Monday, October 15, 2012

SUNDAY INTERVIEW: 'Win or lose, MCA is always there to serve'

SUNDAY INTERVIEW: 'Win or lose, MCA is always there to serve'

YOUNG IMPACT: MCA Young Professionals Bureau chairman Datuk Chua Tee Yong has been in the news lately for his vocal stance on several issues, notably the Selangor govt's debt recovery exercise of Talam Corporation. He talks to Adrian Lai about the party's moves to engage with young voters, and their significance in ensuring a Barisan Nasional victory in the coming general election

MCA Young Professionals Bureau chairman Datuk Chua Tee Yong says the party has gained valuable lessons from the last general election.
Question: After MCA's poor showing in the 2008 general election, what are the changes that have been made within the party? Do you think the party remains relevant?

Answer: Moving on from 2008, the party is now led by a united team. We are becoming more vocal and assertive. Some voters have, in the past, called us timid for keeping quiet, but we have started to prove those sceptics wrong.

Many people say that in politics, a party would be considered irrelevant when you don't win enough seats or if you lose too many seats.

However, the party, especially its younger leaders, are of a different view. We do not take voters for granted. That's the reason why, whether we lose or win, we continue to serve them. We have even continued serving in areas where we have lost, albeit with limited resources. But at least we go and serve to thank the voters, unlike the opposition. Yes, I believe that we're still very much a relevant political entity.

Question: How did the results of the last general election affect MCA's efforts in nation building?

Answer: The party has gone through 12 general elections. Although we didn't fare too well in 2008, we will not let this setback affect us too much. However, the last general election has served as a wake-up call for us. There are always ups and downs in politics, and we have learnt some valuable lessons from this experience.
For example, we are still a developing country, not a developed one. So, we still need elected representatives who go down to the ground, to go back to their constituencies and serve. This is what MCA has done and will continue doing despite our past election results.

And I believe MCA will continue to remain in high spirits as we have been part and parcel of our country's nation-building process for so long. What's more, the MCA, through Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman and Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman, has trained more than 180,000 students, who have contributed to the country's development.

Question: How would you gauge the current level of support for MCA by its members and the public?

Answer: Let me answer with another question: Did our party members leave in droves after the last general election? Did no one join MCA in the past four years?

The answer is a most resounding no. But even so, the party's top leadership realised that it was important to retain the support people had for us, and to further strengthen it by recruiting new members.
What we did immediately after the 12th general election was to help register new voters. In the process, we roped in more than 100,000 new voters. By doing so, we managed to get some 50,000 new members.
Compare that with the number of members who had left -- fewer than 200. This goes to show that contrary to popular belief, MCA is definitely not a goner as far as members and
public support are concerned.

Question: The DAP has been one of MCA's fiercest political rivals. Will MCA be able gain the upper hand in the upcoming general election?

Answer: If you look at past election results, we have actually beaten DAP seven times, drawn once and lost twice (in terms of parliamentary seats won).
Yes, we lost to DAP in 2008, but it's not the first time. If you remember, MCA lost quite badly against DAP in 1986 and 1999 as well.
However, we managed to trounce them in 1995 and in 2004. Such is the nature of politics. I'm not saying we will definitely win this time, but we will lose if we give up.
Question: To what extent has MCA harnessed the potential of social media to reach out to the public, in particular potential voters?
Answer: That's one area where I think MCA and Barisan Nasional could do better. But after the last general election, there have definitely been some improvements.

However, the opposition has so far been extremely successful in their social media strategies. In terms of online campaigning and alternative media exposure, they are way ahead of us. In the past, I believe that many people would just believe what they read in social media websites.

But with lots of information and possible half-truths being offered every day, more and more people are realising that they have to study the issues raised from various perspectives.

But there are some who are emotionally driven by what the opposition posts in social media.
We cannot deny that. Some of these emotionally-driven people, I believe, are cyber troopers. There are people who have been engaged to do just this. That's one thing
Pakatan has been very successful in. They also make use of social media to criticise the mainstream media. Most of the time, when the mainstream media reports something they don't like, they ban that particular newspaper from covering certain things.

One thing Pakatan loves to do on social media is political spinning and not giving the full picture. The Penang state government has been successful in doing this by painting a false perception on the Internet.

In social media outlets, the DAP gave the perception to all that debt reduction was due to their efforts in paying off the debts. This is actually untrue as it was just a restructuring exercise where the debt was transferred to the Federal Government.

It's also perceived that in Penang, they have accumulated huge surpluses. But they forgot to mention that when they took over Penang from BN, there was already a RM900 million surplus.

Many people are also unaware that the gross domestic product for Penang had contracted 1.8 per cent since 2008. That is why the state per capita income is stagnant.

The MCA and BN should, therefore, look into creating a strong social media presence to give a clearer picture of what is really happening.

Question: As MCA Young Professionals Bureau chairman, what have been your efforts in gaining the support of the young Chinese voters?

Answer: We believe that the public will carefully evaluate each and every party before they cast their ballot. That is why many of the younger leaders, including myself, are taking the initiative to bring several important issues to light.

Recently, I have been very vocal against Pakatan, in particular the Selangor state government. After exposing the Talam scandal, the younger voters have realised that the opposition's Competency, Accountability and Transparency motto is a mere political slogan.
I have also openly criticised the opposition coalition's alternative 2013 Budget, as it sets down promises which are generally impractical.We can clearly see that when they say they want to increase the minimum wage to RM1,100, they never thought of the repercussions and the costs involved. So, by doing so, I hope the public is aware that there are a lot of promises that Pakatan makes, but will not be able to fulfil.

Another classic example: they said they would reduce the price of petrol should they capture Putrajaya. But the public had noticed that this promise was not even announced in their budget. Clearly, they have forgotten the many promises they had made.

So, if you look at the states that they have been governing, have they fulfilled most of the promises they made since 2008?

No, they did not despite announcing and putting them into their previous election manifesto. It's like there's a lot of thunder and lightning, but for some reason, the rain doesn't come. By preventing the opposition from hoodwinking the people, I believe we can continuously gain the voters' support.

Question: How does MCA view the significance of young Chinese voters in ensuring a BN victory in the next general election?

Answer: There is a perception that the key voter group in the next election is the young voters. According to the Election Commission, they make up 41 per cent out of 12.6 million registered voters. What's crucial, however, is that every vote counts.

So, while it's important to appeal to the young voters, MCA is more keen on creating a balanced approach to gain the support of voters from various age groups. You see, 5.1 million voters are 40 years old and below, while another 5.1 million are aged between 41 and 59. So, 41 per cent per cent of the voters are 40 years old and below and 41 per cent of the voters are between 40 and 59 years old. Voters aged 60 and above make up the remaining 18 per cent of the electoral roll.

Therefore, MCA has conducted various programmes catering to the young and the middle-aged voters by reaching out to various non-governmental organisations and local youth organisations.

And it's not just done by my bureau. We have been working hand-in-hand with MCA Youth towards servicing a large number of people. Basically, I think it is important that we have a balanced approach.

Question: What are some of the notable initiatives taken by MCA since 2008 to contribute to the younger generation of Malaysians?

Answer: We have continued to conduct various programmes with the youth; we have engaged them in dialogues and we show our support for them by attending their events. But what's important is that when we talk to them, we do it during closed-door discussions so that they will be more frank.

We reached out to university student leaders to discuss with them and find out what their concerns were. We've helped to ensure that their programmes were successful.
So, the entire party machinery is gearing towards that, not just my bureau. For example, I'm happy to note that our party's proposed 1MCA Insurance Scheme received a lot of positive feedback. In fact, we registered approximately 30,000 new members this way. And, even though the party consists mostly Chinese members, we have always maintained that we would always serve all Malaysians.

So, when MCA launched the 1MCA Medical Fund, we raised RM10 million, and subsequently an additional RM2 million. Currently we have disbursed RM8.4 million to 1,400 people; 1,100 are Chinese while 300 are non-Chinese.

But what is important is that the public was very willing to donate and let MCA administer the programme. Anyone who didn't have confidence in MCA would not have donated. We have also launched the 1MCA Micro Credit, where we gave out RM6.4 million in loans to some 380 young entrepreneurs. Also, 159 university students have benefited from the 1MCA Education Loan Fund, where the party spent some RM5 million to help them realise their dreams.

Of course, this may not translate into votes; we're not doing this to get votes, either. But at the end of the day, we continue to serve. If you compare with what the opposition is doing, were they transparent when they raised funds? Did they declare how the funds were spent?
Lately, we see them jet-setting and riding in luxury buses. But no one knows where all the money comes from.

Question: As the current Labis member of parliament, do you wish to contest there again if given the chance?

Answer: I think one thing we must understand is that before we stand, it is usually the division that will recommend you, followed by the approval of the president.

So, first of all, I have to thank the past president for allowing me to stand and the division for recommending me. An election is not about one person, it's a team effort. That's why I make it a point to go back to Labis to service my constituents and thank them. Whether I'll be able to retain the seat or be able to stand again depends on the voters' feedback. Have I been performing well or not -- that will be a consideration for them. But, of course, if you have been there, you hope you can contest again because you have established the network.
You know the people there and there's some familiarity. It's easier for you to coordinate.
You still need the local leaders and NGOs to assist you to pass on information on what is happening. Without them, it's harder to serve the constituents.

In terms of the programmes that I had conducted from 2008 until today, I made sure that I not only served the Chinese but also the Malays and Indians.

I even went to a Tamil school to help them. I'm happy that I managed to help in building a kindergarten for the school. And I also managed to secure welfare assistance for many of my low-income constituents. That's one of the things I'm truly proud of.

Question: That said, if you would like to continue your political career in years to come; what are your short-term and long-term goals?

Answer: First of all, I hope I could get enough of the people's support to retain my seat. That's my short-term goal. I also hope I can help the party strengthen itself for the next general election and to help other component party leaders gear up for the polls.
As deputy minister of agriculture and agro-based industry, I would like to continue facilitating the implementation of the National Key Economic Area and the National Transformation Programme that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched. Hopefully, it will be successful and benefit more people. In politics, there is no certainty. We take it as it comes. Man proposes, God disposes. My short-term goal is also my long-term goal.

I would like Malaysia to achieve Vision 2020. So, I think it's important for MCA and BN to continue working together within the government. But to do that, we need the rakyat's support. Another long-term goal of mine -- I would like to see us become a high-income nation.

This will help improve the quality of life of the people. I hope the quality of education will improve, so as to create more skilled workers. I hope all this will be part and parcel of what will happen in 10 years.

Source: New Straits Times

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