By ILONA ANDREW
WITH less than a week to go before polling day on 18 Jan, the Kimanis parliamentary by-election is the talk of the town.
Flags of both Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) and Barisan Nasional (BN) as well as the candidates’ posters can be seen almost everywhere in Kimanis.
Some folks wear shirts that indicate their support for their preferred party and some become coffee shop conversation starters, discussing about who would be the next Kimanis MP.
Today, slightly more than a week of campaigning has passed. Many have decided who to vote but some are still clueless.
But one thing for sure is that they thirst for development in Membakut, some 94 kilometres away from the hustle and bustle of Kota Kinabalu city.
At a small warung in Membakut town, people are talking about who would win and the changes they expect from their new MP, while enjoying their coffee.
One of those immersed in the political conversation is 63-year-old Modili @ Robert Dai who frequents the place. He describes the election campaigns this time as being very lively.
Having visited some of the district polling centres of both parties, he opined that it is a strong fight between Warisan and BN as each party has a considerable number of supporters.
“Both of the candidates are equally strong, but I think Warisan candidate Datuk Karim Bujang has more supporters,” said the man from Kampung Motunjung.
Initially shy, he quickly warmed up and was expressive in his hope to see whoever wins the parliamentary seat will be able to bring development in the form of infrastructure, especially roads in the remote parts of Membakut.
“The condition of our village roads is really bad, with potholes everywhere. I hope that whoever wins the seat will be able to help us in this matter,” he said.
Meanwhile, a young small and medium entrepreneur from Kampung Kayai wants the newly elected MP to visit the warung and meet the traders there to listen to their pleas for better conditions to conduct their business.
“The by-election this time is thrilling. There are flags all over the place and the candidates are constantly visiting the villages, meeting the people and campaigning,” Nelly Justine commented.
The 24-year-old hopes that the elected MP will pay attention to their rural gravel roads while coming up with solutions to curb regular flooding in some of the villages.
Her mother shares her excitement saying that she keenly followed the campaigns of both candidates.
“But it is hard to say who is going to win in this by-election,” Elizibit Michael interjected, speaking in Dusun.
However, she is optimistic that Warisan candidate, Datuk Karim Bujang has the edge to win.
Just like her daughter, the 49-year-old wants the MP to zero in on the flood-prone areas that have caused great damage to homes and the roads which were impassable whenever the floods arrived.
Another Warisan supporter opined that Karim should win the Kimanis seat since he has seen good changes brought by the Warisan-led Government since it took over after the last general election.
Retired native chief representative Makri Ajam said, although both of the candidates have had experience as Bongawan assemblyman, a lot of his friends and family hope that Warisan would win in the upcoming by-election.
“However, BN’s campaigns are not bad too. I am a former BN supporter but now I support the government.
“There is no use to vote for BN to win because it is no longer the government,” he said.
Just like the other constituents, he is tired of the yearly floods in Membakut.
“There is a need to widen the rivers here. Sometimes the rivers will be filled with trash, interrupting the flow and causing it to stagnate,” he disclosed, while stating that his village, Kampung Jambatan Baru, and the others nearby, would be flooded about four times a week.
Similarly, 80-year-old Nurin Dungab requested for a clinic and a police base to be built in Membakut town.
Despite all the different political views from the patrons at the warung, they still remain friends for in Sabah, not even politics can sever the harmonious ties that hold Sabahans together.
The Kimanis by-election on Jan 18 will see a straight fight between Warisan’s Datuk Karim Bujang and Barisan Nasional’s Datuk Mohamad Alamin.