The Star Online|Malaysia 13th General Election

GE13: Voters still in two minds in Kuala Terengganu

UNLIKE some other states, both Barisan Nasional and PAS flags are in equal abundance in Kuala Terengganu. Both parties are said to stand a 50-50 chance of winning.

KUALA Terengganu is a dazzling vision of green, white and blue as its viciously-fought flag war aptly reflects the equally divided opinions of its voters.

Unlike some other states, both Barisan Nasional and PAS flags were spotted in equal abundance while the candidates have kicked into fifth gear to win voters' hearts by Sunday.

Regardless of whether they have made up their minds or are still sitting on the fence, they all agree on one thing: “This is a truly 50-50 situation. We cannot predict who will win.”

Voter Elaine Chang, 30, said she was torn between wanting to give Pakatan Rakyat a chance while worrying that life might become worse for the Chinese if PAS took over again.

She is among the 1.7% of Chinese voters for the Batu Buruk state seat, where Malay voters make up a whopping 97.8% majority.

”I do have friends who tell me there won't be changes (if PAS takes over) but I have doubts. However, I would also like to see what Pakatan can offer,” she said.

Business on her mind: Hasnah (right) manning her keropok stall at Pasar Payang in Terengganu. She
favours PAS’ Raja Bahrin, a heritage conservationist, whom she hopes can help preserve the market. Business on her mind: Hasnah (right) manning her keropok stall at Pasar Payang in Terengganu. She favours PAS’ Raja Bahrin, a heritage conservationist, whom she hopes can help preserve the market.

Chang said there were also many voters from big cities such as Kuala Lumpur who would return to cast their vote and leave, and expressed concern that pro-Pakatan voters would vote based on party without thinking of the effects it could leave on the locals.

Another voter, who only wants to be known as T.H. Tan, 65, thinks the Barisan candidate for the Bandar state seat, Toh Chin Yaw, has been doing a good job and is a very familiar face among the locals.

Even more importantly to Tan, he is the only Chinese candidate contesting in Terengganu.

”I feel we must have a Chinese representative. Of course, we won't choose one who is useless and doesn't do his work. But Toh has done a lot for the Chinese here,” he said.

Toh is gunning for his third term as Bandar assemblyman, which has the largest concentration of Chinese voters (36.2%) in Terengganu.

He is facing PKR's Azan Ismail, who is Terengganu PKR chief and former Indera Mahkota MP in Pahang.

Tan said he had not been impressed by PAS' performance when it governed Tereng-ganu from 1999 to 2004 as he felt it had done very little for the Chinese back then but professed liking for its Kuala Terengganu parliamentary candidate Datuk Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah Raja Ahmad, who is a prominent architect and passionate heritage conservationist.

“We are worried about proper conservation of our heritage sites. We have so much land. There is no need to demolish old buildings to erect new ones in their place,” he said, adding that the state government should focus on improving public infrastructure instead of building new hotels and apartments..

Meanwhile, just down the road at the iconic Pasar Payang, traders are abuzz at the thought that the market would be demolished in favour of a new building.

Terengganu Infrastructure Development and Public Amenities Committee chairman Datuk Za'abar Mohd Adib had said last April that the structure of the building was no longer safe following a report by the Public Works Department.

It is understood that the plan is to erect a 23-storey hotel and 30-storey apartment block, along with a four-storey market complete with air-conditioning and other amenities.

This has struck dismay into the hearts of the traders who are worried that the stall rentals would shoot up sky high.

Keropok seller Hasnah Jusoh, 55, who pays just RM50 in rental fees per stall, strongly feels restoration instead of demolition is the way to go.

“I will support PAS this time. Raja Bahrin is an architect, an experienced man. He prioritises heritage conservation and wants to help us preserve this market,” she said.

Another trader, Mohd Nasir Mahmood, 38, said he would like to see Barisan remain in power but admitted he was baffled by the Pasar Payang decision.

“Look, the bazaar opposite the road is almost empty because the rental fees are around RM1,000. How can we afford to pay such fees in the new building?” he asked.

For more election stories, please visit The Star's GE13 site