Tee Keat: Pandan voters want ‘sincerity’ not ‘seasonal appearances’
KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 — Pandan voters will choose sincerity over “seasonal appearances”, its MP Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat has told PKR, offering a glimpse of the fierce battle ahead for a seat his party MCA can ill-afford to lose.
“To the right-thinking constituents, seasonal appearances and pre-electoral promises designed to win the seat without an iota of sincerity and consistency are certainly not compliant with their expectations,” Ong told The Malaysian Insider in an email statement here.
The former MCA president, who has held the Pandan parliamentary seat for two terms now, is expected to face first-time contender Rafizi Ramli in the 13th general election, a contest the latter has described as a “national referendum” for Barisan Nasional (BN) and the flailing MCA.
Before the Pandan seat was created in 2004, Ong had held the Ampang Jaya parliamentary seat since 1989.
Rafizi, well known as the man behind the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal expose, was announced on Tuesday night as the opposition’s candidate for Pandan, where Ong is said to be a shoo-in to win.
Ong (picture) is known to be popular among Pandan voters even if his party is not, and was among the few MCA candidates who survived the 2008 political tsunami.
BN had failed during Election 2008 to capture the two state seats under Pandan — Teratai and Cempaka — but Ong chalked a surprise victory when he garnered an over 2,961-vote majority to secure Pandan for the ruling pact.
After 2008, however, Ong’s position in MCA took a nosedive following a faction war that saw his arch-nemesis Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek replace him as party president in 2010.
Since then, Ong has grown increasingly ostrocised in the party, resulting in rumours that he may leave MCA for the opposition. But the leader has stayed put.
When Rafizi’s likely candidature was announced on Tuesday night, the PKR strategy director told reporters he would be willing to “campaign like hell” for Ong should the latter join PKR and be chosen to recontest Pandan.
But when asked again if he had plans to quit MCA, Ong would only say, “CSL (Soi Lek) wishes to see that.”
He said he respects Rafizi’s right to stand in Pandan, but expressed disdain for any “opportunistic politician” who may choose to exploit the short-term memories of voters by using rhetorics and empty promises to garner support.
“Notwithstanding whatever hype the partisans from both sides of the divide may create in the run-up to our national poll, the people’s concerns at both national and local levels undoubtedly remain the main challenges to be resolved.
“This could only be done with vision, sincerity and sustainable efforts.
“Rhetorics with empty promises can no doubt create much euphoria and even raise expectations, but are certainly impotent in fulfilling the people’s needs,” he said.
Rafizi has told reporters that PKR stands a fighting chance in Pandan despite Ong’s popularity, saying its winning formula would be to pitch a “bigger picture” to voters — a change in Putrajaya.
“He (Ong) has strong support (in Pandan) — we have to give him credit where it is due — but I do not think he can survive the next tsunami,” he had said Tuesday.
According to Rafizi, it was likely a simple case of “familiarity” that had helped Ong retain the seat in 2008, adding that the over 60,000 voters in the constituency had mostly voted along racial lines.
He pointed out that PKR had won the Malay votes while a large segment of the Chinese community in Pandan had voted for Ong and DAP’s Teratai assemblyman Jenice Lee.
“If you look at the state seats versus the parliamentary seats — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) got a nearly 10,000-vote majority in the (two) state seats but we lost by over 2,000 votes in the parliamentary seat.
“So it remains to be seen whether it was purely because of Ong or was it racial lines?
“After about seven months working around and walking in Pandan, I think it is not about Ong. It is on racial lines and it is not so much race or racism, it is because of familiarity,” he explained.
Rafizi reminded that in 2008, PR was yet to be formed and PAS, PKR and DAP had campaigned separately at the time, instead of as a team.
“Ong has retreated into local issues — streets, rubbish and so on — for the last two years. But it would be a mistake for PR to follow his style.
“Of course he (Ong) would speak on his track record. But this is not about Ong Tee Keat. This is about a bigger picture... its a national referendum on BN and the MCA. And this is our selling point,” he said.
The urban and semi-urban Pandan seat is a mixed seat, comprising some 55 per cent of non-Malay voters, with young voters aged below 40 making up more than half the electorate.