From Ibrahim M Ahmad
Barisan Nasional (BN) is quietly relishing the prospect of regaining its long-lost Klang constituency seat after rumours emerged that DAP is about to replace three-term MP Charles Santiago.
If true, that decision will infuriate Klangites, who benefited immensely from Santiago’s unrivalled urgency and organisational skills in procuring and distributing aid for thousands of families in his constituency and its surrounding areas after their homes were ravaged by floodwaters at the end of last year.
In contrast, both the federal and state governments were criticised for their slow response to the catastrophe, as was his suggested successor, Kota Kemuning assemblyman V Ganabatirau.
At the height of the floods, Ganabatirau incurred the ire of many after an online video which he was featured in went viral.
The video showed the assemblyman criticising Selangor drainage and irrigation department (JPS) employees for working “stupidly” and openly calling for them to resign.
Meanwhile, Santiago was beavering away, posting multiple daily updates on his social media pages and gaining widespread plaudits from Malaysians for his untiring efforts as well as inspiring others into action.
His hard work saw him draw substantial donations from the public in terms of money, food items and essentials, which he expertly channelled to victims in need.
Only DAP will know why they would be prepared to put at risk a “sure bet” parliamentary seat in the upcoming elections.
Santiago drew a 17,701-vote majority (65%) from 59,323 votes cast in the 2008 general election. In 2013, he maintained his 65% vote share, increasing his majority to 24,685 out of 84,214 votes cast.
At the 14th general election (GE14), he blew his opponents out of the water by pulling 77% of 128,536 ballots cast, boasting a staggering majority of 78,773 votes.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Santiago has worked diligently over the past year and has strongly advocated early efforts by the federal and state governments as well as the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) towards flood mitigation, much of which, unfortunately, appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
He was also recently reported to have initiated legal action against Ismail Sabri Yaakob in a bid to challenge the prime minister’s recommendation to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that Parliament be dissolved, citing the threat of flooding which is expected to hit his constituency as the year-end approaches once more.
Efforts within DAP to oust Santiago from Klang are not new.
At the end of last month, it emerged that Seri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah had been earmarked to inherit Santiago’s hard work. That idea was quickly shut down after backlash from Klang folk.
The DAP leadership, however, appears undeterred, with Santiago’s seat again the subject of feverish speculation as GE15, widely expected to be held in about a month’s time, rolls closer.
Given his popularity across all races, the party is risking a strong backlash at the polls if they choose to replace him.
On top of that, his potential successor, Ganabatirau, appears prone to controversy.
In 2018, he was forced to apologise in the state legislative assembly for remarks made on social media suggesting that riots at the site of the Sri Mahamariaman Temple in USJ 25 (Seafield) were sparked by a “Muslim group”. Malaysians have long memories, and Ganabatirau’s nomination risks DAP losing the Malay vote.
BN knows this and is licking its lips at the prospect of finally reclaiming what it had until very recently considered an “unwinnable” seat.
Originally known as Selangor Barat, the seat was held by MIC stalwart V Manickavasagam between 1959 and 1974.
It was assigned to MCA in GE7 and was held by Ng Cheng Kiat between 1986 and 1990.
The seat fell to DAP’s Fong Kui Lun in GE8 (1990-1995) but returned to BN and was held by MCA’s Tan Yee Kew for the next three terms (1995-2008) before it fell to Santiago.
With the race for seats in GE15 wide open, DAP will be foolish to ask loyal Santiago to step down. If it does, BN will do well to reallocate its resources to win Selangor’s royal town back.
Ibrahim M Ahmad is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.