PENDANG,.Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) Pendang candidate Wan Saiful Wan Jan found out something about his family history when he told his mother that he was contesting in Pendang.
“She said to me: You balik kampung!” Apparently, his father was a lance corporal with the Royal Malaysian Police in Pendang and lived in the quarters near the police station.
The former CEO of Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) is now trying to find a house in Pendang.
Wan Saiful says he finds the environment here to be relaxed and more laidback when compared to Kuala Lumpur.
“To me coming to Kedah… it’s not really coming to a new place, it’s balik kampung for me. My long-term ambition is to come back to Kedah, the northern part of Malaysia.
“I would also like to play a role in bringing Kedah’s voice to Putrajaya. Let’s put it this way, living here would be a dream come true for me,” he added.
The first-time candidate realises he has a monumental task ahead of him trying to break Umno’s stronghold in Pendang. He is also up against a local and beloved “giant” — Datuk Othman Abdul.
Wan Saiful acknowledges his Umno opponent is formidable, yet hopes that the voters in the constituency will look at the bigger picture. (The other candidate vying for this seat is Awang Hashim from PAS.)
“I’m not here to deny the services he has done but we feel the country needs a new direction, a better direction,” he said.
The political newcomer is very thankful to the Pendang Pakatan Harapan (PH) election machinery for helping him tap into the local network and introduce him to fence sitters.
He also added that he was surprised by the reception he received from some of the PAS and Umno party members who promised him their votes despite holding party positions.
“You will be surprised that among the PAS and Umno supporters there are many who might be remaining in those parties but they know they want to vote for somebody else. It’s been really encouraging to me.
“They hold positions in the Umno structure, but they come to me and say I might still be a member, I don’t want to leave because I don’t want to be ostracised by the community but my vote is with you,” he said.
Wan Saiful also said that voters below 40 years old were “warm and receptive” while those between 40 to 70 years old wanted to know what he has to offer and “wanted to get to know him.”
He also believes that party leaders Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir have triggered a wave of support that he can take advantage of and ride on, coupled with the discontent brought about by the current economic situation.
Improving Pendang’s economy and private education
He added that being fielded in Pendang is a brilliant opportunity as it allows him to put into practice what he has put into his writing as well as commentaries in the past.
The academic has identified the constituency’s three main economic activities requiring assistance and all of them revolve around cost of living.
The first are the problems facing padi farmers located within the Tokai state constituency. Wan Saiful wants to break Padiberas Nasional Bhd’s (Bernas) monopoly over rice import and production while turning the entity into a regulating body.
“I think we need to do something to make sure the padi farmers diversify their source of income one way or the other. They should be thinking about other potential crops to plant in addition to padi.
“How do we make sure when those coming to buy wholesale from them, buy at an appropriate price. At the moment there is a monopoly by Bernas which means the price is controlled. Why not introduce competition so they can sell to wholesale buyers who will offer the best price for them?
“Why do we license only a monopoly to buy from them,” asked Wan Saiful adding that without Bernas, the market’s natural supply and demand system will give the padi farmers a better income while healthy competition will control the price for end consumers.
In Sungai Tiang, he identified issues facing the rubber tappers there where the price of RM1.80 per kilo for rubber is abysmally low. However, he did not elaborate on how he plans on addressing their problems.
Finally, he also believes that the small time business owners there need to be able to grow and become more independent.
“In terms of bureaucracy it needs to be reduced, assistance needs to continue and we need to make sure it’s different and can help them grow their business and not make them reliant on assistance.
“They can be more independent, grow their business, maybe work in partnership with others,” he said.
Touching on education, the academic wants to improve and provide greater assistance to privately-owned pondok schools scattered throughout the constituency.
Renowned as a proponent of private education, Wan Saiful added that private schools do not mean only education facilities for the elite.
“What kind of assistance is being provided by the state and federal government to make sure that if people choose to go to the pondok system, they need to be confident that the education they get from there is the best quality.
“Many here use the private system, we just need to understand that when they say private education, it’s not just the elite schools. There are so many private education institutions here,” said Wan Saiful.