Voters divided in Gerakan stronghold of Simpang Renggam

PPBM candidate Maszlee Malik speaks to constituents in a Chinese coffee shop at the Simpang Renggam town centre.

SIMPANG RENGGAM: The polls are just over a week away, and while many in Simpang Renggam have already made up their minds about who they will vote for, there are still some fence-sitters weighing the options.

A real estate agent who asked to be known as Mok faces no such dilemma as she made up her mind some time ago.

“It doesn’t matter who the candidate is. I have not met him, but I have made up my mind to vote for the opposition.

“The current government has to go,” said the 68-year-old who originally hails from Batu Pahat.

Simpang Renggam may be a small town but it has not been spared from the rise in cost of living.

Mok, who also operates a boutique that sells “pre-loved” clothes, said people like her were suffering due to the spiralling cost of living and doing business.

“I used to rent out this shoplot, but I recently took it back as I needed a side business to supplement my income as a real estate agent.

“We are suffering. The price of everything has gone up. For a small town like this, a bowl of noodles today costs up to RM6.

“Yes, you can still find noodles for RM4.50, but the portion will be so measly that you’ll need to ask for additional ingredients.”

Simpang Renggam may be a small town but it has not been spared from the rise in cost of living.

She said the quit rent had also increased, which placed a burden on small businesses.

“But we don’t have a choice. We still need to pay in order to carry on with our businesses,” she said.

Stall owner Siti Saniah Ali, 65, is among the registered voters who have yet to make up their minds about which party to support.

Like Mok, she was not aware of who will be contesting the Simpang Renggam parliamentary constituency.

However, unlike Mok, Saniah has always supported Barisan Nasional (BN). This time, though, she is curious over why former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad switched sides and is now leading the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH).

“Mahathir was a good leader in BN. I have always voted for BN. I’m confused as to why he had to leave BN and now stands on the other side,” she said.

Saniah said she was torn between voting for BN and the opposition as the ruling coalition represented stability, especially during Mahathir’s time. She added that she was unsure about the opposition.

Saniah, who runs a stall at the local hawker centre, agreed however that the cost of living had gone up, especially for food items.

“We used to be able to get a lot of items for RM100 but now you need to fork out much more for the same things.”

PPBM candidate Maszlee Malik, an academic and political greenhorn, will contest the Simpang Renggam seat against Gerakan incumbent Liang Teck Meng.

Observers say it will be tough for Maszlee as Liang is the constituency’s two-term MP.

He is also chairman of the National Water Services Commission.

The Simpang Renggam parliamentary constituency lies along the old trunk road which once saw busy traffic before the opening of the North–South Expressway.

The constituency also houses the 5th Battalion Royal Malaysian Police General Operations Force.

In 1986, the Simpang Renggam Prison was built. Located near the town, the prison has become synonymous with Simpang Renggam.

The Simpang Renggam Behavioural Rehabilitation Centre, the largest drug rehabilitation centre in the country, is under the prison’s administration.

In the 13th general election in 2013, Liang beat Suhaizan Kaiat (formerly of PAS) by a 5,706-vote majority in a straight fight. In 2008, he won the seat against Atan Gombang with a 7,853-vote majority.

Simpang Renggam has been a Gerakan stronghold since the federal constituency was created in 2003.

The party’s former deputy president, Kerk Choo Ting, first contested the seat in 2004 and won by a 14,155-vote majority.

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