KUALA LUMPUR – Lembah Pantai in Kuala Lumpur is not just home to the affluent Bangsar enclave, but also a significant working class in Pantai Dalam and Kerinchi.
Separated by the Federal Highway, the middle- and upper-middle class residents of the former area live virtually detached from neighbours in the flats and government quarters who are also voters in the same constituency.
The class distinction makes the urban seat one with a split personality, and one that will be closely watched amid rumours that incumbent Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR) may make way for another candidate.
She defeated two ministers in succession to take and keep the seat, first Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil in 2008 and Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin in 2013.
Raja Nong Chik is now rumoured to be eyeing a comeback in the seat.
Ahead of the 14th general election, Malay Mail Online visited the constituency to discover vastly different attitudes among voters there.
Those in Bangsar were more politically aware and wanted a representative who could speak on national issues, such as policies and laws.
Over in Pantai Dalam and Kerinchi, respondents valued a lawmaker who was accessible and could be seen serving his/her electorate.
They said they preferred an MP who was concerned about their immediate welfare and prepared to contribute to local events such as celebrations, deaths, and weddings.
Residents of the Taman Angkasa flats in Pantai Dalam still sang Raja Nong Chik’s praises, and noted that the former federal territories and urban wellbeing minister was regularly present despite his defeat to Nurul Izzah nearly five years ago.
Criticising the incumbent as absent, one resident pointedly compared Raja Nong Chik to her father, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and said both men were from the generation of politicians that put in the work meeting constituents.
“Nong Chik is like Anwar, he is always on the ground unlike his daughter. The daughter doesn’t come here often. Her father is good, not her,” the man known as Pak Abu told Malay Mail Online when met.
Pak Abu has run a local grocer here for over 20 years, and said one of the reasons he has been able to sustain the business is because of Nong Chik.
Another resident, 67-year-old Haji Mansor Ibrahim, also accused Nurul Izzah of making false and empty promises, and said there was growing discontent with her among residents here.
“She comes for awhile and then leaves. She doesn’t even sit and listen to our complaints. She is posing in pictures, it is just that. Nothing is real,” he laments.
Raja Nong Chik’s latest contribution to the community was to paint all the blocks in the flat units here, drawing praise from residents.
They were particularly taken by the fact that he continued to serve despite losing in 2013.
“Even though they (BN) has lost two times here, development is still done here. We get facilities. Recently, Nong Chik painted all the blocks without us asking. That is how a MP is supposed to be,” businessman Khalid Ibrahim told Malay Mail Online.
The theme of Nurul Izzah’s rarity was not unique to the Malay community, with the complaint also repeated among Indian voters.
Kerinchi public housing resident Iyan Perumal said Nurul Izzah is too busy making a name for herself on the national level to be bothered about the welfare of the folks in her constituency.
“She doesn’t really help much. She’s done nothing much, especially for the Indians
“She speaks for herself, not for us. She speaks in Parliament because she wants to be heard,” he told Malay Mail Online when met.
In remarks that suggest a brewing backlash among Lembah Pantai’s hoi polloi, they also blamed voters in affluent Bangsar for subjecting them to two terms of representation by the PKR vice president.
They accused her of bias towards the middle class, unlike Raja Nong Chik whom they claimed paid more heed to them.
“She appears only in Bangsar area. If not she won’t be here. We ask her come here also to no avail. She talks more to the Chinese. That’s why they vote for her,” Salleh Asnawi from Kerinchi told Malay Mail Online.
Pak Abu said that the voters in Pantai Dalam, especially in the Taman Angkasa area, were solidly behind BN and — if he is selected — Raja Nong Chik.
Moving to Bangsar, the response to Nurul Izzah was markedly more favourable.
For Bangsar-born business development manager Mayilai Kumaran Jeyaratnam, Nurul Izzah’s contributions transcended Lembah Pantai.
“She is an agent of change. She is a more able MP than Nong Chik would be. People want a change in the whole country, so they vote for her,” the 29-year old said.
Businessman Anuar Puteh from Lucky Garden said that as people in the constituency were independent and well-off, they did not rely on federal aid or handouts from the lawmaker to go about their lives.
He said they were also more forgiving as they understood that Nurul Izzah was an opposition MP.
“Her budget is limited and what she raises sometimes is not bothered by the federal government,” he said.
The former civil servant also said Nurul Izzah has helped her consistency by raising matters in Dewan Rakyat that also affect the people in the area.
“I’m not taking any sides, but she has raised relevant issues in Parliament. We have to pay for tax and it’s our money.
“We should know as citizens how our money is being spent. We have rights and MPs help raise this on our behalf,” Anuar added.
The affinity for Nurul Izzah in the more affluent sections of Lembah Pantai also was not personal to her, with respondents saying they would support the candidate after her, in the event that rumours of her moving are true.
The current state of affairs is very bad. We will vote for the Opposition, we want them to win. There is no problem in another candidate, as long it is nominated by her,” 74-year-old Tony Eu told Malay Mail Online.
Some Lembah Pantai voters have also expressed disillusionment, saying they may not even vote in the coming polls.
A 29-year-old accountant who only wanted to be known as Nisa said she was jaded with the attack politics common on both sides.
“It’s always politicians whacking politicians. We are not moving forward. We are selfish. I might not vote at all,” she said.
– Malay mail