When you meet Steven Choong for the first time, you are greeted with his signature smile radiating from the face of warm humble man who has big ambitions.
Choong was born in the year 1957, a very significant year in Malaysia’s history; the accountant, however, did not foresee that six decades on, he would win in the most shocking and historic general elections.
But the passion and interest in politics had always been around, says the Perak-born Choong. "As a child, I used to sit by the radio, in those days, to listen to the election results for over 12 hours."
He recalls how results from Sabah and Sarawak were usually released much later, sometimes even two or three days late.
Choong studied accountancy and had a long career as a Certified Accountant (FCCA) in London.
He talks about how things are different politically in London than in Malaysia. “Politicians overseas, like in London, have a certain integrity about them. They want to serve the people and not make their lives difficult. Everything they do is about ethics and integrity. Even their families don’t really get involved in politics or businesses with the government unlike what you see here in Malaysia”.
I wanted to do something for the country, I had a long career in accounting and had a successful firm. I wanted to do more
Choong moved back to Malaysia after 10 years in London at age 33. After a few years working a big accounting firm, he eventually started his own.
Meanwhile, Choong's 'career' in politics began much later, at age 50. “I felt that I wanted to do something for the country, I had a long career in accounting and has a successful firm. I wanted to do more”.
The turning point, according to him, was during the 2008 elections.
“After the 2008 elections, five states fell to the opposition. The people were aware and they wanted a change in the government. I felt it was the best time for me to contribute, in any way I could. I also had the financial capability that gave me the opportunity to do so," says Choong.
After consulting with his wife, he decided to join Parti Keadilan Rakyat. In the 2013 general elections, he was chosen as candidate to contest the Tebrau Parliamentary seat, once an MCA-stronghold.
Choong was defeated by a 1,767 vote majority. But the loss didn't deter Choong. In fact, he took MCA's slim majority win as a positive indicator. And so, he continued serving the constituency.
In the following years, Choong said he handled 550 cases brought up by constituents. Ninety percent of those cases were solved. Choong says his work had reached over 2,600 families in the constituency.
Servitude and track record, he says, was what drove the mixed-seat constituents to vote him in, in the 14th General Elections, where he won a three-cornered fight with a big 37,225 vote majority.
Now that he is MP, he hopes to play a more active part in politics.
At age 60, Choong says there should be no excuse for Malaysians not to spend time and energy to contribute to nation building. If nonagenarian Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is back to lead the country at 93-years-old, anyone can do it, he says with a smile.