Why Liew Chin Tong Has It?

Had a fruitful meeting with an international delegation at Parliament this afternoon. #Repost @hchlee83 (@get_repost) ・・・ Moderating a #dialogue between the #top #leadership of #harapan and an #international #delegation here on a #factfinding #mission about #malaysian #election… #tunmahathir #progressive #alliance #wanazizah #matsabu #tansrimuhyiddinyassin #limguaneng #saifuddinabdullah #throwback #chefturnedpolitician @chintong.liew

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As for Barisan National’s slogan to “Hebatkan Malaysia” (To Make Malaysia Great Again), the irony, indeed the sheer paradox of this line, is the fact that between 2009-2018, Malaysia was under their watch. Making Malaysia great again implies they had failed Malaysia first, if not already.

By Pan Jin Ming

Liew Chin Tong, if one knows him well, is an information junkie. From the age of 9, if not earlier, he has already been consuming tonnes of information on Malaysia, indeed, the region.

When I was 10, I was still reading Tarzan, Beano, Dandy and MAD magazine, with Ali Baba and Sinbad added in too. Only when life became impossibly boring did I force myself to read Jin Yong’s martial arts novels, even then they were all in pictures.**

Thus, Tong, as he prefers to be known, is a prodigy. Perhaps one equal to Anthony Loke, and Ong Kian Ming, since both of them, too, are consummate analysts. Not surprisingly, they formed a formidable trio in DAP, as the party’s top minds.

But there is something special about Tong, not because of his role as a DAP strategist, or, the chairman of DAP Johor, let alone the fact that he had first started his political career as a young researcher of Teressa Kok, subsequently, Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng.

Tong knows the DAP members very well. He knows they are formed of small traders, street peddlers, and hawkers. Thus, while the faces of DAP may be professionals like doctors and lawyers, Tong knows the true strength of DAP, from the ground up, was the commoners.

Predictably, Tong has never—–never, it is worth repeating—–lost the common touch. This despite the fact that Tong was one of the rare breeds in Malaysia to be educated at the prestigious Australian National University, and subsequently, University of Malaya. With a bit of time, he should be able to complete his doctorate on Malaysian politics and economics too.

As things stand, Tong already has several books and refereed publications under his belt under the supervision of top Australian academic John Funston.

Tong understands the scholarship of Malaysian studies, from A to Z practically, which makes him a phenomenal force in DAP and Pakatan Harapan. Tong talks facts. And, he encourages people to challenge him on policy specifics, ideally, with numbers and sources that he can counter check, and verify.

Indeed, even before Tong was a first term parliamentarian in 2008 in Bukit Bendera, Penang, Tong was constantly inviting journalists, policy analysts and even TV emcees to challenge him on the trajectory and direction of Malaysian politics, within the context of whether Malaysia was succeeding, or, failing.

To be sure, Tong does not want Malaysia to fail. Those who couldn’t care either way are the ones who have inflicted the damage on Malaysia so deep, and searing, that the national debt is now within a hair breadth of RM 1 trillion in few years, if not already, provided other contingent liabilities are factored into the calculus.

Yet, Malaysia, for the lack of better expression, is trapped. As an economy, its income is stagnant, its Gross Domestic Product at USD 300 billion belies its actual potential to be three or four times more powerful; especially in light of what South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, indeed, Japan had all been able to achieve. Why ?

To begin with, Malaysia has no natural disasters to speak of. Thus, what ever that is built, and grown, in Malaysia, is not exposed to the extreme elements, or the natural wear and tear too. This alone should make Malaysia the wealth nest of the world—–a place where people likes to live, grow old, and retire; as Penang has proven to be the exception to the general rule, and was once voted by the United Nations a few years ago as the sixth most attractive places to retire.

Tong knows Malaysia is under performing, especially when it is compared to the likes of Singapore, or, even Thailand. Despite a geography not hampered by the smallness of Singapore, or, a political system, not dented by the revolving exit and reentry of the military junta like Thailand, Malaysia has continued to see massive urban, indeed, rural poverty.

Why should a state like Kelantan, which is known for the people’s entrepreneurial drive, especially the Malay women, be listed as the poorest state in Malaysia ? Why should a resource rich state like Sabah be next on the list ? None of these make sense to Tong, which is why he is in politics with a vengeance, for the lack of a better expression.

Tong cannot stand under performance, when he himself has performed incredibly well on all fronts. And, his track record is exceptional. He predicted the recurrence of the human tsunami against the government time and again between 2008-2013, and is once again anticipating one on May 9.

Tong knew the key performance indicators (KPIs) of Malaysia were falling yet the likes of Idris Jalla, a former CEO of Shell Malaysia, kept insisting that the country was moving ahead. To Tong, such analysis does not, indeed, still did not make sense, and it verges on total pulp.

If Tong is taking on Wee Kah Siong in Ayer Hitam, Johor his motivation is not just the willingness to challenge the deputy president of MCA, and a minister to boot, but to showcase the total collapse of the intellectual thinking and machinery of UMNO and Barisan National. How ?

To begin with, despite knowing Tong’s bold move in moving from a safe seat to a battleground area to help trigger a tsunami under the leadership of Tan Sri Muhiyuddin, the caretaker government of Najib is concentrating its firepower on Dr Mahathir Mohammad and Dr Wan Azizah. By focusing on “politics,” Barisan National show they are generally incapable of challenging Pakatan Harapan on policy.

In all, Tong is the right candidate in Ayer Hitam, as the Malays said, to “purify the situation” menjernihkan keadaan. Ayer Hitam, or, “black water,” in Malay, may well be the moniker to describe the current Malaysia without any sense of irony too.

When asked by Azmin Ali, the Chief Minister of Selangor, why the servicing of the national debt has risen from 9 per cent to 12.5 per cent of the GDP during Najib’s nine year tenure, the care taker Prime Minister chose to joke about the lack of water in Selangor, when it was merely a burst pipe. And, such jocular approach towards policy debate, which imbued the aisle of the government, with Ministers and ruling Members of Parliament actually smirking on live TV in the national legislature.

Tong is not without his sense of humor. And, he is always affable and friendly to his constituencies. But when the top of the government makes light of everything from national debt to national competitiveness, all while Malaysia is losing—–not winning—–it goes without saying that Tong had no choice but to take on the entire government.

It is unfortunate, almost sick, that Wee Kah Siong, still thinks Tong is merely aiming the dagger at the heart of MCA. No ! Tong, as an intellectual cum top Member of Parliament, is aiming his strategic wit and depth, at the head of Barisan National and UMNO; assuming the two have not been lobotomized through a pandemic of corruption yet.

In this sense, Tong’s candidacy in Ayer Hitam, is akin to Lim Kit Siang’s Tanjung I and Tanjung II in the 1990s. Lim Senior saw all the signs of decadence then, and tried his level best to stop it, by first gunning for Kho Tsu Koon in Penang. While Lim failed on both occasions, Malaysians who now reflect on that period and strategy, would realize, albeit belatedly, that Lim was well ahead of his time in terms of how bad governance then can become downright cancerous now.

Ayer Hitam, however, is not Tanjung. Malays, Chinese and Indians, will rise up to aid and abet Tong to “Selamatkan Malaysia”, Save Malaysia. As for Barisan National’s slogan to “Hebatkan Malaysia”, To Make Malaysia Great Again, the irony, indeed the sheer paradox of this line, is the fact that between 2009-2018, Malaysia was under their watch. Making Malaysia great again implies they had failed Malaysia first, if not already.

Even on something as fundamental and simple, as the differentiation of sequence and logic, Barisan National and UMNO still got it wrong. How ? Well, it could well be this: when a government is lost on the tens of billions that disappeared in thin air, in many different locations cannot even count from one to two, or, understand the idiocy of reversing the order from two to one. Tong, to be sure, must be surprised, that the government has not only lost the marbles but literally the mind. Literally, it should be emphasized.

**It is worth mentioning that by 12, I had graduated to reading all of Jin Yong’s works, but all in dense words, not cartoons !