Election stories past and present

THE GE14 gave me an amazing opportunity to interview several interesting Malaysians.

They didn’t just tell me stories but also reinforced my sense of pride on what it is like to be a citizen of our beautiful country.

I was privileged to interview several retired politicians, such as MCA’s Tun Michael Chen.

He was a young lawyer who contested in 1964 for the Damansara parliamentary seat and managed to wrest it from the Opposition back then despite the seat being their stronghold.

Now 85, Chen went on to win in four other elections during his active years in politics. He later became MCA deputy president.

I was amazed to learn how campaigning in the past differed from what it is today.

Chen said he had walked alone and visited some 4,000 households during the 45 days of campaigning in 1964.

His willpower and courage to enter areas where he was not welcome is nothing short of admirable, and his first election victory with a500-vote majority changed his life forever.

Another awe-inspiring person I met was Tan Sri Devaki Krishnan.

She won the first Kuala Lumpur municipal elections in Bungsar constituency (today known as Bangsar) in 1952, a rarity in the then male-dominated political scene.

Devaki was handpicked by Independent Malaya Party (IMP) founder Datuk Onn Jaafar, who was the father of third prime minister Tun Hussein Onn, to contest.

She was actively involved in MIC for a large part of her life.

Despite her political fame, Devaki does not lead a pompous lifestyle.

She told me that her son had wanted to throw her a grand 95th birthday celebration but she was not keen and rejected the idea.

“Both my late husband and I do not like lavish events.

“We don’t like to show off and only lived a simple life,” Devaki said when asked her why she refused the celebration.

Devaki is a highly educated, holding a PhD in political science.

Among the younger generation, I met a number of people with admirable traits.

One of them was DAP supporter Yew Jia Haur, who witnessed the ugly side of politics at the age 17 when his father had contested the Malim Nawar state seat in Perak in 1995.

Yew, now 40, recalled how all supporters in the past expected some remuneration and no one would volunteer for free.

One voter, he said, even spat on his hand before shaking hands with Yew’s father.

On polling day, supporters failed to turn up and Yew was roped in to become a polling and counting agent (Paca) for his father.

The experience taught him well and Yew went on to be a volunteer for DAP and a Paca in the past six general elections.

GE14 saw many Malaysians who went to great lengths to make their vote count.

One such person was Syed Naufal Syed Ahmad Alhabshi, 26, who flew from Texas, US to Selangor to cast his vote.

The engineer, who is currently on unpaid leave, started a fundraising campaign via Facebook to fund his return. He managed to raise RM3,000 within five days, and his return ticket cost RM3,068.

Another story, which I had read on Facebook and was later reported on StarOnline, revolved around my former colleague Laych Koh, who has anxiously waited for her ballot paper to arrive in London.

The 39-year-old mother of two managed to cast her vote despite receiving her ballot paper only on May 8 at around 10.40am London time.

Koh later told me how she had carried her 11-month-old baby and braved the busy London Under-ground to ensure that her ballot papers could reach a runner at the airport.

Her ballot paper arrived just an hour before the cut-off time at the Bilik Gerakan Undi Pos P106 in Petaling Jaya at 4pm on May 9.

These proud Malaysians have taught me some very important lessons.

I learnt from Devaki never to let fame get to your head and always remain grounded.

Chen taught me how hard work, bravery and sheer determination would reap its rewards.

As for Yew, his positive attitude in trying to make a difference has been was very inspirational.

Meanwhile, Syed Naufal is among our millennials who demonstrated the power of social media through his efforts while Koh’s quick-thinking and willpower serve as a motivation for every Malaysian.

We are indeed a world-class society in terms of culture and values, and the slogan Malaysia Boleh coined in the 1990s by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad comes to mind once again.

With that, let us steer this beloved country on the course to greater success.

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