Humbling lessons from being a nobody

Soo Wern Jun

PETALING JAYA: The taste of defeat is a humbling experience and few know it better than Datuk Mah Siew Keong. The Gerakan president was defeated not once but twice in his own backyard. But he is now in the centre of power and this time he plans to make the best of it.

Mah beat DAP’s Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud in the Teluk Intan by-election in May to return to Parliament, having lost the seat to the DAP in 2008 and failing to recapture it in 2013.

His first defeat, he recalls, was a sobering experience, so he stood in the 2013 general election without any expectations. He was not even shocked by this second defeat. When the death of DAP’s Seah Leong Peng gave him another opportunity, Mah again remained realistic about his chances.

“Many people asked me what I would do if I lost again, and I told them I’d had enough experience losing, so another defeat was not necessarily bad for me,” he quips.

This time he won, but by a slim margin. Mah’s win is particularly sweet as he was seen as the underdog in the fight for the seat, despite being a seasoned politician. But he did win credit for not resorting to underhanded tactics or mudslinging. “I wanted a clean and fair fight, to let the people of Teluk Intan decide who they wanted,” he says.

“I was called various names, like ‘recycled candidate’. Some said I was too old. It was a rough two weeks but in the end, the people of Teluk Intan gave me their support. So many people came from all over Malaysia to witness the by-election. I had never seen such a long queue at the chee cheong funstall,” he adds.

For returning the seat to the Barisan Nasional, Mah was rewarded with a seat in the Cabinet. The 53-year-old was made Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and among the many challenges ahead is to promote the use of nuclear power in Malaysia, a hot potato issue.

The win also gave him legitimacy to lead Gerakan. “At least I now have the people behind me,” he says.





Follow @partigerakan