TENOM, Sept 21 — The first thing that comes to mind when one hears the word Tenom is the coffee.
However, this parliamentary constituency, which has been dubbed the Sabah’s coffee capital, is also gaining attention with several new tourism spots, including Rundum Highlands.
Located about 150km from Kota Kinabalu, Tenom had once shocked the nation when the former Berjaya (Sabah People’s United Front) government chief minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh lost the seat to the then political unknown, Kadoh Agundong (now Datuk), in the 1985 General Election, by 895 votes.
Tenom has two state seats — Melalap and Kemabong — with a total of 28,933 voters; and Melalap is one of the 17 hot seats where Perikatan Nasional (PN) and its allies Barisan Nasional (BN) and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) are crossing swords in the Sabah state election this weeked.
The question that has been lingering is whether or not there will be another ‘giant killer’ like Kadoh in Melalap as the incumbent Datuk Peter Anthony of Warisan is not only being challenged by Kemabong incumbent Jamawi Jaafar (BN), but also by PBS deputy president Datuk Seri Radin Malleh, Apiang Sausun (PCS), Sazali Justi (USNO) and Masdin Tumas (LDP).
For the record, Radin has served as Sabah Minister of Rural Development when Sabah government was under Tan Sri Musa Aman’s leadership. He held the seat for four terms before losing it to Peter in the 14th General Election with a slim majority of 293 in a five-cornered fight.
During his visit to a village in Ponontomon, about 20km from Tenom town, Peter appeared to be so much at ease when he mingled with the people, while a van with an advertising LCD screen displaying information about his campaign.
“We know our enemies’ strength, but we also have our own strength, which is focusing on the people’s problems. The majority of Sabah people prefer and support Sabah for Sabah.
“That is why we have succeeded in creating various opportunities to boost the local economy, such as the palm oil mills in Lahad Datu to honour the Murut people, besides the sincerity of Warisan leadership in solving the land issues,” he said.
Peter, who is Warisan vice-president, said although he had only represented the constituents for just a little over two years, many problems faced by the people had been solved, which he hoped the voters would take into consideration when they cast their votes.
Meanwhile, Jamawi, who is also a familiar face in the constituency, was also seen mingling and reaching out to the locals during his campaign at Tenom Market.
The former agriculture research officer said the approach was important for him to explain to the people about his various missions for the constituency, including in the agriculture and tourism sectors.
“The people can also evaluate me by my experiences as Tenom Umno Youth chief and Kemabong assemblyman. I have worked for the people and now I need their mandate to do what needs to be done in Melalap,” he said.
While all eyes are on the big names, there is also a possibility that the Murut singer Apiang would be the one who springs the surprise.
Apiang, popular for his songs ‘Gelas Jatuh Lantai’ and ‘Masaga Kopoh Ki Raki’ (Do You Still Love Me?) in Murut language, is leveraging on his experience to woo voters besides offering new hope in the fight for the fate of the Murut people as well as voters from other ethnicities.
“It is not impossible for the story of Kadoh Agundong the giant killer to be repeated in Melalap. I only hope to be given the mandate to serve (the people) in this area by improving its basic facilities especially the water supply and electricity which failed to be addressed by previous leaders,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kadoh, who is also former Sabah Culture, Youth and Sports Minister, when met by Bernama, advised the candidates to work hard because opportunities are abound, to maintain health and to get enough sleep throughout their campaign trails.
Commenting further, Sabah political analyst Dr Syahruddin Awg Ahmad said Apiang seemed to have the advantage and might be able to spring a surprise if he continued to raise issues of the Murut people in his campaign because there are still issues that are not resolved by the previous government.
The senior lecturer at the Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Heritage, Universiti Malaysia Sabah said the intense battle among the candidates might also make it difficult for the incumbent to defend the seat.
The other 16 hot seats are Bengkoka, Telupid, Lumadan, Matunggong, Tandek, Kadamaian, Kapayan, Karamunting, Tambunan, Sook, Bingkor, Moyog, Tulid, Paginatan, Liawan, and Tanjung Aru.
A total of 1.12 million voters in Sabah will go to the polls on September 26. — Bernama