KUALA LUMPUR -He may have lost the Lembah Pantai seat in the last general election, but former federal territories minister Datuk Seri Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin has not retired from the scene.
In fact, Nong Chik asserted he has been working hard to lay the groundwork for his bid to contest in Lembah Pantai again in the 14th general elections.
After the 2013 loss, the trained accountant has rebranded himself as “the friendly uncle from Lembah Pantai.”
There is a Facebook page documenting his daily meetings with the people of Lembah Pantai, Kerinchi, Bangsar and surrounding areas. It has over 12,000 likes at the time of writing.
Nong Chik said he has been going to the ground — attending to the needs of the constituents despite losing the seat — out of his attachment to the area and its people.
“I grew up in Lembah Pantai. Politically, I’ve been with the rakyat there for more than 30 years as the Lembah Pantai Umno head.
“It’s more of a personal attachment. Lembah Pantai was not just a place for me to advance my political career,” he told Malay Mail Online in a recent interview.
Nong Chik claimed that unlike incumbent Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar from PKR, whom he alleged uses the fact that she is not with the ruling government an “excuse” for her inability to help address their woes, he gets the job done.
“You cannot always give that excuse… because a lot of things, whether in richer areas like Bangsar or a poorer one like Pantai Dalam, you have to do a lot of follow-ups.
“Obviously when I was a minister, it was much easier. I gave instructions. But now when I want to help out, I have to do the same legwork like everybody else. Have to make appointment, have to write in… I have to follow up,” the trim 64-year old added.
Nong Chik said he preferred to remain low-key. “Mine is a personal style. I don’t go for publicity. If it’s successful I don’t mind some publicity, but her style is publicity first, but the work, I don’t know… it never comes at all,” he said, referring to Nurul Izzah.
He said he is confident about wrestling the seat from Nurul Izzah, saying that he only lost the seat purely because of “angst from voters against Barisan Nasional.”
“After I lost, a lot of them whom I know, especially in the Bangsar area, said, ‘You are a good man but you’re in the wrong party’.
“There are some who openly did not want to support me before who have come forward to support, partly because they don’t see anything from Nurul Izzah,” the soft-spoken Nong Chik said.
He said with the acceptance of his former constituents, he will make a comeback. Nong Chik added that he has received “indications” from some Barisan Nasional (BN) top guns that he just might be fielded again.
When asked if his regular meetings with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak are an indication of his possible nomination, he said, “That’s not the sign… the sign is when people accept me.
“There’s some indication lah… if given the chance, I will contest.”
Bread and butter issues to the fore
Despite the class divide between the ultra-rich and the lower-income groups in the constituency, Nong Chik said both groups have similar concerns: daily living problems.
The hardcore poor make up around 25 per cent of the entire population in the area, with those from the affluent and significant working class groups making up the rest.
So what worries Lembah Pantai inhabitants?
According to Nong Chik, the poor hope to earn better wages and purchase decent homes, while the rich worry about the ability to continue affording foreign education for their children, owing to the volatile ringgit exchange rate.
The issues surrounding sovereign investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) however, according to Nong Chik, is a thing of the past. Particularly in Bangsar.
Nong Chik blamed the Opposition for allegedly manipulating the issues surrounding 1MDB, linking every economic policy to the federal investment fund.
“They tag the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to 1MDB. Even Nurul [Izzah], whenever she comes out with her Facebook [posts], I always notice that she tags it to 1MDB.
“She tags the issue of cost of living to GST, saying that because we need GST for 1MDB. So they link it up. That because of 1MDB, we had to have GST, and because of GST, we have higher cost of living,” Nong Chik said.
He promised to prioritise ways to help Lembah Pantai residents, while pointing out that cost of living issues were bound to be faced by any developed country.
For starters, Nong Chik said he would seek to get affordable homes for the needy in the area, to address the squatter problem.
“When they are below the poverty line, it affects them worst. The other issue will be housing. We have come to the stage where most of the poor families in Lembah Pantai are those who have moved there as squatters.
“Then although they have upgraded to flats they will always have second and third generation who continue to live there so this is what I would like to address,” he said.
Nong Chik said that he would also work to enhance security in the area and resolve lift issues in public housing PPR flats, especially alongside several “maintenance issues” in Lembah Pantai.
For now, he is not willing to budge to another constituency even if requested.
“No, no, no! I want to serve Lembah Pantai. Do or die in Lembah Pantai,” he exclaimed.
– Malay Mail