#GE13* Kampung Melayu – BN's fortress in Air Itam

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PENANG (April 24): "If you're from DAP, get out of my house!"

These were the first words that Jason Loo, the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate for the Air Itam state seat, heard when he called at the house of army veteran Che Saad Mahamud in Kampung Melayu, Air Itam on Monday.

Newcomer Loo from Gerakan was momentarily stunned by the vehemence spouting from Che Saad, 75, and it took Loo quite a while to regain his composure while his local Umno allies led by the Bukit Gelugor Wanita Umno chief, Rojmah Omar, calmed the old man down.

"He's not with DAP. He's with Gerakan. He's with BN, he's with us, pakcik," explained Rojmah, 51.

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Only then did Che Saad allow BN's youngest candidate for the 13th General Election to speak to him.

Dramatic as it is, Che Saad's reaction to Loo is quite normal for the folks of Kampung Melayu, which is a bastion for the BN within the Air Itam state constituency. The seat is located in the Bukit Gelugor parliamentary constituency, which is the territory of a famous incumbent, the feared "Tiger of Jelutong", Karpal Singh.

BN's Fortress Kampung Melayu is obviously an Umno stronghold. The majority of the denizens there consist of lower middle income Malays who openly advertise their allegiance to BN by wearing the coalition's royal blue and hanging their flags from nearly every corner of the residential area.

When Che Saad was asked why he despised Pakatan Rakyat, the retired army man replied: "We're Malaysians. We should vote for Malaysians. Umno is Malaysian. If you want to vote for DAP, you go to China la!"

Loo, who was Penang BN chairman Teng Chang Yeow's assistant before he was named as a candidate, was welcomed warmly by all the residents he met during his house-to-house visit. However, he had to rely on his Umno allies to vouch for him and convince the voters that he was one of the gang.

The whole exercise had an old school kampung feel to it, when BN leaders would be greeted warmly by rural folks when they campaigned back in the 1960s and 70s.

The residents of Kampung Melayu enjoyed chit chatting with Loo and he himself showed a lot of youthful exuberance, bouncing from house to house and taking the time to listen to their concerns as well.

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"Generally they're very loyal and a happy, contented folk. However, I still want to listen to their problems. I made a promise to listen to people and I don't want to just go around and say 'hi'.

"My Wanita Umno friends said we don't have enough time but if I don't listen to the people, how am I supposed to help them?" Loo asked.

His random response to whoever called out to him caused consternation among the older Wanita Umno folk. At one point, fz.com overheard one of them saying: "He's running and crossing the street just like that? Ya Allah, what if he gets hit by a car!"

Loo's own machinery was still quite disorganised.

When fz.com arrived at the location, Loo and his team were still on the way.

Greeted by the Wanita Umno folks there, we explained the purpose of our visit and received a blank stare. Even Rojmah, the local Wanita Umno chief, said that Loo was only coming on April 27.

The moment Loo arrived, she exclaimed: "Ya Allah, why didn't he tell us he was coming. We could have mobilised a lot more people than this."

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Frantically, she began calling her branch and division members to come and assist Loo with his campaigning.

When asked about his lack of preparedness for the campaign, Loo said that his assistant was extremely new to all this.

"I promise it won't happen again. I'm so very sorry about this. When I became a candidate I asked my friend to help me but he's still very new. I've been with Mr Teng's (Chang Yeow) office and I know people will get disgruntled by this.

"I promise to organise everything better. It's just that some of my seniors advised me to concentrate on campaigning and leave the details to my team. Now I think I'll step in to make sure things like this won't happen again," said an embarrassed Loo.

Although the folks at Kampung Melayu are content, the traffic system in the area is one of the more problematic ones on the whole island as the roads are too narrow for buses.

"That's the problem that they are facing. If BN wins (Penang) and I win, I want to make sure that there is a monorail station near here to alleviate the traffic problem. I spoke to one lady who works in Komtar: she said it takes her one hour every morning just to commute from here to the State Mosque (15 minutes when traffic-free)," said Loo.

Whether or not Loo will get to make a difference for the people in Kampung Melayu will be decided on May 5, 2013.

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