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Thursday October 17, 2013 MYT 10:09:00 AM
Thursday October 17, 2013 MYT 11:13:21 AM
by rashvinjeet s. bedi
KUALA LUMPUR: Liew Chin Tong laughs when asked about being tagged the next Lim Guan Eng.
"That is something the press has just coined," says the Kluang MP in an interview at the DAP headquarters recently.
Some have called for him to be the party’s next secretary general when Guan Eng’s term comes to an end in 2017.
"I think it's a collective leadership. If you look at the trend in DAP, there is a group of people born after 1970. I'm just one of them. Anyone who leads the party will do so in a collective manner," says Liew.
Liew's star is definitely on the rise though. He recently won the highest number of votes in DAP's CEC re-election in late September, beating established party leaders Lim Kit Siang, Karpal Singh and Guan Eng.
"I was surprised and shocked," he says about the rankings in the polls which came about because of a mistake that cropped up in the party's CEC polls in December 2012.
The 36-year-old was not the only one surprised by the voting as in the December elections, he was ranked 14th. This time, he received 1,438 votes, two more than Kit Siang.
"Some leaders had to make decisions about the candidates during the elections. Some people would use it against you," he says trying to defend the slide of some party leaders in the rankings.
He says the voting of the same CEC line-up meant DAP turned the tables and reversed the stranglehold of the Registrar Of Societies (ROS).
"We have been under so much attack. There were so much lies in the media and the ROS was trying to kill the party. It was difficult for us," he says.
Liew attributed his move to contest in Johor from Penang as the reason for his ranking, which he says is not really important.
"Members usually reward people who take risks for the party. The party has been operating under a lot of pressure," says the bachelor.
In GE13, Liew defeated Barisan Nasional candidate Hou Kok Chung by 9,331 votes. Liew had contested in Bukit Bendera in the 2008 elections, regarded as a difficult seat then, but
As with the 2008 , Liew is regarded as one of the party’s strategists in ensuring the party's success in this year’s election.
Liew was born in Kuala Lumpur and has been interested in politics since a tender young age.
He started attending DAP events in 1996 and took part in "Reformasi" demonstrations after the sacking of the then deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in 1998.
He was even arrested while campaigning for DAP in the 1999 elections at Kota Raya, Kuala Lumpur.
"I was distributing flyers when a shoe polisher suddenly asked me for my IC. I asked him for his ID and he showed it to me. He then copied my IC number down. When I told him that I wanted to copy down his ID number he handcuffed me and brought me back to the station,” he said.
“He said that I was obstructing police work. He threatened to put me in the lock up for two weeks. By that time, the election would have been over,” he said.
He was however released after one hour.
Back then he was campaigning for the then Bukit Gasing state seat candidate Hew Kuan Yau. His foray into politics continued when he became an assistant for Seputeh MP Teresa Kok for a year.
He went on to get a degree in political science and an honours degree in Asian Studies from the Australian National University in Canberra. He also holds an International Masters in Regional Integration from Universiti Malaya.
One of his thesis subjects when he was in Australia was about PAS.
“I was very sad when DAP pulled out from Barisan Alternatif back in 2001. For me the only way to defeat Barisan is for the opposition to come together in a centrist agenda,” he said.
Regarding the current Pakatan Rakyat coalition, Liew admits that there are lots of issues that still need to be thrashed out between the component parties, especially over their ideologies.
“There is always a middle or centrist position. Over the last 5 years Pakatan has done well in articulating middle ground ideas,” he says.
He believes that it is not impossible for Pakatan to win the next election, although there is a lot of hard work involved.
He believes that Pakatan should aim for the semi-urban seats they lost marginally such as Labis, Bentong, Cameron Highlands and Tanjung Malim among others.
He admits that DAP has to shelve its image of being a Chinese-based party and convince everyone especially the Malays that it has everyone’s agenda at heart.
“In the long run we have to show that we are party of ideas to be relevant,” he says.
And Liew certainly does have many ideas for improving the country. He believes the railways should be reformed and extended to more parts of the country for one.
He is against petrol price hikes and any attempts to introduce the GST. All his arguments are backed with facts and figures.
He is also opposed to the newly introduced PCA believing it reverses minor gains the country saw in terms of human rights in the past few years.
While he has an opinion on almost every issue, questions on the man himself are rarely answered. Attempts to get more personal with Liew were dismissed time and time again.
"The ideas are more important than the man. I'm just another person who helps think about the future of the country and I see myself as part of a team, part of a political party and part of a movement," he says.
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politics, DAP, Liew Chin Tong
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