GEORGE TOWN, April 12 — This 14th general election is Penang Gerakan chairman Teng Chang Yeow’s sixth time contesting as a candidate. It will also be his last.
The 54-year-old politician said this is his last bid to win after failing in the last two elections before he calls it quits.
“If I lose this time, I will call it a day. Time for me to end my political career,” he said in an interview with Malay Mail.
Teng was a three-term assemblyman and a state executive councillor when Penang was under Barisan Nasional (BN) prior to Election 2008.
He lost his Padang Kota seat to DAP’s Chow Kon Yeow in the 12th general election of that year by 1,661 votes.
In 2013, he contested in Bukit Tengah against PKR’s Ong Chin Wen and lost by a massive 5,190 votes.
The Penang BN chairman said if he loses this election, he will also not contest the state Gerakan chairman post in the party’s internal polls.
“I won’t contest for the chairman post after this, I will make way for young people,” he said.
Teng said he had served Penang since 1995 when he was first elected as an assemblyman and was political secretary to the then chief minister Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon.
Prior to that, Teng was also a municipal councillor between 1992 and 1995.
He never expected to have come so far in his political career, saying that from the beginning, before he was appointed as a councillor, he was only working in Gerakan as a staff member.
Teng said he was groomed in politics by the great leaders of Gerakan from the likes of the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu who was the second Penang chief minister, the late Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik who was the party’s former president and Koh, the third Penang chief minister.
One of the main lessons that Teng picked up from Keng Yaik was the quote “politics is all about human relationship” which the former constantly used when dealing with issues within the party and issues with component parties in BN.
“It is all about human relationship so once we work on it, we can all get along,” he said.
He said these leaders knew what they were doing, case in point, Chong Eu, had brought development to Penang and started the manufacturing sector here.
“He was a visionary and knowledgeable leader and I learnt a lot from him,” he said.
Even Koh, who was maligned and at one point called crude names by many in Penang, was a great leader who could solve controversial issues in his quiet and rational manner, he said.
On the one term he served as state exco for tourism development and environment under Koh, Teng said he had put into place many policies to protect the state’s environment such as the gazetting of the Pulau Jerejak forest reserve.
“I pushed through the bill to gazette it as a national park and it was just a signature away from being gazetted and then Parliament was dissolved,” he said.
The Pulau Jerejak forest reserve is yet to be gazetted under the current Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.
Teng had questioned the delay in gazetting the forest reserve and also questioned a proposed development on the small island off Penang island which led to a defamation suit being filed against him by current chief minister Lim Guan Eng.
In terms of tourism, Teng remembered introducing the Penang World Music Festival at the Quarry Recreational Park in the Penang Botanic Gardens.
He said it started out with international world music groups that drew crowds as it was modelled after the internationally acclaimed annual Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak.
The Penang World Music Festival was held a few more years under the PH administration but was later cancelled.
On the state administration under Koh’s leadership, Teng said the state government had always held open tenders for massive state projects such as the Jelutong Expressway project (now known as the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway), Midlands Park complex and Queensbay.
“Koh was wrongly blamed for approving the PORR project and awarding it to a supposedly crony company when it was a federal project awarded by the federal government,” he said.
PORR, which stands for the Penang Outer Ring Road project, was a controversial RM1.02 billion highway that stretches 17.8km linking Tanjung Bungah to Penang Bridge.
The project, awarded to Peninsular Metro Works Sdn Bhd, was supposed to start in late 2006 but was delayed and later cancelled after PH took over the state administration
When asked how his party and its members had taken the sudden defeat in 2008, Teng said it was a very hard fall for all in the party especially after Gerakan had ruled Penang since it won the state back in 1969.
Teng himself, who was the party secretary-general then, resigned from all posts in the party to take responsibility for the massive loss in Penang.
“This past 10 years was very tough for us because the politics of uncouth culture was strong on social media where people take pride in cursing political leaders they don’t like,” he said.
Working as a state opposition party, Teng said Gerakan members and leaders were often scolded, cursed and in worse case scenarios, chased out with brooms and spat upon in the last 10 years.
Right from the beginning, Teng has been very firm about staying away from uncouth politics and gutter politics such as labelling political opponents with crude nicknames or making personal attacks.
“We do not want to promote this kind of culture — that of cursing and threatening leaders — in the people so we do not practise such politics,” he said.
He said Gerakan has only, and will always, participate in political discourse in a mature and professional manner that touches only on policies and local issues.
“We will point out the failures of the state government in policy issues, we will talk about their weaknesses in handling issues in the state but we will not use personal attacks against them or the leaders’ characters,” he said.
In the last couple years, Teng was relieved that the bitter hatred and anger of the people against Gerakan has somehow abated.
He said Gerakan members on the ground have reported receiving friendly and positive responses from the public in the past year or so.
“This is a good sign but we will never know if these warmer responses will translate into votes until the polls,” he said.
He admitted that it was not easy to gauge how Penangites will vote this time around.
“We can only hope that they will give Gerakan a chance, if not to take back Penang, at least to provide check and balance at the legislative assembly,” he said.
Teng remained coy over the seat that he will be contesting this election though there were talks that he may be contesting in either Sungai Pinang, Pantai Jerejak, Batu Uban or Tanjung Bungah state seats.
Sungai Pinang and Tanjung Bungah were won by DAP while Pantai Jerejak and Batu Uban by PKR in 2008 and 2013.
“I can only say I will be contesting in a state seat, not a parliamentary seat, and it is a mixed seat,” he said, referring to the composition of the seat that will make up of almost equal numbers of Malay and ethnic Chinese voters.
Parliament was dissolved last Saturday while the Penang legislative assembly was dissolved yesterday to pave way for GE14.
Nomination day will be held on April 29 and polling day is on May 9, a Wednesday.