Kuala Kubu Baharu Of Fortress On Estuary And Lee S Legacy


 


About 60km north of Kuala Lumpur, the tranquil century-old town of Kuala Kubu Baharu, planned as a “garden city”, is about to hold a by-election.
Once a bustling town, Kuala Kubu Baharu was renowned for its tin mining industry, attracting pioneers like Yap Ah Loy and Loke Yew from Kuala Lumpur. Today, the town's residents are mostly elderly and children, with most youth seeking livelihoods elsewhere.
Old shops built during the British colonial period flanked both sides of the road, adding a little charm to this usually quiet town.
Come weekends or holidays, there will be an influx of visitors, bringing additional income to the town's shops. Even more so as the by-election is approaching.
Kuala Kubu Baharu is one of the three state constituencies under the Hulu Selangor parliamentary constituency.
With the recent passing of the incumbent state assemblyperson Lee Kee Hiong on March 21, the Election Commission has set May 11 for a by-election to fill the vacancy. The nomination for the by-election will be on April 27, with a campaign period of 14 days.
After being elected in 2013, Lee had been actively promoting the humanistic arts and tourism of Kuala Kubu Baharu, attempting to revive the town's past glory and attract young people to return.
One did, even before Lee was elected. Tan Sue Suen, 39, was born and raised in Kuala Kubu Baharu. She returned in 2012 and opened a café II Mio in an old shop on the main street.
Tan said she participated in some activities laid out by Lee when she was elected as the state assemblyperson the following year.
Tan Sue Suen“I didn’t know her, and she didn’t know me, but she came to me and told me she wanted to organise a Miaohui (temple fair),” Tan told Malaysiakini.
“If you ask the people here, maybe nine out of 10 don't even know what a Miaohui is. But Lee thought about elevating the culture and some things here to a higher level, so she started the first Miaohui.
“We’ve also been making nian gao (sticky rice cake) for 11 years now.”
Today, the Hakka nian gao has become one of the signature tourist attractions in Kuala Kubu Baharu.
Lest we forget
The town was originally named Kuala Kubu, transliterated from Malay, meaning “fortress on the estuary”. Historical records show that Selangor experienced a civil war in the 1860s and 1870s and one of the battlefields was in Kuala Kubu.
At that time, the Malay chieftain Syed Mashhor Syed Muhammad Ash-Sahab and the leader of Ghee Hin, Chong Chong, allied to confront the joint forces of Tunku Dhiauddin ibn Sultan Zainal Rashid I (known as Tengku Kudin) from Kedah and Yap Ah Loy from the Hai San.
After the war, the fortress established by Syed Mashhor at the estuary of the river remained, and the area was subsequently named after it.
Kuala Kubu has experienced several floods in its history. Among them was a major flood in 1925 when the dam burst, claiming many lives. Another flood in 1883 caused extensive damage to numerous houses.
Eventually, in 1932, the British colonial government relocated Kuala Kubu to a location several miles away and renamed it Kuala Kubu Baharu.
Today, it still preserves many old buildings, such as the railway station, the community theatre, and the century-old clock tower. The dam that once burst has now become a popular tourist attraction.
Water sports enthusiasts often flock to the town for its rapids, waterfalls, and rivers.
About 20km south of the town centre is the Hulu Tamu Hot Springs. Heading north into the mountains, there’s the cool retreat of Frasers Hill in a little over an hour's drive.
Tan told Malaysiakini that Kuala Kubu Baharu already has the potential for tourism development; it just needed someone to promote it.
“YB (Lee) was the first person to think about how to package it and promote it.”
Voters’ expectations
Currently, residents of Kuala Kubu Baharu are mainly concentrated in Kuala Kubu Baharu town, Bandar Baru Batang Kali, Ampang Pecah, Rasa, Ulu Yam, Kerling, and Kampung Air Jernih.
Kuala Kubu Baharu is a mixed constituency, with Malay voters accounting for 46 percent, Chinese voters 30 percent, Indian voters 18 percent, and others six percent.
The majority of residents in Bandar Baru Batang Kali and Ampang Pecah are Malay, with a significant Indian population also residing in Ampang Pecah, while the Chinese community is predominantly concentrated in Kuala Kubu Baharu town.
The voters in this semi-urban constituency generally approve of Lee’s performance. With the upcoming by-election, voters have new expectations for the new representative.
Puvaneswaran Anbazagan, 28, runs a family-owned barber shop in town. He hopes the new representative can maintain the community's appearance while also making more people aware of Kuala Kubu Baharu.
Puvaneswaran Anbazagan“These are all old buildings, so maintain them like old buildings, and maybe just do a little restoration.”
Azlida Mohd Ali, a 47-year-old information technology officer for the Hulu Selangor Municipal Council, also hopes the new state assemblyperson can continue beautifying Kuala Kubu Baharu without altering the existing buildings.
Azlida praised Lee for her hard work and good performance.
Nurul Syazwani, a 34-year-old maintenance worker, concurred, saying: “Overall, there’s no complaint at all.”
With that said, she hopes the new state assemblyperson will be innovative and pay attention to the cost of living issue.
Nurul Syazwani“Indeed, we need innovative people. So, ideally, those who understand the needs of the people.
“If possible, we want the prices of goods to be in line with our income because not everyone earns a high salary; some are low-income earners,” Nurul said.
Hope for local rep
Meanwhile, some residents of Kuala Kubu Baharu feel that after Lee fell ill, the care for the local area was somewhat lacking.
Yap Tung Fah, 56, a hawker, expressed hope that the new assemblyperson will be a local.
“We need someone who can do things and is often in Kuala Kubu Baharu. After Lee fell ill, it was hard to contact her and ask for her help,” said Yap.
Yap Tung FahHe cited the slow progress of the market project in the area, which even after completion, still faces numerous problems.
“We need someone local, someone who is often able to help us. It's best to find a local person; we don't want (candidates) from outside,” he added.
Apart from Yap, another resident who preferred not to be named shared a similar opinion. While acknowledging Lee’s contributions to Kuala Kubu Baharu, they stated that she was indeed unable to cope due to her illness.
Lee was diagnosed with cancer in 2020 and recovered after treatment. In last year's state election, she ran again and successfully defended Kuala Kubu Baharu for the DAP amid the “Green Wave”.
Former Kuala Kubu Baharu assemblyperson Lee Kee HiongDuring the election campaign, reports surfaced of Lee’s cancer recurrence. After the state elections concluded, she only attended the state assembly swearing-in ceremony in September last year.
She subsequently applied for medical leave twice and did not attend the state assembly sessions held in November last year and February this year.
Lee died on March 21 at the age of 58.
Will her political legacy help bolster support for the Pakatan Harapan coalition and assist them in holding onto Kuala Kubu Baharu? - Mkini


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