Friday, January 2, 2009

The battle of the “River Mouth of Terengganu”

The Kuala Terengganu Parliamentary seat by-election is going to be an absolute fought between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.

There exists a school of thought that the 8,762 Chinese voters may very well decide the outcome of the upcoming Kuala Terengganu by-election if the Malay votes are divided equally between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.

Kuala Terengganu Parliamentary seat, with Malays making up 88.3% of the strong electorate, 0.60% of Indian voters and 10.91% Chinese voters in the electorate who have traditionally backed MCA. Due to this fact, Barisan Nasional is confident of retaining the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat.

The Chinese voters are concentrated in Bandar, the only seat held by MCA. It is interesting to note the vitality of this state seat.

Terengganu is one of the three east coast states on Peninsular Malaysia. It has a land area of 12,995 square kilometers and 225 kilometers of picturesque coastline.

The capital, Kuala Terengganu stands on the bank of the Terengganu River is located about 500 kilometers northeast of Kuala Lumpur on a promontory surrounded on three sides by the South China Sea.

Kuala Terengganu is famous for its fishing industry and is located at the strategic natural sea port at the South China Sea. Both Chinese and Arabs traders came to Kuala Terengganu to sell their product since ancient times.

The name means the "river mouth of Terengganu", referring to the broad expanse of the Terengganu River estuary which empties into the ocean. Kuala Terengganu is also the name of the parliamentary constituency in which the city is situated.

The four state seats under the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary constituency are Wakaf Mempelam, Ladang, Batu Buruk and Bandar, the only seat held by MCA.

There was only one street, called Kampung Cina or Chinatown, when Kuala Terengganu was founded. A family of Chinese traders who were trading between China and the Malay Peninsula established it as early as 15th century. Two rows of shop houses of 236 units which dated back to the late 1800s flank the road. One row of shop houses is built along the riverside on the right side of the mouth of Terengganu River.

Many of these shop houses have extensions to as far back facing the river. From the 16th century onwards, the Chinese population increased gradually, some established permanent settlement.

By mid-1800s, the Chinese population increased tremendously as new Chinese immigrants arrived. Kuala Terengganu, which is strategically located on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, was a natural stopping point for those who plied the trade route from China to South East Asia in the early days.

Kampung Cina became the most densely populated area for the Chinese community in Kuala Terengganu. The Chinese settlers in Kuala Terengganu before 1900 were not homogeneous for they comprise of Hokkiens, Hainanese and Cantonese. Hokkien dialect however is commonly used by the Chinese community besides Mandarin.

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