Special Report

In Pasir Gudang, deep Sarawakian roots hold back kingmakers

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SPECIAL REPORT | On a Saturday afternoon, Taman Megah Ria, located in the industrial town of Pasir Gudang, Johor, bustles with activity.

Customers at a restaurant scan through a Malay language menu, which includes items like "nasi babi goreng" (fried pork rice). Conversations take place in Malay, but with a Sarawakian accent.

In the adjacent market, housewives browse through an array of vegetables, such as sayur midin and upah lalih, not commonly found in West Malaysian markets.

The sizable Sarawakian diaspora in Pasir Gudang, one of the largest outside East Malaysia, had made the Pasar Borneo Johor possible.

Pasar Borneo Johor chairperson Donny Linan estimated there to be some 20,000 Sarawakians living in the industrial town, many of whom work at the Pasir Gudang Port.

Since the port commenced operations in 1977, Sarawakians have continued to arrive in Pasir Gudang in search of better pay, often at the invitation of other family members, taking up jobs such as welders, pipe-fixers and shipyard carpenters.

BN's Normala Abdul Samad captured the parliamentary seat of Pasir Gudang seat by a razor-thin majority of 935 votes in the 13th general election, having garnered 43,834 votes to PKR's 42,899.

In the election before that, Mohamed Khaled Nordin, who is now Johor menteri besar, won the parliamentary seat with a 17,281-vote majority.

Despite the large numbers of Sarawakians there, and their potential to play kingmakers, few actually appear on the electoral roll for Pasir Gudang.

Many of these Sarawakians, even those who have lived in Pasir Gudang for over a decade, remain reluctant to change their voting addresses.

This would entail a costly journey back to Sarawak during a general election, with many ending up forgoing their privilege to vote...