Exclusive interview by Malaysiakini
Interviewed by: Hafiz Yatim & Chai Jia Mei
Published May 24, 2015
INTERVIEW Gerakan may be a member of the BN but the party’s deputy youth chief Andy Yong’s entry into politics was inspired not by someone from the ruling coalition but by a PAS leader.
And it’s not just any PAS leader. Yong said this person was pivotal in the formation of the Islamist party’s organ Harakah.
The 43-year-old endearingly refers to that person as sifu (master).
Throughout the interview with Malaysiakini, the one who piqued Yong’s interest in politics remains unnamed, but he did provide some hints: the PAS leader is his father’s friend, is a Kelantanese who now lives in Johor Bahru and more importantly, is someone he respects.
Yong said whenever his sifu is in the same city, they would make it a point to catch up.
Despite their seemingly conflicting political ideologies, he often serves as Yong’s sounding board.
“I learned a lot from him and look up to him. He is more of a guide to me in politics because of his seniority.
“He has shared his experiences, and (he) sometimes caution me in whatever things that I intend to do,” Yong told Malaysiakini in an interview last month.
Belief in ‘conscience of BN’
Yong graduated with a law degree from Bond University in Queensland, Australia.
When choosing which party as his political vehicle back in 2007, Yong said he received application forms from three corners – Gerakan, MCA, and PKR.
However, the Johor Bahru-born was attracted to Gerakan due to its multicultural politics. The ‘pull factor’ for entering politics has always been strong.
“Put it this way. Above all, I know MCA is out of the picture because I always believe in mixing with multicultural friends, which is one thing I love in Gerakan until today. That is the core reason (behind choosing Gerakan).
“Secondly, politics can be used as a platform for me to contribute something back to society. I think I needed to get involved, either in one of the NGOs or the political parties; that’s why I decided to go into politics,” he said.
Yong said his father, whom he described as a ‘typical Chinaman’, tried to play the devil’s advocate. His old man told him, “If you can’t earn a living, forget about being a politician.
His wife has been supportive of his involvement in politics.
To maintain a healthy balance between politics and family, the father of two also made a commitment to ensure that Sunday is set aside just for family.
Expanding further on why he chose Gerakan over others, the youth leader explained he studied the various party constitutions and found Gerakan’s the most appealing.
“Gerakan is trying to be the conscience of BN. Whether rightly or wrongly, of course we are not the top three component parties, but we have been so called the “cari hal punya dalam component party (the one which creates problems among all the component parties).”
“For example, with the introduction of the amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Sedition Act, our MP and (president) Mah Siew Keong is the one making noise. However, unfortunately, we do not own any media like MCA, (or) Umno to highlight this,” he lamented.
Lack of sincere politics ‘disturbing’
Yong said he espouses what is termed in Malay as politik ikhlas (sincere politics).
“I find it very disturbing (that there is no sincere politics) among politicians. I’d say not many in Malaysia – be it ruling or opposition – are involved in sincere politics.”
Even when acknowledging that authenticity is rare in today’s politics, Yong says he does not care.
“I’d rather walk alone than walk in a group, but in the wrong direction. We should not kelentong (tell lies) to people, as things spread fast through the social media compared to those days,” he said.
When probed further whether there are truly those who practise sincere politics in the current scenario, Yong said they do exist, even from the ruling BN and also the opposition.
He remarked that he used to face pressure when issuing statements that are against the government’s stand.
“Some have even remarked that ‘Eh, you terror sangat, keluar BN la you’ (If you think you are so great, then you should leave BN). At one point, a minister called my party president Mah to complain but Mah continued to support me,” he said.
For this reason, Yong tells aspiring politicians to ensure they have financial stability before taking the leap into politics.
“I always tell the young members who come in to become members, ‘By hook or by crook, make sure you are financially stable before you commit yourself to politics’.
“I see many of them, a lot of them, they don’t have stable jobs, their businesses are not doing well, and after seven to eight years’ involvement in politics, they couldn’t survive…. I’ve seen with my own eyes that the moment you are not financially secure, more likely than not, you are there for the wrong reason. The temptation is always there,” he warned.
Young blood for the party
Yong added that being the Gerakan deputy youth chief, his main task is increasing membership in the party and he has been doing that in the Kelana Jaya division.
Asked to describe past Gerakan presidents, Yong said the late Lim Keng Yaik (below) was the gung-ho type, while Koh Tsu Koon was more the intellectual variety. The current president, he adds, is a mix between the two.
Even though he himself is already 43, Yong hopes the direction the party takes will be towards reducing the age ceiling.
At present, one can be above 40 and still remain in the youth wing, and Gerakan is the only political party in Malaysia that hangs on to 45 as the cut off age for its youth section.
Yong said he hopes that clause in the party constitution will be amended to encourage young blood to rejuvenate the party from within.
In the last general elections, the ruling coalition gave Gerakan Youth nine seats to contest at the Federal and state levels.
Even though he would not benefit from it, and one is reminded of the term ‘sincere politics’, Yong remains optimistic that the opportunity would be increased for youths in Gerakan to take the plunge and run as candidates.
As a party that of late is no longer a political power to be reckoned with, Gerakan is undergoing rebranding efforts.
For Yong, it is more than just skin deep. Again, he emphasised the need for ‘sincere politics’ in his own party.
“I always remind (them), saudara, who is our real boss? It’s the rakyat, it’s the voters and we are answerable to them,” he said.