MP SPEAKS | In 12 days, on Jan 26, the people of Cameron Highlands will come out to vote for a representative of their choice, without fear or favour or prejudice, to bring the voice of the people of Cameron Highlands - be they Malays, Indians, Orang Asli, Chinese and others - to the Dewan Rakyat, the highest body in the country where laws are debated and passed that will affect every single person in the country.
In the same vein, Malaysians will also come together tomorrow to celebrate the harvest festival Ponggal, where the riches of the earth are revered, celebrated and honoured through the hands of the men and women who so tirelessly toil to share the riches Mother Earth has to give to all.
Cameron Highlands, which has always been known as a travel destination for Malaysians and tourists, has also been one of the environmental heartlands, as well as the producer of vegetables, flowers and other green produce that have reached all corners of Malaysia.
But sadly, not only has the voice of Cameron Highlands not been heard in the Dewan Rakyat for so long under BN as compared to other parliamentary constituencies, but also the longstanding issues faced by the people there have often not gained as much traction even under the MIC, PPP and Barisan Nasional.
The lack of development, injustice for the farmers, inequality suffered by the Orang Asli and the rape of the land there have been issues long forgotten and buried by the previous BN government.
This Ponggal, as cries of “Ponggalo Ponggal” sweep the land when the harvest of the earth – rice, sugar, legumes, raisins, cardamom - is mixed in a clay pot with milk, must signify the many voices of the people who come from all walks of life calling for justice, equality, democracy, accountability and transparency for all Malaysians in Cameron Highlands and throughout the country.
With that chant, many also say "Thai Piranthal Vazhi Pirakkum" which in Tamil translates to “the beginning of the Thai month". It will be the beginning for new opportunities, and now, a new beginning for Cameron Highlands - paving the way for new prosperity, joy, good governance and righteousness.
With the call for new beginnings this Ponggal, Malaysians are rallying together with the good people of Cameron Highlands to do the impossible.
This is to send a strong message to BN that the people in Cameron Highlands, after years of supporting BN, will be coming out of the shadows.
BN did nothing to secure the rights of the Orang Asli, nothing to ensure economic and social justice for the people, nothing to protect and defend the environment.
But now the people will be voting for a candidate who will speak for all - for men and women, young and old, the disabled, the Orang Asli community and also for the environment.
They want to protect, preserve and defend what Mother Nature has left for us to keep.
I wish all Malaysians a blessed Ponggal celebration and especially for the brave people of Cameron Highlands to come out with courage and vote for your representative to be your voice in the Dewan Rakyat after decades of neglect and abandonment and oversight by BN.
"Thai piranthal, vazhi pirakkum. Ponggalo Ponggal!"
KASTHURI PATTO is the Batu Kawan MP, Wanita DAP international secretary and Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Rights and Gender Equality member.
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