Practicality rules for village residents in Balakong by-election

Jerry Choong
Pakatan Harapan candidate for the Balakong by-election Wong Siew Ki (centre) conducts a walkabout in Kajang August 19, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

BALAKONG, Aug 27 — The late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once said he did not care if a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice. The maxim certainly appears to be the case with the residents of Kampung Baru Balakong leading up to the September 8 by-election.

At the Wah Loong Coffee Shop right next to the village’s main archway entrance one balmy morning, its patrons were seen sipping their hot drinks and tucking into slices of toast slathered with kaya when DAP veteran lawmaker Lim Kit Siang and Balakong candidate Wong Siew Ki dropped by as part of their campaign.

During the duo’s speeches, the diners applauded politely at intervals to show agreement with points made by the politicians. And later, they took the coffee shop session as an opportunity to be photographed with the DAP duo.

But after Lim, Wong and their entourage left, the residents of this predominantly Hakka community of 400 families were quick to return to their previous activity as though the political visit had not happened.

Despite looking relaxed, most of the patrons were guarded when approached by the press and gave curt answers when asked for comment. Only when Hakka was spoken to them did they begin to warm up.

Clerks Lai Siew Yee and Chan Yee Chun, both 66, are life-long village residents. To them, the issues surrounding instances of flooding during heavy rainfall caused by Sungai Balak which flows through the village, remains a constant problem.

“The river overflows, and it causes so much inconvenience for everyone. That has always been a problem not easily solved.

“Though there have been improvements, no doubt. The village had a lot more potholes in the previous years, which have mostly been covered over. Still, it would be great if all of the potholes could be dealt with,” said Lai.

When asked which candidate is more likely to win, Chan immediately said it would be Wong.

“One hundred per cent, I am very sure of that. She has been around the village several times now not including today, making her a familiar face quite quickly,” she said.

In contrast, Chan said MCA candidate Tan Chee Teong is virtually unknown to the villagers, despite being from Balakong himself while Wong hails from Subang Jaya.

“I have never even heard of him before until the past few days when I read the newspapers. I must say that even if he happens to win he will find it difficult in helping us since he is not PH.

“Frankly I am happy if the winner works hard to serve us, but between the two at least Siew Ki is familiar with our conditions. My bet is on her,” she said.

Bus driver Chin Yuw Kin, 50, echoed Chan’s sentiments, adding he felt it is a no-brainer as to who would win.

“It certainly looks like it. I cannot say I know her very well, but the times I have heard her speak she seems to be aware of the problem with the river.

“Plus I think almost everyone will come out to vote on September 8. After all we still revere YB Eddie for all his help,” said Chin, referring to the late Balakong assemblyman Eddie Ng who was killed in an accident on July 20.

Chin’s optimism was tempered by the cautiousness of his friend, a retiree who only wanted to be known as Cheong, 77.

Displaying the anticipated distrust for outsiders, Cheong was reserved in his remarks and said political affiliation is irrelevant to him.

“It does not matter if the candidate is liked or not liked, what is important is they can get things done for us.

“She may be a city girl but if she works hard, then I am fine with her,” he said, referring to the PH candidate.

“The same goes for him, whom I heard spends more time in Cheras than in Balakong proper,” he said of MCA’s candidate.

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