Gerakan aiming to bounce back

PETALING JAYA: Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia aims to bounce back as a steadfast and dependable national party with a renewed commitment to rally Malaysians of all races to stand up for their country. Perak Gerakan chairman Dr Lee Chee Pheng spoke on the party’s satu hati, satu negara, satu wawasan (one heart, one nation, one vision) theme in a recent interview with The Star.

What inspired you to get into politics?

I think of myself as more of an administrator than a politician. The word “politician” has always been like a backhanded compliment. I got involved in politics because I wanted to make a difference but not to just bark on “the other side of the fence”. I would rather be in the government changing things.

The system in Malaysia has been good. Otherwise, we would not be seeing all these improvements and developments. Whatever that is working shouldn’t be replaced but refined. So, I wanted to go in there to refine it.


People now talk about a “new brand of politics” in the country. What do you think this means?

Over the years, Barisan Nasional has been like a smooth sailing ship and candidates that go onboard were bound to win in elections. Today, the ship is facing very strong winds and rough seas. In recent years, the opposition propaganda changed the mindset of a targeted group of people and the effects began to show after 2004.

Apa lagi rakyat mahu? (What more do the people want?) From independence till now, we have had everything in the country; enough education, healthcare, economic growth and so on. Even so, the people no longer look at them. I think they are looking more for intrinsic values. The people are not just looking for physical developments; enormous buildings, stadiums and bridges. There are intangible qualities, like how they feel and how they are appreciated.

As a non-legislator what can you do to highlight weaknesses in the policies to give a better quality of life to all Malaysian families?

I ask my kids and other young people and they say there are a lot of inconsistencies in the decision making in the Cabinet. Today, they do something but before the idea gets ripe and shows effect, they change it.

For instance, when I served as a special officer under ex-Youth and Sports minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, we spent much money carrying out the national fitness programme, where all fitness instructors would be graded. Sadly, all was lost when the next minister came in and nothing more transpired. Azalina also submitted a Fitness Bill but it’s gone now and nothing is being carried out. Where is the blueprint? Where is the continuity?

Gerakan has talked about the efficiency of Government servants. That’s not to say they are inefficient, but they can do better.

Everybody can play a role in improving the quality of life, not just politicians. Everyone has a passion, whether in literature, arts or culture. They can share their passion with others by organising communities or giving free classes. There are many people who like to share.  I have a friend who is an acupuncturist who goes around to treat for free. I bring him into our service centre and twice a week, he’ll treat there for free.

Gerakan, like the MCA, had been confident of delivering the votes for the Barisan ahead of the 13th general election last year. But both parties fared worse than in the 2008 polls. What went wrong?

Gerakan lost everything (except one parliamentary and one state seat in Johor, and a state seat each in Kedah and Sabah). Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who is also Barisan chairman told us: “Gentlemen, this is not a wake up call. This is the last call”. The PM has been fair to us and still accepts us. However, we now have to pick ourselves up and cannot simply assume the votes will swing back.

We were too complacent. We were doing conventional political work, not realising that the landscape had totally inversed and the mindset had changed. We did not realise the significance of the younger voters that do not accept conventional political work.

Has Gerakan since taken stock of its weaknesses and is it now more focused to win the hearts and minds of the people?

Gerakan is now focusing on five aspects to better peoples lives; healthcare and treatment, education, safety, exercise and talent.

We are working towards providing free complimentary traditional medicine. In Perak, we work closely with state foundation Yayasan Bina Upaya to assist diploma students take care of their cost of living during the course of their studies. We also work with People of Remarkable Talent to provide a platform for talented children who can draw, sing and perform.

These are the intrinsic values that we look into and these five programmes will allow us to connect with the people. All these things have nothing to do with the structural or physical development of the country, it has to do with people’s daily lives.

How do you wish for Gerakan to make a difference in state and national politics?

To make a difference is simple. We need to unite the members in Gerakan and the members of the component parties (of Barisan). We don’t want to see MCA not liking Gerakan, and Gerakan not liking MIC. I tell my members to not pinpoint on the other component parties but to pinpoint on what we should do.

There is never-ending bickering among politicians in Malaysia, whether among their own party members or with rivals in other parties. What is your take on this?

I think we can never eliminate feuds; we have them at the breakfast table, in the classroom and at the workplace. I think it’s all up to the mental development and value of the individual; whether he can think professionally and compartmentalise politics, work and friends. If he can do that, feuds can be healthy.

We don’t have to go to the extent of backstabbing and mudslinging. If Malaysia fails to achieve Vision 2020, it will be because of this. It doesn’t matter from which side, it can be from Barisan or it can be from Pakatan Rakyat. It’s not that the country isn’t ready, the country is far ahead of the people.




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