JERAI: Barisan Nasional (BN) sees a good opportunity to retain the federal seat of Jerai, won in the last general election with a majority of slightly over 1,000 votes.
Jerai incumbent Jamil Khir Baharom, who will be up against PPBM’s Akramsyah Sanusi and PAS’ Md Sabri Azit, said BN’s confidence stemmed from the efforts the government has been taking to address issues such as the 1MDB issue, the rising cost of living, the goods and services tax (GST) and creating job opportunities.
Jamil was of the view that the Chinese and Indian communities in Jerai, which make up 25% of the total registered voters, would not cast their votes for PAS.
“This leaves them with the choice of either BN or Pakatan Harapan. I believe they can see the voting pattern and I see a good chance of BN retaining Jerai,” he said in an interview.
Jerai is considered a high-risk seat won with a slim majority, with Jamil Khir securing a win for BN in the 13th general election with a 1,196-vote majority, defeating PAS’ Mohd Firdaus Jaafar.
The Jerai Umno division head said BN had lost the federal seat in the 12th general election by over 3,000 votes to PAS. In GE13, BN was in a straight fight with the Islamist party, which was then under Pakatan Rakyat.
“In that election, PAS’ strength was that it was contesting as the ruling government in Kedah, led by its menteri besar, the late Azizan Abdul Razak, who had also won Sungai Limau.
“We need to look at this from a bigger perspective.
“In the GE13 results, we achieved victory and became the ruling government. The PAS government then fell because the rakyat was able to clearly evaluate the government.
“The election machinery worked hard to win back the seat,” he said.
Jamil said in the coming polls, it was more than just the three-cornered fight among BN, PH and PAS. Other local and national issues also played a role.
He cited how the 1MDB issue was played up non-stop, but lauded the efforts taken by not just politicians, but also those in government-linked companies in explaining the issue clearly.
Jamil said 1MDB president Arul Kanda had courageously come forward to explain to the public the real issues concerning the sovereign wealth fund. This had convinced the public on the real status of the fund.
Another issue of interest was the GST, Jamil said. He said when the people were able to evaluate the returns generated by GST, they are able to understand why the shift from the sales and services tax (SST) model needed to take place.
“There were stark weaknesses with the tax collection based on the SST model. Also, the implementation of GST in places such as Singapore has seen economic growth and the generating of funds for the country. It is more effective.
“Furthermore, GST has enabled better returns to the people, such as better school facilities, and money channelled back to schools to be used as aid,” he said.
The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department also said the GST returns have allowed for the subsidisation of some hospital treatments, such as haemodialysis treatment.
On the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M), which is targeted at the bottom 40 income group (B40), Jamil said the government had, from time to time, listened to the grouses of the public, and had also considered those within the RM4,000-RM5,000 income group and youths who are not married, to be given BR1M.
The incumbent stated that BN had always been reaching out to the young people in Jerai and arranged the right kind of programmes for them.
“They do not like ceramahs which are too serious, but something more laidback (santai). If it is too formal, it is not to their liking,” he said.
In addressing the issue concerning the rising cost of living, Jamil said the government has carried out the “Jualan Sentuhan Rakyat” in all the three state constituencies in Jerai, namely Sungai Limau, Gurun and Guar Chempedak, where people are able to purchase food items at significantly lower prices.
“This is a form of economic assistance to the people. The aid is targeted at specific groups.
“We also team up with the zakat office to see who needs to be helped financially,” he said.
Job opportunities are also not in short supply in Jerai, Jamil said, with numerous factories in the area offering jobs to young people.
He said BN was also focusing on self-employment, equipping youngsters with the necessary skills to do their own business, thanks to the GiatMara centre.
“We offer job opportunities which are suitable for the local industry. For instance, house repairs in Jerai need skilled workers.
“GiatMara also offers tailoring programmes. There is always the issue of tailors who are unable to handle the high number of orders, especially during the Raya festivities.
“Further to that, the centre also offers cooking classes to equip youngsters with the right skills to enter the working world,” he said, adding that unemployment was not a major issue in Jerai.