Although facing 21 counts of money laundering amounting to RM35.78 million, first-term Endau state reps remains a popular choice to help BN retain the seat

MERSING: With the next general election looming in the horizon, the BN stronghold in Mersing in Johor may be in for a challenge with opposition parties impressing upon the youth here.

This is despite the emphasis given by the ruling party and federal government agencies towards empowering the district’s local youth, and the apparent popularity of its incumbent state assemblyman Abd Latif Bandi despite facing corruption charges.

First-term Endau state assemblyman Abd Latif, 51, who has been actively involved in the state’s youth and sports programmes since the 90s, has always been known to empower the younger generation as they are seen as the country’s future.

Abd Latif, a Mersing lad, has always been a popular figure with the locals despite the former senior state exco currently facing corruption charges following a housing scandal in the state that rocked the country earlier this year.

For Mersing-based retail outlet manager Syahrul Nizam Zainal, 27, Abd Latif would surely retain the Endau state seat due to his services and commitment to help the community in the locality.

“If he is retained to contest (for BN), he would surely retain the Endau seat as he had solved most problems faced by the locals here, for instance the water issue.

“This was a longstanding issue but Abd Latif took care of it immediately and solved it,” Syahrul Nizam told Berita Daily when met during the launch of Mersing Harbour Centre last Sunday.

The local boy said that Abd Latif’s dedication was beyond the duties of an elected representative as he personally looked into the complaints raised by the community.

On Abd Latif’s arrest and prosecution, Shahrul Nizam said that it was an emotional moment for his friends and supporters to the extent that some among the Mersing’s folks wept upon learning his arrest.

On June 14, Abd Latif, his eldest son and a property consultant were charged with 21 counts of money laundering amounting to RM35.78 million in connection to the Johor land scandal that broke out in March.

However despite Abd Latif’s popularity here, some youths in the district believe that the ruling party shouldn’t rest on their laurels as opposition parties are slowly gaining traction from the locals.

While acknowledging BN’s strength in the constituency, final year student Arron See said that the new kid on the block, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), led by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has made its presence felt in Mersing.

“The support may not be too strong (for PPBM), but it is there,” he said.

While PAS was previously the Opposition’s strongest party in Mersing, Aaron believed that the Islamic party’s strength has waned significantly due to the formation of its splinter party, Amanah.

The 23-year-old said that with PAS out of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, a possibility of three-cornered contest in several seats would favour BN.

For 28-year-old Mohd Azrul Mokhtar, PAS still continues to garner support in Mersing.

“I notice that PAS has a strong following here as they frequently organise programmes with the locals,” said Mohd Azrul who is involved in the food and beverage business in the town.

In the 2013 general-election, PAS contested the Mersing parliamentary seat and also the Endau state seat, losing both. Abd Latif won the Endau state seat with a 3,110 majority-vote while BN retained the Mersing parliamentary constituency with a 15,747 majority-vote.