Rhetoric not enough to solve real problems if Bukit Antarabangsa candidates hope to win votes

Attending tai chi sessions, having tea with locals and visiting places of worship are some of the many activities carried out by candidates contesting in the Aug 12 state polls.

It is no different in the Bukit Antarabangsa constituency in Selangor, which covers the older and more traditional neighbourhoods of Kampung Baru Ampang and Kampung Melayu Ampang, to the business enclaves of Bandar Baru Ampang and Pekan Ampang, and the mixed neighbourhoods of Bukit Antarabangsa.

Three individuals are eyeing the seat – seasoned politician Mohd Kamri Kamaruddin of Pakatan Harapan, Perikatan Nasional’s legal eagle Sasha Lyna Abdul Latif, who grew up in Bukit Antarabangsa, and the youngest candidate in the 2023 state polls, 23-year-old Melanie Ting of Muda.

The seat was previously held by Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, who is now contesting in Hulu Kelang under Perikatan Nasional.

Fresh from their nomination on Saturday, Kamri, Sasha Lyna, and Ting shared their plans in making the constituency a better place.

Locals have been battling with long-standing problems, issues that could have easily been addressed by the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) and the state government, but have instead, been left in limbo.

Among the concerns raised by locals are:

  • Pekan Ampang losing its charm. Many buildings, some more than a century old, are dilapidated and not cared for.
  • Bad traffic. Despite the construction of the Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Expressway and the Ampang-KL Elevated Highway, traffic police are forced to step in to control traffic as early as 6.30am.
  • Work related to the construction of yet another highway in the area – the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE) – has stalled, and will only be ready early next year.
  • Cats, dogs and other vermin running wild in several areas.
  • Insufficient parking bays that result in motorists parking haphazardly, especially during lunchtime in Ukay Perdana.
  • The status of the development of a primary and secondary school in Bukit Antarabangsa, as the nearest schools are in Hulu Kelang, Melawati, and Wangsa Maju.
  • Grants for the registered residents’ associations to activate community projects in their respective neighbourhoods.
  • Keeping Ampang clean, as some eateries and business operators clog the drains with waste, while rats roam freely.

Kamri, who has been living in Bukit Antarabangsa for more than 25 years, is well aware of the concerns. An electrical engineering graduate, Kamri started his political career as PKR’s Bukit Antarabangsa Youth chief in 1999, before graduating to PKR Ampang branch chief, from 2020 to 2022. He was also an MPAJ councillor.

“I know there are many local issues that need to be addressed, like the traffic congestion and the construction of the EKVE, which is still not completed,” said Kamri.

“From what I gathered, the EKVE project will resume in September.”

Works Minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi, in March, told the Dewan Rakyat that the project is “91 per cent” complete, and that the highway will be opened in stages, beginning next year. Alexander had then said that the project had stalled due to the spike in construction costs.

Kamri highlighted that there were many slopes in Bukit Antarabangsa, and they have been classified as sensitive areas.

The nightmare of the Highland Towers disaster still lingers. On Dec 11, 1993, following a major landslide, Block 1 of the towers collapsed, killing 48 residents. It remains one of Malaysia’s most tragic disasters.

“We also face flash floods that we are still trying to resolve. We are doing this through the state administration and MPAJ. But it’s still not 100 per cent there yet.”

As for Sasha Lyna, there was a sense of deja vu as she stood on the stage during nomination day on Saturday. Barely eight months ago, she stood on the same stage for the very first time when she contested in GE15 as Perikatan Nasional’s candidate for the Ampang parliamentary seat.

“I must say I’m better prepared now, less nervous,” said Sasha Lyna with a smile.

For a newcomer in the political scene, the lawyer and activist managed a respectable outing in the general election, garnering 27,073 votes. Pakatan Harapan’s Rodziah Ismail won the seat with 56,754 votes.

“I think this time around, I can be more focused as we are just looking at one assembly seat, unlike before, when I was contesting for the Ampang parliamentary seat, which covers two assembly areas,” said Sasha Lyna.

“In Bukit Antarabangsa, there are still concerns about job opportunities. It is a diverse neighbourhood, as the constituency covers Bandar Baru Ampang, Kuala Ampang, Pekan Ampang, and all the way to Bukit Antarabangsa. The people are equally diverse – we have B40s, M20s, and T20s.

“We will work towards eradicating urban poverty in Bukit Antarabangsa. We are so near the city centre and we should not have people struggling to make ends meet. We are looking into job opportunities and job creation, while keeping an eye on environmental issues, especially those that concern hillslopes,” she added.

Sasha Lyna said the locals still sought assistance from Perikatan Nasional, despite having an MP who is from Pakatan Harapan.

“People say they haven’t really felt her (Rodziah’s) presence … In that sense, I hope Perikatan Nasional will be given a chance to help the people in Bukit Antarabangsa,” she added.

Ting, meanwhile, is not from the area. The law graduate from Sri Petaling, however, is excited to meet and speak to the locals.

“I’m pushing for better environmental protection. There are a lot of landslides in Bukit Antarabangsa but no one is addressing these issues,” said Ting.

She also wants to champion youth empowerment and good governance.

Ting stressed that Muda isn’t just for the young, and that it was open to everyone. She also added that being young is not a disadvantage in facing the voters.

“I think there is a misconception about this. The young people of today are tired of ‘old’ politics. I think they want to see change and this is why they want to step up and enter politics, to fight against ‘old’ politics,” Ting added.