When consequences of corruption and bad policies hits home to one’s domicile, there isn’t option for apathy. In a lengthy afternoon chat with the Rocket, Sandakan MP Stephen Wong Tien Fatt talks about about his motivation for politics and what he hopes to see change for Sandakan and Sabah. Report by T. K. Tan. Photo by Wira Andika.
Name : Stephen Wong Tien Fatt
Age – 58 years
Position – former secretary general for Sandakan Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SCCC),
Chairman for Anti Sandakan Coal Plant NGO
Why did you join politics?
Before this general election (GE), I had been active in many NGO activities around the Sandakan area and for Sabah. Some of things that I encountered saddened me. As I was also a former local councillor in the Sandakan Municipal Council (MPS) under the SCCC quota, I have had many dealings with the authorities. I realised there were much unfairness, injustices and corrupt policies being perpetuated in the country.
The issue of corruption and bad policies hit home to us in Sandakan in 2008. That year, China and Malaysia had signed an agreement to build a 350 MW coal-fired power plant in Lahad Datu. The proposed plant, if it had gone through would have caused much pollution and health problems for the inhabitants in the east coast of Sabah. There was inadequate and insufficient environmental impact assessment (EIA) being made about the plant.
In fact there were even plans to relocate the power plant project to Sandakan after it met much resistance for the project in Lahad Datu. Heading the Sandakan anti coal committee and together with 31 other NGOs in the state and country, we fought a long three years against the building of the coal-fired power plant.
We managed to obtain 40,000 over signatories in Sandakan for our petition against the project. Due to political considerations and pressure the BN state government cancelled the project in 2011. As a result of the haste in approving and cancelling the project, the government was forced to pay RM 70 million to the contractors.
The years of dealing with the authorities stirred in me a desire to want to see change to the country, and I believed politics was that important venue to effect this change for Malaysia.
Why was DAP your choice?
BN has been given the mandate to run Sabah and winning all the Sandakan state seats since the 1990s. In fact we have a Chief Minister and several state cabinet ministers as ADUNs in and around the Sandakan area and even a federal deputy minister in the Sandakan parliamentary seat in the last general election (GE).
However we don’t see much development in Sandakan. The infrastructure and amenities in Sandakan is decrepit and creaking; the roads are riddled with potholes, the water supply is dirty and sporadic and there are constant power outages and brownouts.
Corruption is afflicting every sphere of our lives in Malaysia. From rising prices of essentials to shoddy and dangerous infrastructure projects to the questionable enforcement of the Automated Enforcement System (AES) that has benefits cronies but not solve the traffic accidents problem, this government has clearly lost its mandate.
I had being following the news about DAP for many years. It’s a party that had been consistently fighting for justice and fairness for Malaysians for more than four decades. I decided that DAP can be this platform to effect this change for Sabah and Malaysia.
What would you bring up in parliament?
I will not be opposing for the sake of opposing. If there are areas of shared concern for all, I will raise and press it up to the powers-to-be to resolve. There are matters of principle which I adhere to; what is right should be commended and what is wrong has to be clearly reprimanded.
What are your hopes for Sabah and Malaysia?
I hope that Sabah and Malaysia will change for the better. One of the first areas to look at is reviving the declining education standards in Malaysia. Malaysian universities are no longer in the respectable world class rankings while our neighbouring countries’ universities have shot ahead.
We must bridge the racial divide amongst Malaysians. We have to put a stop to the racial and religious rhetoric that has poisoned our views of each other for so many years.
We need to end the corruption and cronyism problems that have enervated Malaysia’s resources. We want to let the downtrodden have the chance to enjoy its’ abundant resources. For decades, DAP has been fighting for a Malaysia for Malaysians. It’s time we realise it for the sake of our future generation.