KUKUP, Johor: Plans are under way to launch ferry services between Singapore and the town of Kukup on the southwestern tip of Johor if Pakatan Harapan wins the Tanjung Piai by-election, Malaysia's Minister of Home Affairs Muhyiddin Yassin said on Wednesday (Nov 13).
Speaking at Pakatan Harapan's rally for the Tanjung Piai by-election, Mr Muhyiddin said that the services would help transport tourists from Tuas in Singapore to Kukup more efficiently, and bring in more tourism dollars for the area.
"I've heard a few locals here asking why are there are no ferry services between Kukup and Tuas in Singapore, because many Singaporeans love to visit Kukup to eat seafood and enjoy the many activities in the area," said Mr Muhyiddin.
"I've asked the (Johor) chief minister if this was feasible, he said to me just now, god willing, yes. So if we win, we will ensure that ferry services between Singapore and Kukup are implemented as soon as possible," he added, drawing loud applause from the crowd.
Plans to boost tourism in Kukup has recently gained momentum, with campaigning for the Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election intensifying before voting on Saturday.
The six-cornered battle is tightly contested between front-runners Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidate Mr Karmaine Sardini and Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Dr Wee Jeck Seng, alongside other candidates Ms Wendy Subramaniam from Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, Dr Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz of Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia as well as independent candidates Dr Ang Chuan Lock and Ms Faridah Aryani Abdul Ghaffar.
Kukup, in Tanjung Piai, is a popular tourist destination for Singaporeans. Many of the tourists enjoy visiting Kukup's fishing village, exploring mangrove wetlands at the Pulau Kukup - Johor National Park and shopping for local products such as salted fish and belachan.
Mr Muhyiddin pointed out that these efforts to improve tourism accessibility to Tanjung Piai would create more jobs in the area for younger residents, so that they would not have to travel far to earn money for their family.
He also lauded the recent re-launch of ferry services between Kukup and Indonesia's Tanjung Balai. The ferries operate between Tanjung Balai in the Riau Islands and Kukup International Ferry Terminal, and would attract more visitors to the area, he said.
Besides improving tourism prospects for Tanjung Piai, Mr Muhyiddin also announced other goodies for the residents of Tanjung Piai if PH candidate Mr Karmaine wins the by-election.
He said that the federal government would also work to improve Internet connectivity in the area and assist fishermen who are facing "well-documented problems" in Kukup.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also spoke at the rally, in front of more than 8,000 supporters, most of whom were dressed in red.
Dr Mahathir, 94, spoke for around 30 minutes to persuade the residents to vote for PH candidate Mr Karmaine.
Although he acknowledged that the federal government has not resolved some issues since winning the last general election, Dr Mahathir called for Malaysians to give the PH government more time "to overcome the diseases" that was left behind by the previous government.
He suggested that they judge PH's performance after the government has served its full 5-year term.
CHOOSE CANDIDATE WITH CLOSE LINKS TO GOVERNMENT: MAHATHIR
Speaking to the voters of Tanjung Piai directly, Dr Mahathir warned that voting in an opposition candidate would make it more difficult for the government to help them.
"We will help people who support the government; only the government can afford to help the people," said Dr Mahathir.
He added that an opposition candidate would also "not be able to do much" for Tanjung Piai residents if he or she wins the by-election.
"What can he do? He will come to us and beg for help, but we will only be able to help ourselves," he added.
"That's why it's better if you choose the candidate with close links to the government," said Dr Mahathir.
Currently the federal government as well as the (Johor) state government are governed by Pakatan Harapan, so where else do we go for help, if not to Pakatan Harapan."
He also urged residents not to cast their vote based on anger towards the PH government.
"If you are angry, and want to vote in protest, it would not be best for you to vote someone who wouldn't help you ... so don't make that mistake," he said.
"We want to see our government be rebuilt into an Asian tiger, we can only do this if the people are together with us."