RANTAU: Dr Streram Sinnasamy’s biggest fear last Saturday was that history would repeat itself and he would once again find himself on the wrong side of the door to the nomination centre in Rantau.
It was with a sigh of relief that he submitted his nomination papers, sealing his candidacy for the by-election triggered by his decision to sue the Election Commission last year.
“I feel happy (that I finally get to contest),” he told FMT in a recent interview. “But I feel that a burden has been placed on me.
“The stress is more now than when contesting in GE14. Now, the whole country is watching us in this by-election.”
Streram, who represented Pakatan Harapan (PH) in its bid to capture the state seat in last year’s polls, never got a chance to see the inside of the nomination centre, let alone stand for election.
After emerging victorious from a lengthy court battle, though, he is ready and raring to go.
The Rembau PKR deputy chairman is up against Rantau incumbent Mohamad Hasan from Umno and two independent candidates, Malar Rajaram and Mohd Nor Yassin.
The challenge is stiff, a fact frequently acknowledged in his reference to himself as the underdog.
One of his biggest hurdles is the fact that Streram, who hails from Klang in Selangor, is not a local like the other three candidates. Questions have arisen over whether he will understand the issues in the constituency.
But he insists this will not be a problem.
“As an anaesthetist, I have been treating patients in Rantau for over 15 years. A lot of patients live here, and I have family members who married locals and who are stationed in Rantau.
“I know all the problems in Rantau,” he said, adding that he is deputy chairman of Rembau PKR.
“This means I was elected by the people of Rembau and Rantau. So how can you say I am not accepted as a local?”
Streram is also banking on his training and experience as a doctor in rural areas to help solve health issues for people in the constituency.
“We do not have a central health facility for patients,” he said. “There is also no proper transport service for Rantau residents to go to hospital, so many of them do not go at all.”
He gave the example of a patient with diabetes who is told to fast and be at the hospital first thing in the morning.
“If there is no transport, how can he go? Taxis are pricey.
“This is why rural people have high and uncontrolled sugar levels and continue to get infected,” he said. “It’s because they are staying in small estates and villages that do not have access to healthcare in Rantau itself.
“We have to look into this very seriously. And I know how to overcome this problem,” he said.
Streram, 64, also wants to reduce flooding in Rantau by widening the rivers here with the help of the state.
He told FMT he is on a “mission” to diagnose the shortcomings of incumbent Mohamad and to prove he can do a better job.
He cited, among others, a need to upgrade the health clinic there, to implement a flood mitigation programme and to help fresh graduates find jobs.
Wary of complaints that PH has not made good on many of its election pledges, Streram says he is not making any promises.
But he believes that even if it takes time, the government will eventually deliver.
“We will definitely fulfil our promises, but because of our current fiscal state, we are taking a longer time to restore the country.
“But everyone will benefit in the long run, so hold on.”
Streram is currently on one-month leave from his work at a Nilai hospital. If he loses this by-election, he will go back to his duties there. But if he wins, he is prepared to give up his job and work full-time in Rantau.
“I earn enough money from being a professional but that isn’t my aim. I want to restore healthcare here.
“I also have a vision for housing and finding jobs for youngsters. This is what I will work on.”
At the end of the day, he says, he “just wants to be part of the family” in Rantau – the Chinese, Indians and Malays.
“This is my family, everyone in Rantau. These are the people that I love. I don’t want to just leave them.”