Same old, same old for Kuala Sepetang voters

-A +A

KUALA SEPETANG: From the Simpang junction to this small, quaint town is less than a 15 minute drive.

As with most places in and around the Bukit Gantang by-election area, the war of flags is impressive, with both PAS and Barisan Nasional (BN) trying to outdo each other.

All along the narrow road, there are flags on either side, even on the fringes of a chinese cemetery.

Incidentally, the tomb nearest to the road appears to have been just built.  

Had it been a sunny and windy day, the sight of green, white, blue, red and yellow (namely a combination of the parties' flags) fluttering in the wind would have been a pretty sight, considering for the better part of the road has rubber and palm oil trees on both sides and not much else, apart from several kampung-styled and half brick-half wood houses scattered along.

However, given the predictable Taiping rain, the flags drooped sadly despite the many ingenious ideas used to prop them up.

Cars were parked aplenty at the many "mee udang" stalls on either side of the tiny road nearer to Kuala Sepetang. The stalls, each one of them, had roaring business — party supporters and volunteers no doubt.

At the Kuala Sepetang town itself, shops were less crowded, and menfolk seemed to be unwinding, many still in their greasy and muddy work clothes.

As we approached a group in a coffee shop and asked if they too were caught in the election fever, one replied: "Apa beza kita? Hari-hari nak kerja juga. Ni masa pilihanraya je dia datang, masa lain mana ada?" (What difference is it to us? We still have to work daily. They only come here during election.)

He added with a smirk that the people who benefited most were the "mee udang" (prawn noodles) sellers.

Another man, who wanted to be known only as Suhaimi, said that once the by-election was over, no attention would be paid to them.

"Semua pun sama je. Sekali menang lupa kita," (All the same, once they win they forget us), he said.

The men look weary, their skins hardened and tanned beyond their age. They are in their late 40s but look almost 20 years older. All are smallholders, working in their palm oil plantations, they said.

A group of Indian men soon came by, and they too had similar reaction.

One spoke in broken English, saying "this all good for politic people only. Normal people nothing".

They were more comfortable when spoken to in Tamil, explaining that they were fourth-generation Matang (neighbouring area) natives.

"Our families have lived here long and what we have today has not changed in many years," said Manikam Arumugam.

"It takes so long for us to get new things in our town. Only when election comes people promise us many things, but after that it is the same," he lamented.

When asked which party they supported, most of them gave similar answers, saying they were still undecided.

Which is bad news for both BN and PAS since polling day is Tuesday.

From the brief moment with the men, one can surmise not much has changed here in a long time, and one look at the row of run-down shophouses, it is hard not to believe Suhaimi and Manikam.