GEORGE TOWN: With Undi18 expected to make its mark in the 15th General Election (GE15), it is no wonder that young guns are taking centre-stage in Penang’s political scene.
Almost every major political party is fielding many new faces and, going by the number of early hopefuls who are making themselves known, Penang looks set to be a launchpad for the younger generation to get involved in policy-making and public governance.
The “young blood” wave is strongest from Penang MCA. Its two oldest candidates are both only 55 years old – Dr Tan Chuan Hong for the Bagan seat and Datuk Tan Lee Huat for Batu Kawan. Both are successful corporate men.
The others are Generation Y – those born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. And they have interesting hobbies and pastimes.
Tan Kim Nee, 38, contesting for MCA in Tanjong, is a self-professed “foodie.” She is also a gamer, a high-level player of Mobile Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena game popular with the young Chinese community.
“I haven’t had time to log into the game since I became active in politics. I want to help the community first,” she said.
Saw Yee Fung, 33, MCA’s candidate for Bayan Baru, also has not had the time to walk into a taekwondo or muay thai (Thai kickboxing) fighting ring, both of which used to be her passion.
But she’s no mere jock – she graduated from Universiti Putra Malaysia as an actuary, an expert who analyses the financial costs of risks and uncertainties using mathematics and statistics for the insurance sector.
Then comes Bukit Mertajam MCA candidate Tan Yang Pang, 39, whom locals call “Bob”.
He is a self-taught expert in marine aquarium fish-rearing, a hobby through which he helps enthusiasts bring out the best colours in their fish.
Bukit Gelugor’s MCA candidate Wong Chin Chong, 48, admits he is still working on his work-life balance because he owns a security services firm that employs about 300 security guards in Penang.
“Every time my phone rings, it means I have a problem to solve. That is my life and I am used to it, so I am ready to be an MP and continue solving problems for citizens,” he said.
Perikatan Nasional’s Gerakan also sprung a “young blood surprise” when tall, barrel-chested candidate Wong Chia Zhen, 37, walked into the nomination centre in Batu Kawan on Saturday, offering himself as a candidate against Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.
“I was a state volleyball player. I still jog 5km to 7km every day to stay healthy,” said Wong, who owns a car spare parts business.
And while Penang DAP’s list of candidates has many seniors like Chow and party chairman Lim Guan Eng, one woman stood out.
Contesting in the Bukit Bendera seat, few know that Syerleena Abdul Rashid, 42, is a mariner.
“I am a certified helmsman. I used to train people in wind-surfing and all kinds of water (sports) before I got into politics. I was also a muay thai exponent,” she said.
In Bukit Mertajam, DAP’s Steven Sim, 40, might be the most studious of DAP’s youngbloods.
Aside from running 5km to 7km a day to stay fit, Sim also wrote a book on Hang Tuah.
“I am willing to say he existed, but not in the romanticised way he was portrayed,” said the computer science graduate about Melaka’s legendary figure.
In Umno, PKR, Muda and other parties, more young and ambitious people are stepping up in a bid to serve in the public office.
Penangites can also choose from parties not aligned to the “big three” coalitions of Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan.
There is Gerakan Tanah Air, Parti Warisan, Parti Rakyat Malaysia, Penang Front Party and Malaysian United Party.
For GE15, the new and untested need a firm place to stand on to learn and prove themselves, and it looks like Penang’s political climate has drawn them in.
Starting today, The Star will be running a series of articles to give its readers some insights into the election vibe in different states. Watch this space.