Kampung boy now a mayor


Making it big: Yew at his office in Komtar.

Making it big: Yew at his office in Komtar.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Island City Council (MBPP) mayor Yew Tung Seang is a classic example of a kampung boy making it big.

Yew, who was sworn in last month as the city’s third mayor, said his background drove him to reach for the skies.

The 55-year-old from Kampung Liang Seng in Bagan Serai, Perak, said he learnt to think out of the box from a young age because of his humble beginnings.

“When I was young and saw other children with ‘advanced’ toys, I knew that my father, who was a coconut plantation worker, could not afford them.

“So with some creativity, I used other things which I could find from my surroundings to make my own toys,” he said during an interview at his office in Komtar.

Yew said many people from his village were farmers, rubber tappers or plantation workers, but a teacher had encouraged him to think big and reach out to the world.

“The kampung was my world and when I was about to leave my hometown to continue my secondary education in Taiping, I was scared and worried.

“The teacher, however, told me to aim high and assured me that I would succeed one day if I chose to step out of my comfort zone,” he said, adding that he would like to thank the teacher, Wang Li Duan, if he had the chance.

Yew said past experience and wise words from Wang moulded him into a daring and creative person, which is useful now that he helms the council.

“To help students from humble backgrounds like me, I have worked with the Penang Science Cluster to create a ‘Makers Space’, a space for children in Balik Pulau to show their creativity and talent through 3D printing, coding, Lego robotics and others.

“As long as opportunities are given to them, I believe that many budak kampung will excel in the future,” he said.

Yew was an architect at a private firm after graduating from Univer­siti Sains Malaysia.

“It was part of my job to submit plans to the council but I went through a lot of red tape and obstacles.

“It was a turning point in my life in 1991 when I decided to resign and join the council. That time, I was just curious about the system and how it worked,” he said.

“Eventually, I realised that I could make a difference. Therefore, it is one of my objectives to make MBPP services more accessible to the public.”