NIBONG TEBAL: Kampung Sungai Acheh is known for its mouth-watering kuih bahulu industry, its fertile padi fields, and the best prawns in Penang.
However, this village is also home to the staunchest lot of Barisan Nasional supporters. For the past 15 years, the federal opposition had repeatedly tried and failed to make inroads in the district.
“It is in our heart and soul, we grew up with the Alliance and later, BN,” said army veteran Noordin Md Noor, 70.
He said being a BN supporter in a Pakatan Harapan-controlled state, however, has its hazards.
He alleged that the Penang government has refused to change land use conditions from agricultural to residential which would allow villagers to build houses.
Entrepreneur Azahar Ahmad, 47, said Kampung Sungai Acheh, measuring some 4sq km, also suffers from traffic congestion during peak hours, as the small kampung roads have yet to be widened.
He said many villagers were forced to open shop at Parit Buntar, a Perak border town 20 minutes away, to make a living.
“Most of my friends have bought homes there as there are no new homes here. When I asked for a grant to start a rabbit meat business, I never got it here. But when I went to Parit Buntar, I got it right away,” he said.
That is why when BN announced RS Thanenthiran, a former teacher and businessman, as its candidate for Kampung Sungai Acheh, the villagers felt he could bring back the “glory days”.
“We have had three Malay candidates in three general elections in the past. All of them lost. So why not an Indian candidate? Who knows (perhaps) he could do better?” Hamid Wahab, a local Umno leader, said.
So it came as no surprise that the villagers gave “Cikgu Thanen” their endorsement during a prayer event to ensure his success in the elections.
Thanenthiran said he wants to solve the perennial water shortage affecting 35,000 residents in the constituency. If elected, he said, he would pool funds among his friends to make “urgent fixes” without waiting for government funds.
He also wants to fulfil the wish of the late MP, Zainal Abidin Osman, for Nibong Tebal to have its own bus terminal.
“My manifesto is not going to promise the sun and moon. I will work with what I have. Nibong Tebal is home to USM’s engineering campus. I want to turn this into the next Bangalore, where it could one day be a global centre for engineering services,” he said.
Nibong Tebal, Penang’s largest constituency, has been a PKR stronghold since 2008. Its former MP, Mansor Othman, is seeking a third term, this time under a Perikatan Nasional ticket. He will go up against Thanenthiran, PH’s Fadhlina Sidek and independent candidate Goh Kheng Huat.