Had DAP Strategist Liew Chin Tong won the Ayer Hitam seat in the 14th General Elections, he would have likely been made Transport Minister in the new Pakatan Harapan government.
Newly-minted Minister Anthony Loke admitted to it in a report recently, who said Chin Tong was first touted to take on the post.
Yet, the low-profile Chin Tong said he had no regrets taking the fight to the backyard of MCA veteran Datuk Wee Ka Siong. He lost the seat by 303 votes.
“I do not regret choosing to contest in Ayer Hitam.” The two-term parliamentarian won the Kluang seat in 2013 and Bukit Bendera in 2018.
“Even if I had stayed in Kluang (and won), with Datuk Seri Najib as Prime Minister, it would have made no difference. For the past five years, the opposition had little voice in the parliament, a lot of our efforts were thwarted.”
We must abandon race-based politics
“So, if I had created a wave in Ayer Hitam by taking on the Number Two in MCA and give hope to voters, that itself is a victory for me.”
Chin Tong is widely credited as the mastermind who inspired the then-opposition pact to take a crack at Johor some five years ago.
It was once unimaginable that Johor, the birthplace of UMNO and long seen as a Malay fortress, would fall to the opposition. In GE14, Pakatan Harapan won 36 of Johor’s 56 state seats in GE14, out of which, 22 are Malay-majority or mixed constituencies.
“We had the most Malay candidates below the age of 40 who contested on the DAP ticket in GE14,” says Chin Tong.
“And some of these candidates (who won) are now exco members at the states government. In Johor, Sheikh Omar Ali (former PAS activist), Norhizam Hassan Baktee (DAP Malacca deputy chairman), Zairil Khir Johari in Penang, for example. This is a good opportunity for DAP to prove that we are not MCA or MIC,” adds Chin Tong.
“We must abandon race-based politics.”
The ousted lawmaker talks about his role in the new Pakatan Harapan government.
I will continue being a backroom boy. I’m used to contesting in difficult seats. In 2008, I ran in Bukit Bendera. In 2013, I ran in Kluang. At the same time, I served as strategist and assistant to Lim Guan Eng. I think there’s so much more for me to do. I may not have a post in the new government but there’s a lot that I can contribute.
DAP for all Malaysians, not just the Chinese
DAP and Pakatan Harapan must prove that it is a government for all races. With Lim Guan Eng as Minister of Finance, this is a good opportunity to show that he is not just serving a particular race. We must move away from race-based politics. This is a government for all Malaysians and this must be shown through actions. There is no place for rhetorics anymore.
Chin Tong on why he choose to venture into politics. He won the Bukit Bendera seat in 2008 at age 31, when he was still DAP’s political researcher.
I’ve been quite political since the ‘reformasi’ era. I was working for Teresa Kok when she became a Member of Parliament in 1999. I joined DAP in the same year, when Lim Kit Siang lost the Bukit Bendera seat. In 2008, I won the seat back for the party. All in all, I’ve been involved in politics for over 20 years.
After working for Teresa Kok, I pursued my studies in Australia. My thesis was on the different factions and thinking within PAS - the difference between the faction led by the late Ustaz Fadzil Noor and Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, as well as understanding the Islamic thinking within the context of Malaysian democracy.
I hope that one day, we can create a new discourse - a Bangsa Malaysia discourse.
Chin Tong on the struggles of ordinary Malaysians
My father was a taxi and minibus driver in KL. My mother and I used to sell lottery tickets for a living. I understand what it’s like being poor. And I do not look at it from a racial context. I come from an ordinary background - sometimes my family didn’t even have enough. And that is the largest group of Malaysians now. We must look into rebuilding Malaysia and help everyone live a better and comfortable life, regardless of race.