Preparing for polls with help of mentors

THE 14th general election is around the corner and candidacy hopefuls are already on the ground preparing to win over the hearts of their constituents.

It can be a frightful task, especially for poll newbies.

For the first time, they will have to meet the public in a different light, communicate with the authorities as well as to address the mass media and come out looking good.

Which issues are newsworthy? How to organise a press conference? How many babies to kiss at a meet-the-people event?

These may be seemingly simple tasks for veteran politicians, but for the newbies, one wrong step can end their political dream even before it begins.

StarMetro spoke to several of the young hopefuls in the Klang Valley to find out how they will be facing the situation and who they had been seeking guidance from.

Zone 14 Residents Representative Committee chairman Lawrence Chiew, 49, tipped to be a potential MCA candidate for the Kinrara state seat, credits several veterans as his mentors.

“Barisan Nasional veterans in this area, especially Puchong MCA division chief Datuk Wong Hock Aun advises on matters such as which issues are worthy of a press conference and what time to call for one.

“He has also given me the chance to attend events on his behalf,” said Chiew.

His mentors are not only senior party members but also those from other Barisan component parties.

“Senior members like Puchong Umno deputy chairman Zaulkefli Ahmad and Mohd Yusof Mohd Yassin, previous Umno candidate for Seri Serdang, had offered me advice too including the do’s and don’ts at a surau.

“If I were nominated as candidate, MyPPP Selangor state secretary Datuk Inder Singh would be in charge of my campaign finance because of his background in finance,” said Chiew.

He is of the view that having a multiracial mentor panel helps as Kinrara’s population is made up of 27% Malay, 53% Chinese and 12% Indians.

“I dare say that we are the first constituency to have representatives from different parties attending a press conference organised by any one of the component parties.

“This is in line with the country’s aim. This is a multiracial country, we must work together and carry the burden together for a better future. This is not a one-man show,” he said.

To reach the people in his area, Chiew uses social media, especially Facebook where he frequently posts about news coverage and photos from related events on his page.

Shah Alam Umno chairman Datuk Azhari Shaari, 47, says he learns from world leaders via books

Datuk Azhari Shaari

“I read a lot. I read about world leaders such as Mandela and Obama, and philosophers like Confucius, on how to be a good leader and how they become international icons.

“My speeches are always different at every programme. I get to know my audience. For example, if I am talking to academicians, I will read up about issues related to education, and I read up on various industries before talking to businessmen,” he said, adding that he also liked to read about successful people like Beethoven and Thomas Edison.

When seeking practical advice and guidance, he goes to his father Datuk Shaari Mat Jihin, a former Umno treasurer.

“When I came into politics, my father had retired, which was a good thing because then I was not seen as having my father’s backing.

“He is my advisor, mentoring me in how to be a good leader and how to serve therakyat.

“He told me that to be a good leader, I must start from the bottom. I started as an Umno Youth branch leader,” said Azhari, who became active in Umno about 13 years ago.

“I am among the grassroots and that gives me an advantage. I started in 1998 after I returned from overseas. In 2000, I became a youth leader and in 2013, a party branch chairman.”

He aims to take a fresh approach.

“We cannot be doing the same things across the board and having every programme looking the same; public programmes need to be relevant.

“I survey, study and research the target group, I also created a think tank.

“I always discuss with my team, people of different ages, so I know and can relate the needs of the public,” he added.

Azhari, too, believes social media is useful for engaging with the public.

P. Punithan, 33, who is viewed by local party members as a potential candidate, has been actively working in Ijok.

He confessed to picking the brains of senior members of MIC such as party president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam and MIC Youth leader Datuk Sivarraajh Chandran.

“While the trend is having mega programmes, I prefer to meet people in smaller groups, only then will I have the opportunity to get feedback from local leaders and hear them out, instead of the one-way communication of me giving a speech,” he said.

He added that Dr Subramaniam, who went on walkabouts regularly, also encouraged party leaders to hold programmes in small groups.

“Even if I cannot solve every problem, at least I get to know the local issues,” said Punithan.

“Previously, people might have voted based on the party they supported. Now, they choose the candidate.”

As a member of the MIC war room committee, Punithan gets to seek guidance from veterans during weekly meetings.

He is active on Facebook and Instagram.

“Social media play an important part because young voters are into it; when I meet them, they ask for my Facebook and Instagram handles.

“Ijok may not be an urban area but the youths here are active on Facebook,” he said.

Petaling Jaya City councillor Lim Yi Wei, 28, another one eyed as a potential candidate, sees Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua and Bukit Gasing assemblyman R Rajiv as her mentors.

“I learn from them about how to deal with the public and about political campaign management.

“In DAP, we learn by doing. Instead of being given a step-by-step guide, I was given the freedom to execute the way I see fit but I can always seek advice from the veterans,” she said.

She posts her activities on Facebook and shares links to articles she has written as well as events she will be appearing at.

She has now started using Twitter to engage with the people, adding that she also receives messages and feedback from the public on social media.