Feb 24, 2008

Bentong known for communality

Bentong known for communality
By Sim Leoi Leoi
Saturday February 23, 2008

BENTONG: Walk along the main road of this small town and one cannot help but notice the abundance of signboards advertising clan houses and associations.

In fact, for its small size – it has some 120,000 residents of whom 53,000 are registered voters – Bentong has a high number of clan associations and houses. At the last count, there are over 60.

There are clan houses for the Lees, Huangs, Cheongs, Leongs, Yongs and Kochows and even one for local merchants.

For MCA Youth chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai, who has been Bentong MP for the past two terms, it is a sign that people in the town are extremely close knit.

“Bentong people like to get together and participate in communal and cultural activities. The clan associations have been helpful in providing scholarships for students,” he said.

Vibrant: For a small town, Bentong has over 60 clan associations.

Vibrant: For a small town, Bentong has over 60 clan associations.

Some associations concentrated around Jalan Loke Yew and Jalan Chui Yin are nearly a century old.

The Kwangsi Association, for instance, has over 1,000 members and will celebrate its 100th anniversary in two years.

However, with many in the younger generation preferring to work in Kuala Lumpur, which is less than an hour’s drive away, a common complaint among the associations is the low number of youths.

Many of their members are over 40 years in age.

Kwangsi Association chairman Lee Wah Cheen, 73, said: “I have a restaurant here and one of my sons works in it. But my eldest son and two daughters live and work in KL.

“I have thought it and wanted to live in KL, but the city is too busy and getting around for me is difficult,”

If only there were more industries here, rued the sprightly old man.

A local resident, who used to be active in politics, said: “You won’t find anyone young here to interview. They have just come back for Chinese New Year and they won’t be back again for some time, unless they come back to vote.”

Critics pointed out that attempts to pull in industries in places like Kampung Sungai Dua in the outskirts of town had failed to take off, and only had a few factories to show.

Liow admitted there had been some rankle over the lack of industries in Bentong.

“My voters are slowly greying, which is becoming a problem to me,” he said, adding that his plan was to turn Bentong into an agro-tourism hub.

“I hope to attract young graduates into high-technology agricultural practices where they use less land. Bentong is famous for its ginger plantations and hot springs, which we can use to attract tourists,” he pointed out.

Liow said Bentong hoped to catch the spillover effects of economic growth in Kuala Lumpur and the launch of the Kuantan development corridor.

“As Kuala Lumpur continues to extend eastwards, Bentong will benefit. We want Chinese businessmen to pursue opportunities in the East Coast Economic Region,” he said.

Pahang MCA chief and Bilut assemblyman Datuk Hoh Khai Mun said resorts like Genting Highlands, Bukit Tinggi and Tanah Rimba were within the Bentong constituency.

“They attract tourists and course trainees who often stop here to eat and shop,” he said, adding that it was difficult to find parking space in the town during weekends.

For people like Cheong Peng Choy, 62, however, life could not be rosier than in Bentong.

“If life here is likened to my two hands, my satisfaction is represented by nine of my 10 fingers. Only one finger is my level of dissatisfaction. I hope to see more funds for our Chinese schools,” said the chairman of the Wei Neng Association, a Kwangtung subclan house. -- The Star.


This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.