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In Pandan, age and years away weigh on ex-heavyweights

Support for Pakatan Harapan's Rafizi Ramli and Warisan's Ong Tee Keat appears split based on voters' age.

Teoh Yee Shen
3 minute read
A motorcyclist passes the party flags of Pakatan Harapan and Warisan, put up at a road in Pandan ahead of the general election.
A motorcyclist passes the party flags of Pakatan Harapan and Warisan, put up at a road in Pandan ahead of the general election.

In the parliamentary constituency of Pandan in Hulu Langat, Selangor, eyes are turning towards the clash between two former heavyweights looking to make a political comeback after a number of years out of the limelight. 

Both Rafizi Ramli of PKR and former MCA man-turned-Warisan candidate Ong Tee Keat were, at one point or another, MPs for Pandan – Ong from 2004 to 2013, and Rafizi from 2013 to 2018. 

Today, they are among five candidates vying for the support needed to take the urban seat. 

The others are Perikatan Nasional (PN) candidate Muhammad Farique Zubir Albakri, Nadia Hanafiah of Pejuang, and Leong Kok Wee, representing Barisan Nasional (BN). 

Pandan, won by PKR's Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at the previous general election, had an estimated 148,730 voters at that time. 

But as Rafizi and Ong battle it out for support ahead of the Nov 19 polls, questions remain, including about the impact of their age gap on their support base and whether their time away from politics will make a difference.

Ong Tee Keat stops to chat with customers at a coffee shop in Taman Muda.

At a block of flats just across the street from the nomination centre, a youth who introduced himself as Adif Zulkifli Mohammed Amin said the focus should be on the new faces being fielded in Pandan. 

"Rafizi is okay," he said. "Wan Azizah also came down to the field, but we know their methods. Give new candidates a chance."

Another youth, Jimmy Lam, said he was more familiar with Rafizi than he was with Ong. 

"I've heard of Ong because my dad talked about him," Lam, 21, said. 

"But I know Rafizi more," he added, attributing his lack of knowledge about Ong to the age gap between him and the former MCA president. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Perak Youth assembly member Yeap Thiam Hoong said names like Ong and former DAP man Wee Choo Keong, who is likewise looking to make a comeback in Wangsa Maju, were no longer relevant to young voters. 

"When I paid attention to politics, back in 2007 and 2008, I knew who Ong and Chua Soi Lek were," he said, referring to still another former MCA leader.

"But if you disappear for several years, you are irrelevant." 

Older voters

Among the older voters in the flats, opinions appeared more evenly split between Ong and Rafizi.

Rafizi Ramli greets people who came to attend a ceramah in Pandan Indah. 

 A 63-year-old woman who called herself Kak Sabariah said both Rafizi and Ong stood a chance of winning the race for the seat. 

"PN might have a chance too, since they have joined hands with PAS and Gerakan," Sabariah, who has lived in Pandan for 20 years, said. 

"But chances for BN here are slim." 

Rama, also 63, has lived in Pandan for more than 40 years. Unlike the younger generation, he recalled Ong's years of service, and fondly. 

"He helped the schools a lot in the old days," he said. "He was a pioneer in politics." 

Another local called Ngai agreed that Ong was a "people person". However, he said it would be hard to predict the outcome.

"If people vote based on the candidate, not the party, Ong might stand a chance," he said. 

Yet another local who gave his name as Low said both Ong and Rafizi were well known in the area. 

"It's 50-50 between them," he said, adding that he was not familiar with the other candidates. 

He, too, recalled Ong's service during his time as Pandan MP. 

"He served the area well. He got the approval for SJK (C) On Pong 2."