Still-bitter Menggatal folks mull protest vote after Inanam incumbent Kenny Chua’s ‘betrayal’

Independent candidate for Inanam constituency Kenny Chua showing his STAR member card in Menggatal, Sabah September 22, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif.
Independent candidate for Inanam constituency Kenny Chua showing his STAR member card in Menggatal, Sabah September 22, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif.

KOTA KINABALU, Sept 24 — Menggatal residents are still bitter over incumbent assemblyman Kenny Chua’s repeated party hopping since winning their vote for the Inanam state seat in the 14th general election (GE14).

Disgruntled constituents from the suburb situated just outside the capital shared their feelings of frustration and betrayal brought about by Chua’s actions, leaving many convinced that they should not vote for him this Saturday.

Many said they are so incensed, they have decided to support PKR candidate Peto Galim in protest against Chua despite there being 10 candidates to choose from.

“I don’t want Kenny Chua. I will vote for PKR and their new candidate,” Sambag Gunting, 64, a retired logistics supervisor told Malay Mail.

“Yes, of course, we are angry, and we feel betrayed,” Gunting added.

Sambag Gunting, 64, a retired logistics supervisor, said the constant jumping between parties convinced him against supporting Kenny Chua or any of his allies. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Sambag Gunting, 64, a retired logistics supervisor, said the constant jumping between parties convinced him against supporting Kenny Chua or any of his allies. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Gunting said even with experienced candidates contesting the Inanam seat, such as former chief minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat, the bitter taste of betrayal that lingers in their mouths was enough to make them vote for PKR.

Gunting’s wife Lonjina Lajarmat, 56, a fruit and vegetable seller, expressed similar feelings, saying it was time to choose another worthy candidate.

“I think I will most likely pick PKR candidate Peto Galim, because Kenny Chua was the one who asked us to support PKR last time.

Lonjina Lajarmat, 56, a fruits and vegetables seller, said she is sticking with PKR and their candidate as she trusts in the party’s leadership. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Lonjina Lajarmat, 56, a fruits and vegetables seller, said she is sticking with PKR and their candidate as she trusts in the party’s leadership. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

“And I believe that there are good leaders in PKR who can guide and teach the new candidate on how to do his job and maybe even bring some development here,” Lajarmat said, while standing at the entrance of the Menggatal market where she runs her business.

A voter, who only wished to be known as a retired civil servant voting in Inanam, said his vote will be going to PKR as the party is the best option, with the nine other candidates not proving any more impressive.

“These frogs need to be punished. We are going for protest votes against Barisan Nasional and their gang, just like in GE14.

“PKR will win here,” said the retiree.

Chua, who won the Inanam seat in 2018 under the PKR ticket, abandoned the party in July and joined 32 other assemblymen who backed Tan Sri Musa Aman to take over Sabah.

Musa’s failed coup led to the Yang di-Pertua Negeri dissolving the legislative assembly on the advice of then chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, triggering the statewide election.

On Nomination Day, Chua showed up to register his candidacy for the Inanam seat but as an independent.

However, on the second day of campaigning, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) election machinery was present to back Chua’s campaign in the village of Sukang Mabpai here.

At that time, Chua said he had managed to gain the support of the top leadership in Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) and therefore was “PN-friendly”.

Independent candidate for the Inanam constituency Kenny Chua campaigning in Menggatal, Sabah September 22, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif.
Independent candidate for the Inanam constituency Kenny Chua campaigning in Menggatal, Sabah September 22, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif.

Two days ago, Chua was formally inducted as a STAR member and declared the Inanam seat as belonging to STAR if he emerges victorious on Saturday.

Upon finding out about Chua’s entry to STAR, a sundry shop owner, who only wished to be named as Agnes, 49, said it was fitting because he was joining a party led by Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan whom she said was a party hopper himself.

“He jumped again? It’s fitting for Kenny Chua to end up at STAR, with all the other frogs,” she said shrewdly.

“A lot of us are disappointed because, after hours of lining up at GE14 and voting for him, he suddenly jumps from here to there. It is as though he cannot stand on his own two feet,” she said.

On who her vote might go to, Agnes echoed her other townsfolk in saying the PKR candidate would most probably get her backing.

“There are just too many candidates, and even the former chief minister wants to contest after being out of politics for so many years, so it’s just less confusing to vote PKR,” she said, referring to Chong of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Agnes did say that Chua, during his tenure as the Inanam representative, had made his rounds trying to foster closer ties with constituents, but his shifting political allegiances were enough for them to withdraw their support for him.

Another voter, who openly admitted his disappointment towards Chua, later conceded that the incumbent might just pip the other candidates to the post due to his charismatic personality.

“It’s not as though he is a bad assemblyman, but he is just hopping around too much and there are those who still like him as a person despite being disappointed.

“So that’s why I believe if he wins, it will be by maybe 10 to 20 votes, and if he loses, it will be by around the same margin,” said pensioner Ronny Mohd, 61.

Mohd said there were a few projects that he knew of which were the work of Chua, saying those who end up voting for him could be doing so to give him a chance to finish what he started.

Bus driver Jobistine J. Jumbin, 32, said most of his friends still support Kenny Chua to be their assemblyman. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Bus driver Jobistine J. Jumbin, 32, said most of his friends still support Kenny Chua to be their assemblyman. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

As for younger voters like 32-year-old bus driver Jobistine J. Jumbin, Chua’s approachable character and charismatic personality makes him likeable among those in his age group.

The Menggatal resident said Chua might have jumped from one party to another, but he related how most of his friends and acquaintances spoke of how they might vote for the incumbent.

“I have many friends who like him, I think, because he speaks well and has an interesting personality.

“I think maybe a lot of the younger voters might end up supporting him,” said Jumbin.

Chua faces an uphill task in the 10-cornered Inanam seat, where he is up against his replacement in PKR’s Galim, LDP’s Chong, William Majinbon from Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), Regina Lim from Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS), Terence Tsen from Parti Kerjasama Anak Negeri (Anak Negeri), Goh Fah Shun @ Francis Goh from Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (Gagasan), and Mohd Hardy Abdullah from the United Sabah National Organisation (Usno).

Also in the running are two other Independents Ngui Kuang Kee @ George Ngui, and Achmad Noorasyrul Noortaip.

Polling is set for September 26.

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