The PAS vice-president hopes that BN’s forced acquisitions of Malay traditional kampungs in Pulai and Nusajaya would help to draw more voters to his side.
JOHOR BARU: PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub is hoping that the many forced acquisitions of Malay traditional kampungs in the constituencies he is contesting would help him score an electoral success on May 5.
His maiden venture into Johor, his birthplace, is filled with many uncertainties as he is tasked with contesting the Pulai parliamentary seat and the Nusajaya state constituency. Thus his focus and energy is divided since campaigning started on April 20.
Besides, he is shaking two seats which are Umno strongholds. In Pulai, incumbent MP Nur Jazlan Mohamed won the seat with a thumping majority of 20,449 votes in the 2008 general election. The seat now comprises 47% Malays, 41% Chinese and 10% Indians.
In Nusajaya, which is the state administrative capital, Barisan Nasional has an edge to defend the seat because of the presence of civil servants, who make up a significant portion of the 47% Malay voters. Chinese and Indian make up 38% and 13% respectively of the 50,231 voters.
But Salahuddin’s advantage is that he can capitalise on the anger of Malay villagers who lost their homes to the rapid developments undertaken by Iskandar Malaysia.
Since announcing that he is returning to Johor from Kelantan last year, the PAS heavyweight has been making the rounds of the Malay villages in a bid to champion their rights.
“My primary mission here is to save lands from being sacrificed to developments,” he told FMT after a ceramah at Kampung Ladang, a fishing village near the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link.
“I am committed to development but it must be a smart one. The bottom line is, people must benefit,” said Salahuddin.
“Look at Kampung Pendas Laut in Nusajaya: the whole village has gone because the residents have been evicted. Some of them got new houses but they are no longer the owners, and some of them do not get enough compensation,” he claimed, referring to the village that was once home to more than 3,000 people.
He said the common trick used by Umno is to acquire the lands based on their agricultural price, only to convert them to commercial use and later increasing the price.
“You can see that the more a village supports Umno, the faster it would vanish.
“Some of the villagers were deceived into believing that they can become millionaires overnight. So without much knowledge of the deal, they sell their land. And they lose it forever,” he said.
He cited Kampung Skudai Kiri, Kampung Sungai Perling, Danga Bay and Kampung Semangat Tampoi as “classic examples” of BN’s method of land acquisitions in Pulai.
“For sure people will judge them [BN],” he said.
Salahuddin, the outgoing Kubang Kerian MP, is also optimistic of Chinese support.
“Last time, we couldn’t organise a ceramah with a big Chinese turnout. But today, you can see the Chinese even wearing PAS logo and asking me to sign on their T-shirts,” he said, referring to a ceramah last week where Chinese made up half of the 500-odd crowd.
But Nur Jazlan is unfazed by Salahuddin’s presence. He said his opponent is rarely seen in Pulai during the campaigning period.
“Maybe he is very confident of winning; that’s why he is always campaigning outside of the constituency,” he said jokingly.
Stirring up sentiments
He dismissed accusations of lopsided land acquisition deals, pointing out that there was not a single protest held by the residents until today.
“I haven’t had any protest until he [Salahuddin] comes along and say, ‘hey you guys should ask for more [compensation].’ He is trying to stir up sentiments,” he said.
“People who have been moved out were compensated with new houses: they can either buy the houses or rent them,” he said, adding that some 2,000 residents have been shifted to public housings in Kempas Permai.
He also said the opposition in Johor is banking on “celebrity politicians”, national issues and the large number of economic migrants working in Singapore for support.
He said his ceramah have attracted 4,000 people, which proves that “he is more popular than Salahuddin” whose ceramah only drew a few hundreds.
“Salahuddin’s campaign is not getting attracting the crowds, except when he is with [DAP adviser] Lim Kit Siang, who is like a hero to the Chinese community,” he said.
Asked whether he is worried about the swing of Chinese votes against BN, he said he would only know after the election result is announced.
“But unlike the Chinese from Kuala Lumpur and Penang who came here to work as guest workers, the Chinese in Johor were invited here to be entrepreneurs.
“Lim may not pull as many Chinese votes as he expects,” he said.