Cameron Highlands, with its high number of Orang Asli voters, continues to be a safe bet for the ruling coalition.
The parliamentary seat has 25,000 voters – Malays at 32%, Chinese 34%, Orang Ali 20% and Indians 14%.
Speaking to FMT, a local MIC branch chairman said that winning over the Orang Asli voters is a major factor in Cameron Highlands.
The constituency has 89 villages comprising those from the Senoi, Temier, Jakun and Negrito tribes.
Some of these villages are deep in the forest and to reach them, one needs to travel by boat for more than two hours.
“There are almost 6,000 Orang Asli voters in the the parliamentary constituency who are considered as ‘fixed deposit’ for BN,” the branch chairman told FMT.
While it is difficult to gauge Chinese and Indian votes, he said that most of the Malays however are from Felda settlements.
“We all know that Felda settlements are Umno strongholds,” he added.
Who will contest?
Speculation has been rife that MIC president G Palanivel is eyeing the seat, but the MIC branch chairman believes that it would not be a wise move.
“As the party president and minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Palanivel should not ‘jump’ from Klang Valley,” he said on condition of anonymity.
He said that in the last general election, MIC only managed to retain three parliamentary seats, with Cameron Highlands being one of them.
This time around, MIC believes that it could win back the six seats which the party lost to the opposition in 2008.
“But to win back the support of the Indians and the six seats, there has to be a concerted effort from all its leaders. At this critical juncture, candidates who won in the last election must be rewarded not punished,” he said, referring to Cameron Highlands incumbent MP SK Devamany (photo).
The MIC vice-president defeated DAP candidate J Applasamy by a majority of 3,117 votes.
Contacted later, Devamany, who is a deputy minister, refused to comment on the speculation but vowed to continue to serving his constituents.
“I will continue to serve my constituents and MIC with more vigour,” he said.
Meanwhile, Applasamy admitted that it would be an uphill battle for Pakatan Rakyat to win the seat since the opposition was unable to “penetrate” the Felda settlements and Orang Asli voters.
“The veteran settlers remain loyal to BN because it looked after them from the time when they were landless peasants,” he said.
However, Applasamy said if the Malay votes were divided and if Pakatn increased Chinese and Indian votes, Pakatan stood a good chance of winning the seat.