PETALING JAYA: PPBM youth chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman has taken Muar MP Razali Ibrahim to task for his alleged failure to ensure that the royal town live up to its economic potential.
Speaking to FMT, he said he visited Muar recently and was disheartened by what he claimed was an obvious lack of effort to lift the town out of the doldrums.
He noted that Razali, who is a deputy minister in the prime minister’s department, had served as Muar’s MP for three terms.
Talk is rife that Syed Saddiq has been slated to contest in Muar in the coming general election, but he would not confirm it.
He said Muar had a “huge potential” to progress. “But sadly, there isn’t as much development as, say, Johor Bahru.“
The town has historical buildings from the pre-war era and was declared as a royal town in 2012. Its official name is Bandar Maharani Bandar Diraja and it is the fourth largest town in Johor after Johor Bahru, Batu Pahat and Kluang.
Syed Saddiq said he found that many young people had left the town to work in Singapore, Melaka, Kuala Lumpur and even as far away as Kedah.
“Muar is known today as a town for retirees,” he said. “Basically, there is a lack of opportunities. When I talked to youths, they told me jobs were available only for older people.
“I found out that an influx of foreign workers had compromised job creation for the young people.”
He said Muar needed to be repopulated by locals to prevent it from turning into a town for foreign workers, which he alleged was already happening if one were to look at an area called Tanjung Emas.
“If you go to Tanjung Emas on Friday and Saturday, you will see foreign workers everywhere, enjoying their weekend out.”
He said locals had told him that many of the foreigners had no work permits and that their presence had affected the availability of properties for rent.
“One senior citizen told me he had been trying to rent a shop lot that was meant for locals but had not been successful in the last 15 years.
“At least one entire row of shops has been rented out to foreigners. I didn’t believe this until I went there and saw it for myself.”
Syed Saddiq said he believed local born youths had a strong affinity for Muar but had decided to work elsewhere because job opportunities were few and wages were stagnant.
He said Johor needed to be divided into development zones, with Muar being the anchor for the northern part of the state.
He said if he were to contest and win in Muar, he would transform the town into a magnet for development, drawing investments from multinational companies.
He spoke of building shopping malls, saying it was “undeniable” that having them would be one way of attracting youths back to the town. He noted that the closest mall to Muar at present was in Melaka.
In the 2013 election, Razali defeated PKR’s Nor Hizwan Ahmad by 1,646 votes, which represented about a third of the majority he got in GE12.