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Thursday, November 17, 2011

‘Lofty-living Najib has forgotten us…’

Sulaiman Kamal | 4:50 PM | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Pekan's senior citizens see Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak as a man who 'will never understand what it means to stand up for what he believes in'.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s Pekan parliamentary constituency is picturesquesly located on the banks of the Pahang River, some 50km south of Kuantan. Pekan is Pahang’s royal town and although its name is derived from a flower, the Bunga Pekan, the floral analogies end here. There is a sense of loss and loneliness not dissimilar to a feeling of malaise lethargy.
“There is nothing much to do here..” said 49-year-old Johari Mat she, stiffling a yawn.
On a balmy dusty afternoon like this one, Pekan does somewhat elicit regular yawns that leaves an odd earthy taste in the mouth.
“I have heard from KL people like you that Pekan has seen a lot of change in the last 10 years or so. I always ask them back, ‘Where (is the change)?’” asked Johari.

The other men, sitting in this makeshift roadside stall and listening to the conversation guffaw, slap their knees in mirth for good measure.
One elderly man who called himself Pakcik Osman lamented the many projects that have mushroomed in Pekan since Najib was appointed prime minister.
He mentioned the word “crony” and “cronies” several times during his tirade about the Pekan he once knew.
Osman was referring to various development projects including the Peramu Jaya Industrial Zone, the agropolitan project in Runchang and the Oil, Gas and Maritime Industrial Estate in Tanjung Agas.
“No one asked us if we wanted all these foreign investors to come in. They come here, build their factories, clear the land without thinking that many of us are farmers at heart.
“If Najib really had our best interests at heart, he would have devised a plan to make Pekan a thriving agricultural town,” said an incensed Osman.
Najib not a people’s champion
Yet another senior citizen, Pak Awang Hamid, was of the opinion that Najib is “timid” and “will never understand what it means to stand up for what he believes in”.
A former Pekan Umno member, Awang doesn’t belong to any party now.
“I sleep better that way…” chuckles the 70-year-old, adding, “Najib has never been and will never be a champion of and for the people.
“He is by nature a timid man, and his position now is something that happened by default – to become the next in line.
“I say this because when Najib was only 22-years-old, he became Pekan member of parliament after (his father) Tun Razak passed away.
“He didn’t have to fight to get to where he is. He never has and never will understand what it means to stand up for what he believes in.
“He may live a lofty life, and he must think that we are very stupid, backward kampung folk here.
“But we have worked hard to own and keep what we have and that puts us in a better situation than he is.”
Hopes dashed
Awang recalls the high hopes he had when Najib was named prime minister.
“When he became prime minister, I had such high hopes that he will help Pekan thrive as a great agricultural town.
“But look at what Pekan is now… hectares of stripped land. The jungle is gone..
“I have friends in the Orang Asli community and they are badly affected. I help with what I can by way of food for them.
“But they need much more than this. They are people, Malaysians, just like you and me,” he said alluding to the land rights issue plaguing the community.
As of 2006, there are about 149,723 Orang Asli indigenous people in West Malaysia. They collectively occupy and toil on about 138,862.2 hectares of land.
But unfortunately for the Orang Asli, the Malaysian government does not recognise them as lawful owners of the land.
The government maintains the position that the Orang Asli have no rights to the land which they occupy.
Opportunities for the young
Hearing the negative spewing from his friends, 45-year-old factory worker Jumaidi Saad felt somewhat compelled to come to Najib’s defence.
“It has not been all bad with Najib…
“Pekan has become the first digital district, giving ample opportunities for the young generation here to explore the ICT world which is changing rapidly.
“The prime minister has given new inspiration and he knows what the young generation of today wants,” he said, while pulling on a hand-rolled cigarette.
“How many young people do you know who want to remain in Pekan and work here?” shoots back Osman impatiently.
“They all leave for Kuala Lumpur the first chance they get but it seems like they are being forced to stay.
“They (young people) are unhappy. I have them at this stall daily and I hear the same grouses all the time,” he added.
The disputing views hinged on the Digital Pekan 1Malaysia programme launched with much fanfare last January.
The initiative by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), combining the ICT project with broadband facility under the digital strategy, had reportedly opened a new chapter for Pekan folk.

‘We are like stepchildren’
At the launch, Najib had said the Digital Pekan programme showed the government’s seriousness in demonstrating that going ICT was the best way to raise the people’s quality of life.
He said that it would create a better future for Malaysia’s future generation.
Just under two years later, Osman has a string of questions.
“Let me ask him (Najib), how many Pekan folk have computers in their house?
“How many of us need it? Who is showing us how to work it?
“It sounds good when he (Najib) says it like that, but that’s always the case: just talk and then after a few months, everything will be abandoned and forgotten… Just like how (he) has (abandoned) us,” said Osman.
Concurring with Osman’s view, another 62-year-old retiree who declined to be named said: “We are like the proverbial ignored stepchildren… That’s just like Najib.
“He is all for Kuala Lumpur. That’s where his life and focus is now.
“He will only come back here and start paying attention to us once elections are just around the corner.
“Then they will come here with their banners and posters, making the place ugly and we are the ones who will have to clean it up later.”
‘Old Pekan’ gone
For Pekan district officer Mohd Basik Mohd Ali, Pekan, which is 380,500 hectares in size and with a population of 120,000, is not what it used to be.
“The ‘old Pekan’ is gone. The various development projects implemented here have prevented the people, especially the young, from moving out of the district,” he once said in a Bernama interview.
“It is the prime minister’s wish to ensure that Pekan continues to grow as an automotive hub under the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) plan.
“A 1,000ha industrial zone has been created in Peramu Jaya for the location of car assembly plants which provide 4,000 jobs to the locals,” said Basik.
According to Basik, such projects were geared towards eradicating poverty in the rural areas, not only in Pekan but throughout the country. The projects were to have involved 45,000 households by the end of 2010.
But Johari is sceptical about the numbers and the projects.
“If all this were true then why is it that I still see many layabouts and mat rempits here?
“Just two weeks ago, someone asked to borrow RM100 from me. Where are these jobs (that were promised under the ECER)?” he asked.

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