Tiong Lai returns to Bentong to safeguard legacy

K. Kabilan

Liow Tiong Lai is running for Bentong in 2022. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 4, 2022.

A LITTLE flashback first. In the weeks running up to the 2018 general election, Bentong was abuzz with election fever. The town folks were looking forward to more development, especially the  multi-billion ringgit East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project.

Their incumbent MP then, Liow Tiong Lai, was not only the MCA president but also the transport minister. He had been their MP since 1999. The seat had been an MCA seat since independence.

Liow was well-liked by the locals, who attributed the constituency’s growth to him. They said he had brought socio-economic activity to the constituency, encouraged local entrepreneurship, raised funds for locals, and put the town on the tourism map.

Liow had said that his plan was to make Bentong a satellite town of greater Kuala Lumpur. Everything looked great on the surface.

However, they were whispers that Liow could become collateral damage if a political tsunami happens, especially should the Malay voters - mostly Felda settlers – decide to vote for change.

And true enough, on election night, Liow was among the many top Barisan Nasional leaders to fall. He lost to environmental activist Wong Tack, who stood on a DAP ticket, by 2,032 votes.

Fast forward to 2022. Liow is once again the BN candidate for Bentong. This time he is just a former lawmaker, with no party affiliiation or government posts. He has been making the rounds in Bentong, trying to win back the support of the voters, to ensure his legacy is not forgotten and perhaps even enhanced.

“Voters have shown a very positive response to my return to Bentong. I have received many heartwarming messages since I announced my intention to stand here again.

“In fact, it was Bentong locals who encouraged me to return, and I heeded their call. They are standing behind me and I will do my best for them in GE15,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

He also defended his tenure as Bentong MP, saying he has a proven track record as its MP of four terms.

“I have been dedicated to developing Bentong into the town it is today. I know voters can tell who is the best candidate to represent them.

“I believe voters, regardless of their race, will choose wisely. All of them want an MP that can serve them effectively,” said the 61-year-old Liow.

Liow Tiong Lai is a former MCA president and transport minister. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 4, 2022.

This time Liow’s main opponent will not be Wong Tack, who had been dropped by DAP and replaced by the popular incumbent Ketari state rep Young Syefura Othman.

Wong remains in the picture as an independent candidate.

Liow said the fact that Wong was standing as an independent showed that there was trouble in DAP.

“Wong Tack’s intention to stand as an independent has shown to the people that DAP is struggling with internal conflicts.

“Besides, the party’s decision to drop Wong Tack in Bentong is tacit admission that he had done nothing for the constituents since winning the seat.”

Taking aim at DAP, Liow said the party must be answerable to the people of Bentong for Wong.

“By fielding someone else here in GE15, DAP is depriving the people of the chance to judge and punish Wong Tack,” he said.

“From what I have heard, Bentong voters are upset with the performance of the incumbent MP.

“A lot of promises were made but not delivered. He had not done much to serve the constituents, both in parliament and in Bentong. Bentong voters deserve a better MP, one who keeps his word and attends to the people diligently,” he added.

Liow, however, politely refused to answer questions on the challenges posed by Young Syefura.

Instead he said the Bentong voters should be more aware by now of who could deliver.

He also promised further development and growth for Bentong.

“If I return as an MP, I promise to make Bentong the ‘Garden City of Greater KL’.

“Its offer of nature, culture and durians, coupled with its proximity to Kuala Lumpur, makes it the perfect destination for tourists seeking a respite from city life.

“When more people fall in love with Bentong, Bentong will become even livelier and fare better economically,” he said.

However, there are still some uncertainties as Undi18 voters are voting for the first time.

BN is worried about the impact of these young and new voters. They are also worried about Young Syefura’s reach among the Malay voters in the constituency.

in 2018, there were about 68,000 voters here, of which Malays were the majority (48.6%), followed by the Chinese (38.2%), Indians (10%) and others (2.7%).

The fight for Bentong will be a crowded affair. Apart from Liow, Young Syefura and Wong, Bersatu/Perikatan Nasional’s Roslan Hassan are also in the race. – November 4, 2022.

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