|Soon Li Tsin | March 28,2008|
|New Kelana Jaya MP Loh Gwo Burne has dismissed rumours that his father had paid a sum of money to PKR in order to secure his parliamentary seat during the 12th general election.In an interview with Malaysiakini, the 34 year-old business consultant laughed and labelled the claim involving his father, Loh Mui Fah, as nonsense.
Gwo Burne also revealed he decided not to practice law in Malaysia after filming the scandalous VK Lingam video clip despite having pursued his law degree in University of Hull, United Kingdom and a masters in the China University of Political Science and Law.
Candidly labelled a ‘video maker’ after the scandal, Gwo Burne said he has no plans to be involved in politics until a Sin Chew journalist asked him what was he going to do with his fame.
Below are excerpts of his interview with Malaysiakini which has been edited for clarity.
You were easily the most controversial and mysterious candidate in the 12th general election. How do you feel about that?
Being in the unique position, I think there are advantages and disadvantages. I have been judged unfairly by some reporters. On the other hand, unlike other candidates I also got a lot of exposure from the mainstream media. Negative media is better than no media (laughs).
How did you face criticisms that anybody could have won in Kelana Jaya this elections?
The fact is before the elections, I was told that the Kelana Jaya seat was a hot potato. Nobody wanted to contest there because they thought Lee Hwa Beng was too great a mountain to climb. But after the elections, people said, “He won, how (can this happen)?” So after the dust has settled down, you can say whatever you want.
Basically (before the elections) everybody told me that I was going to lose (laughs). So I said, “Really? I don’t know but I think I’ve got a chance.” I wasn’t surprised. When I came in, I went to the ground and spoke to people and we already had 40 per cent of the support from the community before we did anything. I believed we needed to gain another 15 to 20 per cent to be safe. If I thought I had no chance of winning, why would I be doing this in the first place? (Laughs)
How did this candidacy come about? Are you a PKR member?
Obviously I am a PKR member. This was done one week before the elections. There was a chain of events. Running for elections wasn’t really on my mind but it actually started after a Sin Chew reporter asked me the question, “Now that you are popular what are you going to do?” What I intended to do at that time after the royal commission was […] everybody told me that I was in danger. I wanted to leave after this but is that what (I’m) suppose to do?
But when I met Anwar he asked why don’t I join the (party and contest in the) election? That became something more substantial as opposed to going back home and hide under my shell. I told Anwar that if you think we can contribute, then I am at your service. He said, “I think you can” so the next was to look at our areas and he asked, “Why don’t you go to Kelana Jaya?” Then I thought yeah, we can do this.
There are rumours that you father paid a huge sum of money to PKR to secure your seat. Is that true?
No (laughs). I don’t even know where that came from. That’s nonsense.
What have you been doing since March 8 until now?
We went around quite a bit thanking people and (I attended) some party meetings with official bodies and lots of interviews. I went back (to China), terminated my lease, packed all my stuff and got back. I anticipate getting a lot busier come April or May. So I wanted to settle everything before Parliament starts.
What specifically have you done for the constituency since being voted in? What are the main needs in the short- and medium-term?
Up till now, we have been trying to do some stuff but we’ve achieved absolutely nothing yet. For example in Desaria, people have been complaining about a U turn and I’ve been trying to talk to some people to do something about it because it is very dangerous.
Eventually we met up with the MPSJ (Subang Jaya Municipal Council) people but after a while we found that it wasn’t under their area but MBPJ’s (Petaling Jaya City Council). So there are a lot of ways and we’re still learning the ropes to get relevant bodies to get involved.
Actually we’re trying to talk to the residents and police about it. In my constituency, the crime rate is a real thorny issue. I think crimes can be reduced with more efficient policing. So we’re trying to talk to the local enforcement and find the best way to move forward. The security issue can be solved within a short period.
Another issue is traffic. It is not something that you can deal with within Kelana Jaya itself but the whole Klang Valley. Unless we change our policy and shift towards an efficient public transport system, we cannot solve the transport problem. It will take a lot of effort and willingness from the executive.
Do you think it is problem that you have absolutely no experience in handling such matters?
Well, what sort of experience do you need to raise issues? Maybe the problem is finding the right people to raise the issue to. In that sense it take you one or two days to know exactly which area this place is under. Of course our party itself is rather new. So many of us are learning the ropes and trying to get out to know exactly what to do so that would take a bit of time.
How are you coordinating with the Hannah Yeoh (Subang Jaya) and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (Seri Setia) representatives and state government?
Well, with Hannah for example, a lot of people go to her with many issues. Some of them are state issues while some are federal issues. When she gets a federal issue it is obviously beyond her scope so she comes to me. Frankly all the issues I’ve been getting are state issues (laughs). So I do get to work closely with Hannah and Nik Nazmi.
Are you setting up a service centre soon?
Yes, we’re actually in the process. Somebody found a place for us but we discovered after looking at it yesterday that, “What is Chew Mei Fun’s office doing here?” (Laughs). If I’m not mistaken, this is not within my territory. So we’ll sort it out in a couple of weeks.
I decided that we want it near Sunway because one of the two state assemblyperson’s service centre is on two sides of the LDP (Damansara-Puchong Highway) one is in Seri Setia and the other in Subang. So Sunway would be in between both of them. It would be convenient for both fo them to find me.
What kind of services will you be offering at your service centre?
I would like to say I just want to offer services as a member of Parliament but in reality people would come with an array of issues so we try to do our best even if it’s a personal thing. If it’s a state issue, we cannot ignore it as well. We’ll try our best to do it, if we cannot then we’ll just have to bug Nik and Hannah.
How are you going to brush up your knowledge on your constituency?
We’re in the process of doing that. We plan to set up machineries where we have one person in each area who will work for the party or volunteer because we don’t have any money (laughs). I hope to see them constantly, the person will bring me around. That way we hope to go to every nook and corner. If we get enough of these machineries going, I will know Kelana Jaya at the back of my hand.
What kind of issues will you be raising in Parliament?
Of course I will raise the five points raised by our party leader Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Personally, the judiciary is one of my main agendas because we have seen what is wrong with our judiciary. There are other issues like economic development. For me the national car policy is a big issue because I believe it is the cause of our traffic problems today. People want to support the national car policy and the public transportation system was made inefficient which leads to all these traffic problems and the tolls. I think everything is related.
So it is very hard to say we’ll focus on one thing but it’s related other things. The judiciary is related to corruption and when you talk about corruption then you wonder what our Anti-Corruption Agency is doing. But the ACA is under the control of the executive so what is the executive doing? What is their agenda? Also, if the government is not doing a proper job, what is the media doing? Why isn’t the media exposing all this? So it boils down to press freedom in the end.
Have you started Bahasa Malaysia lessons yet?
I think I’m starting tomorrow. I can understand Malay, I’m just not very good at it. I can go the stall and buy stuff, order food in a mamak stall. I can actually converse and understand basic Malay. But if you’re asking me to give speeches, that’s totally different.
Right now it’s seriously touch and go so I need to get my Bahasa up to speed. Hopefully in a month’s time I can at least manage (the language). My plan it to get somebody to teach me and another person to follow me around and talk to people with me. So hopefully that would push me along much faster. I think anybody can do basic Malay but doing the oratory stuff in Parliament or on stage is the problem.
Have you seen how Parliament debates work? Do you think you can emulate them and speak BM as fluently?
Yes but the parliament debates I’ve seen, I don’t want to emulate because they are shouting profanities. Whenever I look at the parliament debates, they are shouting nonsense and the language used is not befitting of a people’s representative.
Can you give directions from the Kelana Jaya LRT station to SS18 in Subang Jaya?
Directions? Oh, I’m very bad at that (laughs). One of the problems with me is that I never remember the name of the roads. You go down the LDP, before you reach the toll you take a U turn to get to the other side of the LDP. Turn into Sunway when you see Sunway Pyramid on your left and go straight down. After how many flyovers then you’re at SS18 already, right? You just turn in left or right. (Laughs)
Would you declare your assets for the sake of transparency to prove you are clean and corrupt-free?
I can declare my assets right now. I actually do not own any fixed assets. So I have nothing to declare (laughs).
Do you have any liabilities?
No. I have nothing. No assets and no liabilites (laughs).
How did the transition happen – from studying for your masters in China to doing business consultancy work in a chemical company?
Actually after I got back from my masters degree I was considering going into law. Not long after that I took the video. Call me a romantic but I believe in certain ideologies. I mean honestly if you were a law student and just graduated, would you see what I’ve seen and heard, would you still want to go into law?
So you decided not to practice law because of the incident which you filmed?
It’s not like I didn’t want to practice but I didn’t want to practice in this environment.
Does this mean you knew what you were filming at that time?
Of course. When it started out, I was trying to take picture of the vase. But I decided to continue because I knew what was going on. I did not fully follow all the things they were talking about. At that time I did not know who Tengku Adnan (Tengku Mansor) really was. I couldn’t follow some of the conversation.
Given this environment, you can have all the best lawyers in the world but you will lose the case simply because the case has been fixed. So what’s the point? For me that was the rule of the game in Malaysia and I don’t subscribe to this game. I would rather play different rules, so no, not here.
Do you have a message to those who have criticised you and thought you should have lost in the elections?
(Laughs) Well different people have different opinions. So there are people who like me and those who do not. Fortunately, more people like me than not so here I am. Since I’m here, regardless of criticisms or just opinions, that is immaterial right now because it is me sitting in the parliamentary seat for this area at this point.
So I would do my best to represent everybody whether they support me or not, whether they like me or not. Even if a person came to me and said, “I hate you, I despise you, I did not support you, I will never support you but I have problem and I need you to solve it” I will still do it because that’s my duty.
Will you be giving up your seat for anybody?
Right after the elections we had a gathering among the candidates at Anwar’s house and he declared he would not be taking his seat from his wife or daughter. So I thought that would be a real pity because it would be much more interesting with Anwar in Parliament. Actually, I told him that if required, he can have my seat but he said ‘no’ (laughs). He thinks that we’re credible candidates and he would not want to take the seat from his own party members.
Do you intend to run for a second term?
At this point we will have to see how things go. I have to try to do a job, I believe I can do it but if people say I’m ineffective and I’m just not good at this then I would not want to be hogging the seat for personal reason. If there’s somebody else better at this and is more effective, I would simply move aside but I don’t intend to quit halfway through my term. People who voted me expect me to do my job for that duration of time and I wouldn’t want to let them down.