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Langkawi calling?

  • Many in Langkawi are grateful to Mahathir, but they also look to the future, and are not sure whether the nonagenarian can still deliver.

Sin Chew Daily

From the southern state of Johor, I've come to the northern state of Kedah.

Both the North and South will be the two most fiercely fought battlegrounds in the upcoming general elections. DAP is throwing in all its efforts to shake MCA out of Johor, and PPBM vows to take over Kedah.

PPBM is pinning its hopes on chairman Mahathir, and Mahathir is pinning his hopes on the voters in Langkawi.

Mahathir is a household name in Langkawi, and when I mentioned his name in Kuah, everyone became instantly excited, talking in great lengths about what he did for them.

62-year-old taxi driver Kassim is one of Mahathir's loyal fans.

"It was barren here when I was young. People led very simple lives by fishing and growing paddy. Very tough days...

"After Mahathir became prime minister, he started to develop Langkawi. All we have here today is his work!"

Behind where Pak Kassim stood was the Langkawi jetty.

One after another ferry bring in tourists from the mainland who help propel the phenomenal growth of the local hospitality, retail and F&B industries.

Almost every household in Langkawi is involved in something related to the tourist industry.

From the jetty the island's iconic eagle sculpture came into sight, spreading its wings and ready to take off.

Thanks to Mahathir, Langkawi's economy indeed took off in a big way.

"Langkawi's development has slowed down after Mahathir's retirement. We don't see so many tourists now and many shops have closed down. LIMA and Le Tour Langkawi see fewer participants nowadays."

I asked Kassim whether he would support Mahathir if he were to run in Langkawi in GE14.

"Of course we will vote for him!" he answered unhesitantly.

Mahathir's fans are not just old people like Kassim. Young hotel employee Hafiz does not have a lasting impression of the former prime minster, but he said he would support Mahathir's electoral bid in Langkawi.

"Life is difficult in Langkawi now. My monthly salary is only about RM1,200, but things are very expensive here. Rent is not cheap, and after deducting the basic expenses for room and food, I practically have nothing left, and may even need to borrow to cover any unexpected expenses.

"I support Mahathir. he can bring changes to this place!"

Of course, not everyone on the island will support Mahathir and his PPBM.

I had a chat with hawker Ismail at Ayer Hangat.

"Mahathir indeed did a lot of things for Langkawi, but he is 93 now and I doubt how much more he can do for this place.

"Moreover, Langkawi's development has come to a bottleneck and we need the strong support from the government to generate new growth."

PM Najib announced RM1.3 billion allocation to upgrade Langkawi's airport, hospital, water supply, etc. during his visit to the island during Chinese New Year.

Mr Tan, who is running a duty-free shop on the island, attended Najib's CNY open house event with local Chinese association leaders and some 400 invited senior citizens.

"It was the first time we had a prime minister celebrating CNY with the local Chinese community on the first day of New Year in Langkawi's history. Not even during Mahathir's time!"

Although the Chinese are actively involved in tourist and commercial activities, they only make up a mere 6% of the voter population.

"We can't deny Mahathir indeed did a lot for Langkawi, but the way he treated the local Chinese community was a far cry from how he treated the Malay society.

"Not everyone is willing to accept him!

"Sure enough the Chinese are most concerned about development. He really did very well in developing Langkawi. After he retired, especially the first few years, everything here slowed down. But tourists began to come in again from this year, especially those from China."

Najib not only announced the RM1.3 billion allocation, but also the appointment of a Chinese representative in LADA (Langkawi Development Authority) in a bid to woo the Chinese voters.

No one can deny Mahathir's contribution towards the development of Langkawi. Many are grateful to him, but they also look to the future, and are not sure whether the nonagenarian can still deliver.


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