PETALING JAYA, Jan 10 — The Cameron Highlands by-election contest between Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional will be decided by local issues.
Neither the excitement from the general election nor current national politics will carry over to the tourist and agricultural spot.
The federal constituency has two state seats: Tanah Rata that is dominated by Chinese businesses and farms, and Jelai where Malays run rubber smallholding plantations and villages.
As for the Orang Asli villages along the hillslope of the way up Tanah Rata and Jelai, the voting trend is easy to read.
The constituency has 32,084 voters that are 34 per cent Malay, 30 per cent Chinese, 22 per cent Others and 4 per cent Indian.
Local voters do not appear concerned with the change in national politics. They are more focused on local issues such as the traffic jams during weekends and soil erosion during rainy weather.
They are not interested in political intrigue. They are concerned about issues affecting their livelihood, such as local tourism.
Tourism and agriculture are their main revenue sources. The candidate offering the best solutions will likely get the most support.
BN has won here since the constituency was formed in 2004.
The by-election was called after the Special Election Court annulled MIC vice-president Datuk C Sivarraajh’s victory due to vote buying.
This time, MIC has made way for a direct BN candidate, former assistant police commissioner Ramli Mohd Noor, a local Orang Asli who is well known in the community.
“The candidate is a former civil servant with a good track record. He was a former senior police officer an assistant commissioner of police who just retired and has very good qualifications. He has a master’s degree and is currently preparing a thesis for his PhD.
“He is a local, his father is from the area and many Tok Batin (Orang Asli village chiefs) are related to him. This is the candidate we feel can give us the advantage because at this moment in time it is important to have a candidate that can carry the party,” acting Umno president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today.
The 60-year-old Ramli retired at the end of last year and is currently studying for his doctorate in business administration.
Mohamad said BN is “85 per cent” confident of retaining the constituency with Ramli as the candidate while DAP’s Lim Kit Siang has predicted a more difficult contest for PH now.
Lim acknowledged Ramli’s illustrious career as a police officer and that he was one of the most celebrated sons of Cameron Highlands.
In view of this, Lim said PH campaigners must be "miracle workers" to win the by-election.
This will boil down to both coalitions’ election machinery and their leaders' ability to campaign on local issues that matter to voters here.