Not many MPs can claim a state of popularity or longevity as enduring as Seputeh MP Teresa Kok.
In GE14, she stood as candidate and won Seputeh for a fifth term, cementing her status as an immovable MP for the urban constituency right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
Overdevelopment is a key issue for which the MP had fought a losing battle
Since it was an opposition heartland during the days of Barisan Nasional rule, Seputeh residents made do with minimal resources, attention that would have been showered on the constituency had it been a BN stronghold.
For that reason, overdevelopment is a key issue for which the MP had fought a losing battle. With decisions made by the previous administration already in place, Kok has appealed for patience and forbearance from her long-suffering constituents.
Kok on the issue of overdevelopment in Seputeh
I realise the overdevelopment issue and I’ve had meetings with DBKL and is working to solve this the issue. However, as of now, there’s nothing we can do. DBKL can’t give any orders to stop the development for 64 lots of land that has been sold during the time of Tengku Adnan.
(She was referring to the site levelling works already taking place on 64 lots of land in Seputeh for a residential project approved by the administration led by former Federal Territory Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor without proper consideration of local concerns.)
In my opinion there’s a lot of things that has to be done but it needs to be passed through the FT Minister. We can’t afford to make a drastic decision while the position is still vacant. (The new Pakatan Harapan government has not yet appointed a new FT Minister).
I’ve received a lot of backlash from Taman Desa claiming that I don’t care about them. Now that I’m with the government, everyone is eager for me to put a stop to overdevelopment immediately. I’m doing all that I can. I have no authority to stop these projects. But there is hope to solve this issue once the FT Minister is appointed.
Kok, 57 harboured ambitions of being a TV broadcaster after graduating in Communications – never a politician. The seeds of her interest in politics were kindled in her second year at Universiti Sains Malaysia in 1987 when the Internal Security Act was used by the government to crack down on dissent.
Kok immersed herself campaigning to collect signatures to free those under arrest, who included Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng.
The upheaval brought Teresa to assist human right’s activist, Dr Kua Kia Soong, a DAP candidate running for a seat in parliament in 1990.
“I helped him with his campaign, that was the first time I learnt about the DAP and right after that election, I joined the party and offered to work as Secretary to Lim Kit Siang," says Kok. “To be honest, I was scared because when I was given the opportunity to work as Secretary, I was terrified I couldn’t fulfill this role to the level that was asked of me,” she adds.
In 1995, Teresa stood as candidate for Ipoh Barat but was defeated. She then took a break from politics to enroll herself in University Malaya to pursue her Masters in Political Science.
“When I first joined DAP, I was sympathetic towards them. I helped them in Petaling Jaya is when I realised they didn’t have money and members.”
“I thought to myself, I’ve already committed myself to it; I’m going to help as much as I can and once this is over, I’m going to ‘Ciao’,” she laughs.
Sexist Controversy Surrounding Kok’s First Win as Seputeh MP
I think the reason why I won in 1999 was because I think Chinese voters didn’t like how MCA worked with PAS.
Their slogans said Chinese and women didn’t have a place in Malaysia. It was all over the area I was contesting. During campaigning, MCA candidate Dr Sua Chong Keh made a rather controversial speech. He referred to me in one of his speech saying “I am a man, I stand when I pee. She is a woman, therefore she squats.”
That statement itself outraged in the entire nation, everyone thought he was drunk. It created uproar, especially in the Chinese community. People would come up to me saying I had their votes. MCA was of course in hot water. Sua then later offered his apology to those who took offence at his words. However, the apology was not extended to me. I was caught in the middle, which immediately got me known as a candidate. I won that year with a majority of 5,200 votes.
Kok on Tun M as Prime Minister
I understand why Seputeh voters are frustrated. But I promise, you’re not neglected. We need to attend to the crucial matters first
There are a lot of steps to be taken to help solve the issues country is facing. Although the full cabinet has yet to be announced, there are many good ideas have been proposed by the Minister of Finance Lim Guan Eng and Tun Mahathir.
The main concerns are how are they going to overcome the major debts of this country and scandals of 1MDB. There’s been a lot of spending with our previous government. From Tun Mahathir’s view, he’s trying to tackle the priorities of this country to avoid bankruptcy. I think he is sensible in a way that he has cut the salary of ministers and also making the people are of the country's financial situation. There’s only so much this new government can do to repair the mistakes of the previous government.
So, I understand why Seputeh voters are frustrated. But I promise, you’re not neglected. We need to attend to the crucial matters first.
Podcast of the interview: