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2008/02/01
Tussle for Bukit Bintang hots up
By : Regina Lee
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(from left)Fong Kui Lun and Datuk Dr Lee Chong Meng
(from left)Fong Kui Lun and Datuk Dr Lee Chong Meng

KUALA LUMPUR: If anything, Bukit Bintang is the most glamorous constituency in Malaysia, and perhaps the jewel in the opposition DAP's crown.

It boasts the nation's business district, the best shopping area in the city, and the showpiece real estate -- the Kuala Lumpur City Centre's Twin Towers.

Bukit Bintang has some notoriety, too, as it is said to be the underworld capital as well as a red light district, although no one is screaming about it.

The two illegal rallies which captured the nation's attention late last year by the opposition-led campaign for clean election, Bersih, and by the Hindu activists Hindraf were played out in Bukit Bintang.

Against this backdrop, incumbent two-term DAP MP, Fong Kui Lun, waits to do battle with his next opponent.
"No real problems, actually. The squatter issues have been settled and most of the hawker issues have been addressed," said the 61-year-old politician at his service centre which is located in the heart of Chinese-majority Pudu.

Instead, he said it was the national issues of law and order, rising cost of living and the possible fuel hikes that were frequently heard in the many conversations at the kopitiam, eateries and entertainment spots in the area.

The constituency has 61,051 voters with Chinese (74 per cent), Malays (15 per cent) and Indians (11 per cent).

So what does Fong think will be his biggest obstacle in the coming election?

Postal votes.

"The constituency has 5,888 postal votes, an increase of about 1,000 votes since the last polls," he said, stating that the postal votes, from the police and the military, nearly cost him the seat last time.

He won by a majority of 304 votes after a recount the day after the polls.

While he is worried about the postal votes, usually understood as the vote for Barisan Nasional, Fong draws comfort from the purported Indian unhappiness with the establishment.

"I could hardly get the votes in Brickfields despite putting in much effort during the last two elections.

"This time I think the votes will come to me," he said of the biggest pocket of Indian voters in the Bukit Bintang constituency.

Unlike in the previous polls, this time round, Fong is having difficulty predicting who his opponent from the BN's MCA will be.

The Bukit Bintang MCA leadership is apparently not at ease with itself.

However, its division chief, Senator Datuk Dr Lee Chong Meng, scoffed at such talk and proclaimed that victory was at hand for BN.

"If MCA fields me, I am confident of winning although with a slim majority."

He claimed that feedback from the ground showed that people wanted a government-man in parliament.

He added that people realised that to get things done, the MP must be a man who had the government machinery behind him.

Lee conceded Bukit Bintang was an opposition stronghold but that did not mean the BN would give up easily.

He recalled with pride the recent Bukit Bintang Tamil harvest festival, Ponggal, which drew Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and thousands of people to the constituency.

Another factor why Lee felt takeover by MCA was imminent was his view that the younger generation was not attached to DAP.

"Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (four-term DAP MP) does not even ring a bell with the young voters. Maybe they know him as National Service chief but not as DAP's Mr Bukit Bintang."

Lee, who left DAP and retired from politics in 1990, is now the National Service Training Council chairman.
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