, the PKR assemblyman who quit the Selangor Legislative Assembly on Jan 27, but with Lee Kim Sin, the PKR assemblyman who was surprisingly dropped by his party and replaced by the unknown Chin Cheh as its Kajang candidate for GE13.

I’m familiar with Kajang town as I’ve been visiting it for satay since my college days in the 1980s.

However, after Chin Cheh vacated the seat to make way for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to contest in a by-election, I realised that I knew almost nothing about Kajang in terms of politics.

(The Kajang political trivia I know is that Tan Sri Lee Kim Sai, a MCA deputy president, served as the MP for the Hulu Langat constituency, which included the Kajang state seat.)

To get to know Kajang — the birthplace of Ning Baizura — I met up with Kim Sin, who is popularly known as Cikgu Lee.

His moniker came to mind when Kajang became a hot constituency in Malaysian politics.

I vaguely remember that there had been a Twitter campaign to get Cikgu Lee reinstated as the PKR candidate.

“He’s a good man. He served well. But that is PKR politics. You get dropped when you are not part of Azmin Ali’s faction,” a journalist from Kajang had told me in April last year.

“You were dropped in 2013,” I said to Cikgu Lee during our conversation.

“I felt I should have been the candidate in terms of popularity and preparation for the polls.

“My service record to the constituents and my role as a legislator have been good,” said the 60-year-old politician.

“Then why were you dropped?” I asked.

“This is politics. Some faction (in PKR) wanted my winnable seat,” he said.

“How did you feel when you were dropped?” I asked.

“Disappointed. Frustrated. I fought for the candidacy up until the last minute. However, they insisted on a new candidate so I gave up.

“I then withdrew from politics until now,” said Cikgu Lee, who is actively campaigning for Anwar.

“There was talk that you were thinking of contesting as an independent (in GE13),” I said.

“It did cross my mind but I decided against it. The political trend then was that the voters wanted Pakatan Rakyat to win regardless of the candidate,” he said.

“You would have been a Janice Lee,” I said, referring to the Teratai assemblyman who lost after she stood as an independent in her seat during GE13 after she was dropped by DAP.

“Certainly. I wouldn’t have been able to win but I would have gotten quite a number of votes,” he agreed.

He also told me about how Kajang had transformed from a sleepy town 20 years ago into a transit town where people working in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and KLIA lived.

“Before, Kajang was an easygoing town. Now it is as hectic as Petaling Jaya,” Cikgu Lee said.

Kenapa tak tanding lagi? (How come you are not contesting again?)” asked an ustaz, who had just finished his lunch at the same stall.

Tak apa. Ada orang lagi kuat (Never mind. There is a stronger candidate),” Cikgu Lee replied.

“How are (Datuk) Zaid Ibrahim’s chances in Kajang?” I asked the 60-year-old man, who wanted to be known as Ustaz Kelantan.The night before, Zaid had tweeted that as a Valentine’s present to him, his wife had consented to him contesting in the by-election.

Pertama, tengok ‘body’ (First, you look at the ‘body’),” said Ustaz Kelantan.

“What’s ‘body’?” I asked. I was then told that the word referred to a politician’s presence or charisma.

“Nobody knows Zaid in Kajang. When he comes here, he will have to salam (shake hands) and say, ‘I’m Zaid Ibrahim’. How can he win if he has to introduce himself?” said the ustaz.

It was insightful to get the grassroots’ perspective on the by-election. They see politics differently from the so-called intellectuals on Twitter, who are not convinced of the need to vacate a seat just for the “Kajang Move”.

“I heard Anwar is in trouble as Selangor PAS will boycott him,” I said.

PAS ni macam bini yang marah. Bini kita marah tapi dia masak juga untuk kita (PAS is like an angry wife. Even though the wife is angry, she will still cook for us),” said Ustaz Kelantan, adding that on the ground, PAS operation centres were open.

To get an indication of the result of the Kajang by-election, I asked Cikgu Lee for the statistics of the constituency where Malays make up 48% of the electorate, Chinese 41%, Indians 10% and others 1%.

In the 2013 General Election, Kajang saw a six-cornered fight between Lee Chin Cheh of PKR (19,571 votes), Lee Ban Seng of Barisan Nasional (12,747), Mohamad Ismail of Berjasa (1,014), as well as independent candidates Ong Yan Foo (85), Mohd Khalid Kassim (83) and Mohd Iwan Jefrey Abdul Majid (249).

“About 80% of the Chinese voters are with Pakatan while about 40% of the Malay voters are with us,” he said.

“The majority of the Chinese voters are living in Sungai Chua, which is Selangor’s second biggest new village. Sungai Chua, which was a former tin mining town, is the king maker.”

In other words, if you get the support of the bulk of the Sungai Chua voters, you would win Kajang.