Opinion: Under BN Hutan Melintang is all set to prosper – Arjun Bhatt

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Hutan Melintang is an interesting DUN in Perak. It is famed for its fisherman’s jetty and nearby fishing villages.

Visitors can enjoy a good ikan bakar at the food court stalls. It is also home to Jendarata Estates, owned by United Plantations. Nestled between Teluk Intan and Bagan Datoh municipalities, this idyllic small town is dotted with wooden restaurants, small family-run bakeries and clan-managed places of worship. The river that runs through it, forms a natural state boundary between Perak and Selangor.

Politically, it is one half of the Parliamentary seat of Bagan Datoh, whose incumbent is the current Deputy Prime Minister himself, Dato’ Seri Dr Zahid Hamidi.

For the past couple of elections, it was won by the opposition, formerly by the DAP, and in the last General Election, by PKR.

But that voter sentiment on the ground appear to be changing.

The Barisan Nasional have been working hard to serve the constituents there. Using their position as the ruling party in both the Federal and State governments, development has been taking place with long-outstanding schools, halls, clinics being repaired and upgraded. Roads have been improved and work has been done to the jetty that crosses Sungai Bernam.

NGOs supporting the Barisan have been active on the ground providing service to the local residents.

Pertubuhan Minda dan Sosial Prihatin, led by Dato Seri Ramesh Rao, is one such NGO. The emphasis of their programs are for the poorer segments of the community and the B40- getting them much needed aid, medical attention, school uniforms, groceries, housing and so on.

Meanwhile, the elected representative for that area from the Opposition party has not been able to deliver much more than promises and to raise issues in the Legislative Assembly. So far, his biggest contribution has been to carry a pillow and perform a demonstration in front of the SPR office claiming voter fraud. Even his pledge to carry out a week-long hunger strike fell disastrously short of expectation when he gave up before 12 hours of doing it.

Other than the publicity it generated for himself, hardly any good came from both activities for the average voter in his constituency.

The reality is, Hutan Melintang has never been a priority seat for Pakatan. They would rather place their focus on safe seats for their leaders and risky seats to expose their up and coming young, hot-blooded members of their parties. By doing so, they hope to maximize their seats and consolidate their political power. Service has never been the focus, with “service centers” only set up for show and collecting brownie points with voters.

This is made worse as Perak is no longer a “frontline” state for Pakatan, as most of their big guns have moved down to Johor and Kedah for a showdown there. Other than to attempt to bring down the Deputy Prime Minister, Pakatan has little interest in Hutan Melintang or any other non-marginal Perak DUN seat.

Hutan Melintang is not a political chess-piece. It is populated by people, who need attention and service by their elected representatives. A vote for Barisan, therefore promises that and more.

As the seat for the Deputy Prime Minister, and one half a municipality, it is geared for an explosion of growth and economic progress should the voters choose to play their cards right. And judging by the sentiment on the ground, it is likely Hutan Melintang will cross back to Barisan Nasional.