3/26/2013 — The Star
PEKAN: Things are looking bright in the royal town of Pekan especially when the MP is the Prime Minister himself.
After Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak took over the helm as supremo of Malaysia, his constituency had seen a flurry of progress, much to the benefit of its residents.
The fourth largest district in Pahang, which was once known as a trade centre and a producer of gold and tin, was now recognised for its fast-rising automotive industry.
Vehicles assembly plants could be seen lining the road to the town in what was designated as the Pekan Automotive Park. According to the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC), the park was envisioned to become a national and regional hub for car assembly, manufacturing of automotive parts and components, as well as automotive R&D activities.
Some RM4.5bil was expected to be generated in investments throughout its three stages of development, with a total of 10,580 jobs to be created. It was expected to contribute RM12bil to the Gross National Income by 2015.
Najib had said the establishment of the Pekan Automotive Park was in line with the National Automotive Policy (NAP) which would foster a more competitive market for local and international companies.
To date, the park had attracted well-known automotive players including Isuzu Hicom Malaysia, Drb-Hicom Defense Technologies (Deftech), Mercedes-Benz Malaysia and Suzuki, among others, with DRB-Hicom Berhad being the anchor tenant in the Park.
The DRB-Hicom Group had also set up the International College of Automotive (Icam) to train up human capital for the automotive companies in the park.
March last year saw the first locally assembled Volkswagen Passat leave the line in what was described as a milestone in the history of the nation’s automotive industry.
Pekan was also the site for the agropolitan project established to eradicate hardcore poverty and accelerate the development in rural areas.
The dorper sheep rearing project had received great response from the orang asli community in Runchang, with each participant now having a steady income of RM750 a month as long as they work five hours a day.
While Pekan is rich with history, its tourism had suffered throughout the years with the temporary closure of the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum.
The number of tourists visiting the royal town had taken a massive dive from 56,502 in 2007 to 16,045 in 2009.
To revive tourism activities in the town, the ECERDC had begun the Pekan Heritage Waterfront project.
The project consisted of the upgrading of the museum and Jalan Sultan Ahmad as well as the construction of kiosks for traders of traditional products.
A modern food court, as well as a marketing and exhibition complex for small to medium-sized enterprises would also be built and were expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2013.
All these are expected to raise visitor arrivals to Pekan to 700,000 per annum by year 2020 and create some 935 new jobs.
The project had culminated with the recent reopening of the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum by the Sultan of Pahang Sultan Ahmad Shah.
For future plans, the ECERDC had proposed to refurbish and upgrade the nearby Sultan Abdullah Mosque to turn it into an Islamic museum in order to maintain the mosque’s legacy.
Other places of attraction in Pekan include Istana Abu Bakar, the Royal Pahang Polo Club field, the birth house of second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak and the Royal Mausoleum.
Pekan, which means “small town” in Malay, was now connected to Kuantan via a new dual carriageway, making travel between the districts a much breezier affair compared to the old days.
A Universiti Malaysia Pahang campus and a community college were also located in Pekan while new developments include the construction of a four-star hotel.
Retiree Mohd Saudi Musa, 52, said while the town had seen swift development, it still managed to retain its easy-going charm which made it an ideal place to live in.
“There have been a lot of changes. We have new schools and also a university. The people of Pekan are really satisfied with the comfortable lifestyle this town has to offer.
“Of course, it is all thanks to Najib who is always concerned about our welfare. We want to see continued development under the leadership of the Prime Minister who is our very own MP,” he said.
Fruits trader Nai Yau Juu, 57, hoped the projects would keep on coming as it means the economy of the town would continue to grow.
“I wish Najib will go on being the Prime Minister. Things would have been very different if he was not our MP. As long as there are projects, investors will come in and we will have business,” he said.
Nai only had minor complaints such as the low water pressure and a lack of parking space in the town.
For fisherman Abu Karim Salleh, 65, Pekan’s transformation from a rural settlement into a modern town was all thanks to Najib.
“I am very proud and thankful to our Prime Minister. In this past four years, he has managed to bring about rapid transformation, turning Pekan into a very sophisticated living place,” said the father-of-eight, who received a new home recently under the integrated housing project in Kuala Pahang.
Retired teacher Au Eng, 60, echoed Abu Karim’s view, saying that living standards were much better compared to days of past.
“For example, where I live now, Najib has just launched a Rural Transformation Centre which makes our lives easier when dealing with government agencies,” he said.
Pekan consists of four state seats namely Bebar, Chini, Pulau Manis and Peramu Jaya. They are all currently held by Barisan assemblymen.
The constituency had 79,721 registered voters as of Nov 27 last year.