POLITICS is cruel and the highs and lows are part of the game.
I saw this with the two Yeows at GE14 – Teng Chang Yeow who called it a day after losing the Tanjung Bungah state seat while Chow Kon Yeow rose to the Chief Minister post.
Teng’s illustrious political journey began in 1992. Interestingly, the rivals went head on in past elections, with Teng winning 2-1.
Teng, 54, won the Padang Kota state seat in 1999 and 2004 against Chow, 60, who wrested the seat in 2008.
As a journalist, I have heard plenty of stories about these two gentlemen who were darlings of the media all these years.
Known for his mega cool ‘poker face’ even when cracking hilarious jokes, Chow has always been consistent over many issues, as can be attested by those who attended his press conferences.
He even won the admiration of his political rivals for his tenacity and forgiving spirit along with his dedication to serve.
His political career was briefly stunted when he lost in the 1995 general election.
But he came back stronger as a full-time party worker around 1998 to lead the party after the ‘Knock Out Kit Siang’ internal party strife.
In 1999, he was picked as the state DAP chairman to continue the party struggle. The rest, they say, is history.
In contrast to Chow, Teng’s rise in Penang Gerakan was nothing short of meteoric.
He was already a Penang municipal councillor at the age of 28 before becoming a three-term Padang Kota assemblyman from 1995 to 2008.
At 33, he served as the political secretary of then Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.
The saying ‘so near yet so far’ applies to this man, who was poised to become the most powerful man in the state not once but thrice.
In 2008, 2013 and 2018, he was openly declared the Chief Minister-to-be if Barisan Nasional could retake Penang.
So in Barisan circles, Teng was not a man to be trifled with. He was the coalition’s prizefighter in efforts to retake Penang.
But the winds of change that started blowing in Penang in 2008 never died down.
Two weeks ago, Teng held an appreciation night for the media at the state Gerakan headquarters. We had great food and there were plenty of karaoke singers among pressmen to keep us all entertained. But a bittersweet tang hung over all of us.
Teng was choked with emotion when he addressed us. Someone went up to him with tissues and he needed minutes to compose himself. From his speech, it turned out that this was his farewell party.
Despite losing in the elections three times, Teng said he never broke down.
But emotions got the better of him that night when, despite all that was said and done in politics, his friendship with the media remained steadfast and his party comrades wanted him to stay on.
Many of them perceived him to be the right person to lead the party again. After all, he is still young and those who know him would surely attest that he is not one who easily gives up.
But Teng turned them down politely.
He was the statesman tasked with completing the inscription of George Town as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The Upper Penang Road concept as an entertainment area was also coined during his time.
He was also the white knight who saved many abandoned projects, notably Queensbay Mall, which was formerly proposed as Bayan Mall, Prangin Mall and several housing projects.
Both Teng and Chow are not Penangites; the former is from Batu Pahat and the latter is a Kuala Lumpur boy. But both left deep marks in the political scene in Penang.
I wish Teng well and thank him for what he has done for Penang.
As for Chow, his experience and knowledge will bring the state to the next level of development and I look forward to the future with him.