Make environment our 2018 priority


Our Environment is Our Life – YouTube

THE year has barely started, and already we have so many reports of weather and climate-related events.

Heavy wind, snow storms and below-freezing temperatures paralysed cities in the United States’ East Coast. New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was in chaos with hundreds of flights suspended.

Yet, just weeks previously, big fires linked to a heat wave were sweeping through parts of California on the West Coast, burning 112.000ha of forest and threatening lives and homes.

Colder weather in one place and hotter temperatures in another are signs of global climate change, which can also cause heavier rainfall and drought in different regions.

While it is difficult to pin down any particular incident as a direct result of climate change, it is recognised scientifically that climate change generally exacerbates extreme weather events and may cause some of them.

We can expect the weather, and more broadly the environment, to figure prominently this year.

The alarm bells sounded long ago on the environmental crisis. But it is not easy to achieve a continuous high level of concern among political leaders.

After a calamity and public outrage, there are pledges to correct the situation. However, the interest fades after a while, and not much action is taken, until the next disaster happens.

In Malaysia, people are now looking at the sky constantly to anticipate whether it is going to rain.

Heavy rainfall has been causing floods in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Negri Sembilan, Kedah, Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak.

In Penang, severe state-wide flash floods seem to be occurring every few months, with localised flooding in several areas in between. The mud brought down from eroded hill-slopes into overflowing rivers and then into houses, makes floods an even worse nightmare for those affected.

For some unlucky ones, hardly have their houses and furniture been cleaned than they are under one metre of water again through a new flood.

Heavier rain and more floods is the new normal in Malaysia. There has been an increase in rainfall for most parts of the country in 2000-2009 compared to 1970-1999, with the major increase in 2005-2009, according to a 2012 paper by Yap Kok Seng, then the head of the Malaysian Meteorological Depart­ment (MMD), and his colleagues.

The global temperature increase has led to changes in weather including major wind patterns, amount and intensity of precipitation, and increased frequency of severe storms and weather extremes, according to the paper, Malaysia Climate Change Scenarios.

In Malaysia since the 1980s, there had been increasing number of days of extreme rainfall events, extreme wind events and annual thunderstorm days, added the paper.

Unfortunately the situation will worsen. A study published on Jan 10, whose authors are affiliated with Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, predicted that millions more people will be affected by river flooding as global warming increases severe rainfall in the next 20 years.

In Asia, the most affected region, people at risk from floods will rise to 156 million from the present 70 million in the next 20 years.

Global warming increases the risk of flooding because rain during an extreme downpour “increases exponentially” as temperatures rise, the institute’s Anders Levermann told Reuters.

“We have to adapt to global warming. Doing nothing will be dangerous,” he said.

Countries will have to act urgently and make major investments in flood protection to boost their flood defences, according to the report.

This advice surely applies to Malaysia as one of the countries already being affected by heavier rainfall and extensive river flooding.

Flood mitigation measures must be increased, including de-silting, widening and deepening rivers, improving urban drainage, strengthening river banks, redirecting water flows, constructing tidal gates, and pumping excess water into ponds.

Even more important is flood prevention. A main cause of the floods is deforestation, leading to the loss of the forests’ valuable roles in soil and water retention and climate regulation.

It is really short-sighted and irrational to damage and destroy forests, especially forest reserves and water catchment areas.

Exposed soils are swept by rain into rivers, clogging up streams and drains with mud and causing floods downstream in the towns and villages, while also depriving us of much-needed water supply.

There is a great deal of public concern over recent developments that threaten forests and hill lands in the country.

These include the de-gazetting of the Ulu Muda water catchment area in Kedah; the de-gazetting of hill lands in Penang that previously were protected under the Land Conservation Act and which are now being “developed” with the aid of higher permitted density ratio; the conversion of 4,515ha forest reserve to cultivate oil palm plantations in Terengganu (being opposed by WWF-Malaysia); and protests over the imminent loss of a forested park in Taman Rimba Kiara in Kuala Lumpur to make way for housing.

Federal, state and local governments should give priority to environmental rehabilitation of damaged forests and hills, prevent damage to the coastal ecosystem including mangroves, and take comprehensive flood prevention and mitigation measures.

They should stop approving environmentally harmful projects in ecologically sensitive areas.

They must make major financial allocations to protect and rehabilitate the environment, and implement finance measures to prevent and manage the floods.

As so many scientists are warning, and as more and more local communities and citizen groups are demanding, the time to act on the environment is now. Let us hope that in 2018 these calls will be heeded.

Global trends by Martin Khor

Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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Who is sabotaging Penang undersea tunnel project?


Penang govt to blame, says Lau

PETALING JAYA: Barisan Nasional should not be blamed as it is DAP’s own doing that “sabotaged” the Penang undersea tunnel project, said Gerakan vice-president Datuk Dr Dominic Lau (pic).

He added it began when the DAP-led Penang government failed to provide feasibility reports on the project, which were supposed to be completed by April 2016.

“You missed the deadline and in October 2017, the special purpose vehicle (SPV) said there is no more urgency to complete the reports.

“Based on the original timeline, the first phase of the project was supposed to start construction in the first quarter of 2015 and completed by this year.

“As of now, this first phase has not even started construction,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Despite the multiple delays in the reports and the construction starting date, he said the Penang government did not appear to have penalised the SPV.

He said when the project was awarded, a statement was issued stating that shareholders of the SPV consortium are China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG), Zenith Construction, Juteras Sdn Bhd and Sri Tinggi Sdn Bhd.

“But today, CRCC, BUCG and Sri Tinggi were no longer listed as shareholders while Juteras Sdn Bhd is listed as winding up – leaving only one (Zenith Construction) out of the four shareholders in the agreement.

“Despite a material change of the financial and technical strength promised during the award and what it is now, the Penang government still does not appear to want to cancel the project or penalise the SPV,” he said.

“Even five years after the contract was awarded, the SPV still only has paid-up capital of RM26.5mil – way below the RM381mil minimum paid-up capital required by the Penang government to deliver the project.

“Meanwhile, the SPV is on course to make billions in two property projects valued at RM800mil and RM15bil respectively,” he said.

Meanwhile, Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications deputy director Datuk Eric See-To said the agreement shown to the media by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was different from the one MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said was not stamped.

The agreement shown by Lim in a press conference on Friday was between the Penang state government with Consortium Zenith-BUCG; and not between the state and CRCC.

Previously, the Penang state government had shown a copy of a letter of support from the CRCC to prove that it is a party to the SPV awarded to undertake the undersea tunnel project.

On Tuesday, Dr Wee’s statement noted that the Acknowledgement of Commitment signed by the state government with CRCC was not a legally binding document and was hence not stamped.



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Penang has enough roads and linkages, say activists – Nation

 

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Dismayed over the exorbitant engineering consultancy fees, 4 times higher !


GEORGE TOWN: Barisan Nasional leaders have criticised the Penang Government for allegedly over-paying, by four times, the detailed design fees of three road projects.

“Construction is not a new industry. Many people are puzzled by the exorbitant consultancy fees,” said Penang MCA secretary Tang Heap Seng in a press statement yesterday.

He said the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) devised a standardised gazetted scale of fees for professional engineering consultancy in accordance with Section 4(1)(d) of the Registration of Engineers Act 1967 (Act 138), and it was highly irregular to deviate from it.

Yesterday, it was reported that Barisan’s strategic communication team sought the professional opinion of BEM on the costing of the three paired roads.

The board was said to have replied that the RM177mil in detailed design costs was four times higher than the maximum allowed under the gazetted scale of fees, which the board calculated to be RM41mil.

The three roads are from Teluk Bahang to Tanjung Bungah, Air Itam to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway and Gurney Drive to the expressway. They are meant to be a traffic dispersal system for the proposed Penang Undersea Tunnel.

Penang MCA Youth chief Datuk Michael Lee Beng Seng also issued a statement, pointing out that the alleged overpaid amount of RM136mil was more than the reported RM100mil the state spent on flood mitigation in the last eight years.

“We are shocked that the Penang government has put the well-being and safety of the rakyat behind the interests of consultants and contractors.”

Gerakan vice-president Datuk Dr Dominic Lau highlighted that affordable housing, flash floods and landslides were issues that concerned Penangites.

On Tuesday, Barisan strategic communications director Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan announced that he was giving the Penang Government a week to explain BEM’s findings, failing which the matter would be referred to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

When asked to comment, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng replied: “Another day.” – The Star

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It is a Malaysian tsunami not Chinese tsunami, based on new aspirations and reality reflected in GE 13 outcome


GE13_popular_votes

BN fared worse this time around compared to 2008. The number of its parliamentary seats dwindled to 133 from 140. As for state legislative assemblies, the figure was even less impressive with 275 compared to 306 previously although the ruling coalition managed to recapture Kedah and legitimise its control over Perak.

For the first time since the 1969 general election, BN garnered less popular votes than the opposition. I agree with debaters who asserted that this is not a “Chinese tsunami” given the fact that the BN’s performance had also worsened in Malay majority states such as Terengganu.

“Please accept the results.” That was the closing remark of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, in his media conference when accepting the Barisan Nasional’s victory in the 13th general elaction at the Umno headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

Briefly, my preliminary observation is BN cannot be proud or, more so, swollen-headed with its achievement because prior to this it had boasted openly about winning big and securing a two-third majority in the Dewan Rakyat and recapturing states held by the Pakatan Rakyat.

Instead, its achievement is worse than in the 2008 GE because the PR had succeeded in penetrating Johor and won more seats in Sarawak – two states deemed as BN’s fixed deposit – and won additional seats in state legislative assemblies nationwide.

Although the PR had failed in its “Ubah” and “Ini Kalilah” campaign to wrest control of the Federal Government, the pact had nevertheless expanded its presence to all states.

BN had successfully recaptured Kedah and defended Perak, but failed in its attempt to win back Selangor and Kelantan although its propaganda machinery had given the impression that Selangor was already in its hand and there were hopes of winning Kelantan.

With regard to Selangor, its defeat is a major slap in the face for being so boastful.

Penang needs no mention. Both the Gerakan and MCA were totally destroyed.

The bait Najib put before the Chinese produced no results. They openly rejected BN.

Najib was stunned by the outcome and promised changes to Umno. But the poor showing compared to 2008 has made his position vulnerable.

Also, is the outcome of this general election a “tsunami Cina” (Chinese tsunami) as Najib had described them or were they the manifestation of something more significant i.e. a large number of voters no longer accept the BN and the BN-led government as it exists today?

Is it not possible that this is not a Chinese tsunami or ethnic chauvinism but instead a Malaysian tsunami that is based on new aspirations and reality, especially among the young voters?

Although BN has recaptured Kedah, its strength in all state legislative assemblies had fallen.

It almost lost Terengganu as well as surrendered many seats to PR in all states.

On the PR side, it must accept the choice of voters and any dissatisfaction and dispute must be settled in accordance with laws and regulations, and not via street protests.

Wallahualam. – Akadirjasin.blogspot.com/akadirjasin.com.
> A. Kadir Jasin is Editor-in-Chief of magazine publishing company, Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd

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Malaysian election: Relooking ideals of democracy, How to casting Your Vote?


The workings of electoral democracy face many challenges that separate the democracy’s virtues from the sordid realities that need to be admitted and rectified.

Transformation Malaysia

IN a democracy, the government must be representative of the people and answerable, responsible and accountable to the wishes of society. Elections are one aspect of this accountability.

Unfortunately, the electoral exercise in all democracies is so colossal, involves so many details, so many people (240,000 workers for the forthcoming elections) and so much money (RM400mil) that it is extremely vulnerable to manipulation and malpractices.

Despite democracy’s undoubted virtues, the sordid realities of the electoral exercise need to be noted and rectified.

A genuinely democratic electoral process must possess the following salient features.

First, there must be in existence constitutional provisions for the existence, composition and tenure of legislative assemblies. These are provided for in detail in our federal and state constitutions.

Second, the electoral system must translate votes into parliamentary seats.

Two main types of electoral systems exist – the simple plurality system and the system of proportional representation. In the simple plurality system, the candidate obtaining the most votes is declared elected.

There is no requirement that he must obtain more than 50% of the votes polled. In a three-cornered contest, the “winner” may capture the seat with only a minority of the votes.

In addition to non-representative outcomes in individual constituencies, the simple plurality system permits a massive disparity at the national level between the percentage of votes polled and the percentage of parliamentary seats won.

For example in 2004, Barisan Nasional won 63.9% of the popular vote but 90.4% of the Dewan Rakyat seats. In Britain in the 70s, the victorious Labour party won only 37% of the popular vote but a working majority in Parliament.

In contrast, in the proportional representation system, parliamentary seats are given to parties in proportion to the percentage of popular votes obtained by them.

The positive outcome is that the legislature is truly representative.

But the negative feature of a proportional representation system is that a large number of political parties join the fray and none command a firm majority in the legislature. Instability, frequent change of government and gridlock result.

Third, democracy requires that a fair and impartial machinery for delineating and revising electoral constituencies must be in place.

Every citizen’s vote must carry equal weight. This means that in principle, all constituencies must be approximately equal in population size.

Unfortunately, if this ideal were to be strictly followed, all constituencies in rural areas, in hilly terrains as in Pahang, and in territorially large but thinly populated states as in Sabah and Sarawak will have very few MPs.

The Constitution in 1957, therefore, allowed a measure of weightage to be given to rural constituencies. Unfortunately, how much weightage may be given is no where specified and wide disparities exist.

The largest parliamentary constituency is Kapar, Selangor, with 144,369 voters; the smallest is Putrajaya with 15,355 voters – i.e. 9.4 times smaller. In Perak, the largest is Gopeng with 97,243 electors; the smallest is Padang Rengas with 28,572 – a difference of 3.4.

Fourth, a fair and impartial machinery for drawing up an electoral register is necessary.

In Malaysia, it is the job of the Election Commission to draw up the electoral register impartially, to ensure that no one is denied the right to vote, that there are no phantom voters or persons who have died, that no non-citizens are allowed to register, that voters satisfy the requirement of residence in their constituency and that no one registers in more than one electoral district.

Fifth, the law must permit universal adult franchise (right to vote). Regrettably, our voting age (21 on the date of registration) is very high. Consequently, nearly 55% of the population is rendered ineligible to vote. We need to reduce this proportion. There is also no automatic registration.

Many citizens are apathetic and do not register as voters. Some who do fail to show up on election day because voting is not compulsory.

We have 13.3 million registered voters who constitute only 46% of our population of 28.9 million.

If one were to deduct those who do not show up, this leaves only 34.5% of the population that participates in democracy’s showcase event! We must find ways to increase this proportion.

Sixth, there must be legal rules for the eligibility of candidates and for the nomination of contestants. These exist in detail.

Seventh, there must be rules about the limits on the powers of caretaker governments. In the case of PP v Mohd Amin Razali (2002), the court provided some guidance. We could also emulate conventions from the Common­wealth.

Eighth, legal and conventional rules exist for the conduct of election campaigns, duration of the campaign period and rights of political parties to reach out to the electorate. Ninth, election expenses are controlled so that the electoral exercise does not degenerate into a battle of cheque books.

In Malaysia, the law puts a ceiling on the expenditure by individual candidates (RM100,000 for state and RM200,000 for federal seats) and imposes a duty to maintain a record of contributions and filing of audited statements of expenditure.

However, there is no control on what political parties may spend or receive by way of donation.

Tenth, the Constitution confers safeguards for freedom of speech, assembly and association.

In many democratic countries, there are provisions for equal access to the media for all contestants. In Malaysia, media monopoly is a serious problem.

The Internet is, however, open to everyone and provides an alternative, though not always reliable, source of information.

In sum, though democracy is the best form of government, there can be no denying that behind the folklore of electoral democracy stand many myths and many utilitarian compromises. Every where in the world electoral reform is being called for. Unfortunately, there are no quick-fix, simple solutions.

For this GE, many improvements, like extension of postal votes to those abroad and use of indelible ink, speak well of the recognition of the need for reform. But the challenges are many and, in some cases, fundamental.

What one can hope for is that as in the past our electoral exercise will remain peaceful and that its result will provide a strong and stable government to lead us forward.

Reflecting On The Law by SHAD SALEEM FARUQI
> Shad Saleem Faruqi is Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM

How to casting Your Vote?

Check & Print out:
Check on-line first (http://daftarj.spr.gov.my/semakpru13.aspx) and print out your details before going to the voting center. You may be able to by-pass the Barung counter since you have a printout and know where to go and thus short cut your time. 

How to hold your ballot paper?How to hold ballot paper

Shaken indelible ink: 
Failure to shake the bottles vigorously has caused the ink used for polling to be washed off easily, the Election Commission clarified, referring to several cases during advance voting which are causing a stir in the social media. The EC gave assurance that those who have cast their ballots will not vote again on Sunday. Failure to shake the bottles vigorously has caused the ink used for polling to be washed off easily, the Election Commission clarified, referring to several cases during advance voting which are causing a stir in the social media. The EC gave assurance that those who have cast their ballots will not vote again on Sunday.

Why should we be afraid of Hudud Law? (Must Watch)?

Anwar Ibrahim at Han Chiang Hig

 

Small town, big names in Bentong war part 2, Malaysian election fever


 

Bentong Liow_Felda-scheme

Meeting the people: Liow speaking during an NGO dinner in Bentong.

Felda scheme with a potent voice

Lurah Bilut stands tall as the nation’s first Felda scheme, pioneered by settlers from all races from different parts of the country.

LURAH BILUT is just about 19km away from Bentong. It is a huge piece of fertile land located near Sungai Bilut and the Kelau forest reserve.

It is safe to say that most Malaysians, especially those staying in the cities, have never heard of this place and have no reason to come here.

But Lurah Bilut is not only the first Felda scheme in the country but one that was pioneered by settlers from all races after independence.

In this 12,920-acre (5,228ha) enclave, located within the Bentong parliamentary constituency, there are Malays, Chinese, Indians and the Orang Asli, and their children can go to either the national school or the national-type schools where the medium is in Chinese or Tamil.

The scheme was opened in 1957 and each settler was given 10 acres (4ha) of land. According to records, the first batch of settlers who entered the scheme on Aug 2, 1959, was from Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur. They were brought into the area by bus and were shocked to find themselves in a jungle.

One Chinese settler, who arrived here in 1959 from Negri Sembilan with just his clothes on his back, was given tools to hack away at the dense growth, according to one report. There is one road here called Jalan Pulau Pinang, because the settlers came from Penang.

As with everything that is new and untested, the settlers had to be imbued with a sense of adventure. Certainly they could not foresee the success that Felda would turn out to be eventually. Thus these early settlers in Lurah Bilut came to be known as the Pioneering Bulls and have become some kind of a legend in this Felda scheme.

Felda was set up to eradicate rural poverty through the use of effective agricultural methods to cultivate cash crops such as rubber and oil palm. In recent years, there has also been special emphasis on diversification to deal with the fluctuations in commodity prices.

On my visit to this Felda scheme, it was clear that many were eager to share their experiences with me. There is a sense of pride over what has taken place here.

Strategising: Wong meeting with his team of campaigners at his service centre in Bentong. Strategising: Wong meeting with his team of campaigners at his service centre in Bentong.

I am sitting at a restaurant opposite the Lurah Bilut Chinese school where the Barisan Nasional campaigners are having their lunch break.

A vegetarian meal has been prepared for incumbent MP Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and as he sat down at the table, the MCA deputy president invited those at the table to share his vegetarian dishes.

But many jokingly told him that they would take his share of meat instead, a joke which he has heard many times.

The Bentong parliamentary seat which Liow won with a 12,585 majority when he polled 51,340 votes against his PKR opponent R. Ponusamy’s 12,585 votes is regarded as a safe seat for the Barisan Nasional.

The current electorate of 62,400 voters comprise 43.9% Chinese, 44.6% Malays, 9.4% Indians, 0.5% Orang Asl and the rest, others.

Liow is expected to deliver this seat to the BN but no one is taking any chances this time because of the perception that the Chinese sentiments against the BN are very strong, even in Bentong where they have always been traditionally pro-BN.

Even the Bilut state seat, held by the MCA, is under threat from the Pakatan Rakyat. Liow has to work extra hard to campaign for 36-year-old Leong Kim Soon, who is contesting this seat. Leong’s grand uncle is the late Tan Sri Chan Siang Sun, who was the legendary MP for Bentong.

Leong, who is the political secretary to Liow, is facing DAP’s Chow Yu Hui.

In this rural setting, the two have gone from door to door, under the hot afternoon sun, to shake the hands of every voter.

Said a campaigner: “This is a crucial area as it is racially mixed and we want to cover as much ground as possible.”

Unlike the Felda schemes in Johor, especially, where Pakatan Rakyat candidates are literally chased away by the settlers, the PR workers have been able to put up their flags and banners, an indication that a fight is at hand.

In the Bentong town centre, Liow’s challenger is Wong Tack, who made a name for himself as the anti-Lynas campaigner. In his green T-shirt, Wong was raising environment issues but his credentials have taken a knock after he was exposed as the owner of a 1,000-acre (404ha) oil palm estate in Sabah.

Wong also had to fend off the revelation that he held Canadian permanent residence status, explaining that it was cancelled by the Canadian authorities because he did not go back to the country.

But the BN campaigners have been hammering on that issue, questioning why there was a need for him to collect donations at every ceramah when he is pretty well off financially.

They asked how many of the voters, especially settlers, could even dream of owning 1,000 acres of land and if they knew how much money had been collected so far.

But Wong seems undeterred by these issues, saying he was well-prepared to challenge Liow for Bentong,

and also Mentri Besar Datuk Adnan Yaacob, who is contesting in the Pelangai state seat, under Bentong.
Wong’s campaigners, mostly youngsters, are visibly seen in town, especially at the market, where they aggressively tell voters to go for change.

One Universiti Malaya student said she had volunteered to canvass votes for Wong because she had been actively involved in the anti-Lynas campaign.

“My belief in him remains the same. I will still support him and the DAP, nothing will change my stand,’’ the third-year student said. She said her parents knew that she was campaigning and wholeheartedly supported her.

Her friends, many eager to express their views, said they were using their own expenses to stay in Bentong.

At the Bentong Jaya coffeeshop, the discussions focus on the sentiments of the Chinese, swayed by DAP’s talk that Pakatan Rakyat would take over the Federal Government. Only a few were cautiously warning about the implications of the Chinese voting themselves out of the government.

A businessman from Kuala Lumpur said he had been trying to explain to some Chinese voters that while their sentiments are pro-Pakatan, the majority of Malays would be backing Barisan.

“The huge crowd at DAP ceramah can be deceiving because the Malay style of campaigning, in Felda areas, is to have small get-together sessions, prayers at the suraus and house to house visits. As these are not visible, the Chinese think the huge crowd means PR would take over,” he said.

In Bentong, the local dialect is Kwong Sai, which originates from Guangxi province in southern China. As we continued with our drinks, the locals at the neighbouring tables were listening attentively.

The politicians and campaigners have been doing all the talking so far but come May 5, the voters will be doing the talking via the ballot box. The stand of the majority in Bentong would be known then.

On the GE13 Beat
By WONG CHUN WAI

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Small town, big names in Bentong war, Malaysian election fever 

Small town, big names in Bentong war, Malaysian election fever


Politics up close and personal in a small town is different even if the candidates are major players at the national stage.

TIADA tingkap RM57.25, ada tingkap RM76.35 (without window it is RM57.25, with window it is RM76.35),” said a Hotel Kristal receptionist over the phone.

The difference was RM19.10. I decided to splurge and go for “ada tingkap”.

I wanted a room with a view for my quick stay at Bentong town in Pahang on Friday. The eve of a weekend presented a window of opportunity for me to get out of Greater Kuala Lumpur.Bentong_Loke Yew Street

Since nomination day I’ve attended poli­ti­­­cal activities in the MP seats of Lembah Pantai, Serdang and Putrajaya and I wanted a change in political scenery.

Bentong was tempting as it is a hot seat. Incumbent MP and MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai is facing fiery environmentalist Wong Tack of the DAP, who had threatened to burn the Lynas plant.

I also wanted a taste of politics in a sm­­all town and the famous ABC (ais batu campur) in Kow Po Coffee Shop.

Plus, I wanted to contribute to Star Online’s Storify timeline. (Storify users, in the words of Storify.com, tell stories by collecting updates from social networks, amplifying the voices that matter to create a new story format that is interactive, dynamic and social.)

On that day, The Star was covering the campaign trail of Liow and Wong via Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

After an 80-minute, 85km-drive from Subang Jaya, I arrived in the quaint town of Bentong, once a mining town, at around 3.30pm.

Here’s how I judge a town. “Wah, got KFC! Wah, got 7-Eleven! Wah, got Secret Recipe! Wah, got HSBC!,” I told my wife as I drove around the town which was like a big roundabout.

“Wah, no McDonalds!,” I told her. It seemed if you lived in Bentong, you had to drive 37km to Genting Sempat, on the foothill of Genting Highlands (and also part of the Bentong parliamentary constituency), if you had a McAttack.

One of the best hotels in town is Hotel Kristal. I checked in and quickly checked out my “ada tingkap” room. The view was that of a rather narrow Bentong River, the back of KFC and Barisan Nasional flags. It was worth the extra RM19.10.

Across the Bentong River and about a few kilometres from Hotel Kristal is Kampung Baru Perting, a Chinese new village, which is a DAP stronghold. I drove there as a candidate running for the Bentong seat was campaigning door-to-door.

It was drizzling. After a five-minute drive around the village, I spotted two dozen people carrying blue Barisan umbrellas. Must be Liow Tiong Lai, I told myself.

The 52-year-old politician has been the Bentong MP since 1999. Liow was working his way through a row of wooden and concrete houses together with his mentor Tan Sri Lim Ah Lek, a former Bentong MP and MCA deputy president.

I took their photograph and tweeted (when the Internet signal was strong enough) it.

The silver-haired 70-year-old retired politician, according to my colleague T. Avinesh­waran, was amazing as he remembered almost all of the residents’ names.

Earlier, at 11am, Liow’s opponent Wong Tack had a press conference at the DAP office in Bentong town. At that time I was still in Petaling Jaya. But, via the Storify time­­line curated by Michelle Tam, I felt as if I was in Bentong town covering it.

One of the questions asked of the politi­cian, who made a name for the anti-Lynas campaign, was on the revelation over the Inter­­­­­­­­­­­­­­net that he owned large tract of oil palm plantation in Sabah.

In a video uploaded by Avineshwaran on YouTube immediately after his press conference, Wong said those who questioned his environmental credentials should call Datuk Masidi Manjun, Sabah’s Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, to ask about his contribution to environmental conservation in Sabah.

Tashny Sukumaran, my colleague, tweeted: “@wong_tack asked that @liowtionglai call @MasidiM to ask about his contributions to environmental conservation in Sabah. #bentong #ge13” and Masidi replied on Twitter: “let them fight their own battle like a gentleman #ge13”.

That’s the beauty of social media. The response is immediate and public.

Done with the Liow door-to-door campaigning, I decided to follow my rule #72 of covering a campaign trail – patronise a famous eatery in the town you are in.

I drove to Kow Po Coffee Shop. I managed to chat with the 80-year-old Tan Kow Po and his 48-year-old son, Michael. In 1969, Kow Po established the ABC and ice cream parlour at the same premises which it still occupies now.

Kow Po gave me the low-down on the political scenario in his hometown, Bentong.

At first I could not understand which party he was referring to as he used gestures to describe them.

Finally, I understood that when he made a quick stab with his index finger it meant DAP’s rocket and an O-sign repre­­sen­­­­­­­ted PAS’ moon.

If I was to understand the nuances of the ice cream maker’s political observations, I think he meant: be careful of voting based on the flavour of the month.

 One Man’s Meat by PHILIP GOLINGAI

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