Zahid’s visit lifts hopes of Bongawan voters for more development

Flags of the many political parties in Sabah already up at a roundabout in Kimanis.

KOTA KINABALU: It has an 18-hole golf course designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus but that is as far as famous places go in Bongawan, a quiet southwestern town located about 60km from here.

Apart from the Borneo Golf and Country Club, its residents struggle to name a place to visit in Bongawan, one of two state constituencies within the Kimanis parliamentary constituency. The other state seat is Membakut.

There is hardly any excitement in the area, or anything to be excited about, and that is why the visit by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today is likely the highlight for residents, in recent times, in this otherwise quiet town.

For Lai Tahir, who was born and bred in Bongawan, the visit by the deputy prime minister represents the promise of a better future, one that she has been waiting for in the past 15 years.

Zahid had a series of functions in the area, including launching the Kimanis BN election machinery and presenting a cheque for the repair of churches in the Kimanis parliamentary constituency.

Lai Tahir (second left) set up a food stall in Bongawan town during the deputy prime minister’s visit today.

“There was talk of Bongawan being merged with Membakut to become a full district before but it hasn’t happened. Hopefully after the general election, we can at least have Bongawan elevated to a sub-district,” said the 42-year-old mother of two.

She said residents had to travel to Membakut, about 10km away, in order to visit the sub-district office.

“Although it’s not that far, we are sort of envious that Membakut is a sub-district. Also, for those not earning a lot, that 10km return trip can be costly. We also don’t have even one bank here,” Lai said.

Bongawan residents, most being of Brunei Malay descent, are involved mainly in farming, small-time businesses and fishing.

However, she said, the government had built roads and had also encouraged the construction of commercial centres.

“I’m going with Barisan Nasional, with the hope that all we desire can come true,” she added.

Md Sahawailnizar Daud on the other hand is still undecided who to vote for. The 22-year-old small-time business owner reckons the government can do a lot better to help residents.

“We have oil palm plantations here but the fruits are being processed elsewhere. Why can’t they build a plant here because then it will provide jobs, especially for the younger generation?,” he asked.

Sahawailnizar (left) wants more to be done for his hometown of Bongawan.

Sahawailnizar rated BN’s chances as 50-50, saying the opposition was starting to make inroads into the Umno stronghold.

“The hive of activity we see today only comes around once in five years… I wish it was like this more often,” he said.

Bongawan is held by Kimanis BN vice chairman Mohamad Alamin who beat PKR’s Ibrahim Menudin by a 3,392-vote majority in a five-cornered fight in the last election.

The incumbent Membakut assemblyman is Kimanis BN deputy chief Mohd Arifin Arif while Kimanis BN chief Anifah Aman is the Kimanis MP.

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