Categorised | Columns

Running as an independent in GE13

THE 5 May general election saw a record number of independent candidates — 270 in all. I was one of them, contesting in the Bukit Gasing state seat against Rajiv Rishyakaran from DAP, who won, Gerakan’s Juan Sei Chang and fellow independent Simon Lee.

During the course of campaigning, I encountered many who were puzzled, indifferent, or hostile to the fact that I was contesting as an independent. This is a story of my experiences. It is not meant to lament that I lost the election or to cast blame on any party. I lost and that is that.

Land and development

I decided to contest to raise awareness on two important issues in Petaling Jaya — freehold land and development — both of which were not championed by either Barisan Nasional (BN) or Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

During my time as a Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillor from 2008 to 2012, I constantly fought for the rights of Petaling Jaya leasehold title owners to freehold titles. I have argued that legally, Petaling Jaya sections 1 to 16 residents are entitled to freehold land, and not the 99-year lease titles that they were given.

Where are PJ's open spaces? (© Auswandern Malaysia | Flickr)

Where are PJ’s open spaces? (© Auswandern Malaysia | Flickr)

I have also stressed the need to implement development rules in a transparent and accountable manner. Petaling Jaya stretches from PJS all the way to Kota Damansara and has some 600,000 residents living within its borders. There is a rule that requires two hectares of open space to be set aside for every 1,000 persons and a football-field sized park for each condominium development. So where are the open spaces?

MBPJ has ignored these rules to allow for high-density development. The increase of population density without considering what the rules allow has created a strain on the city’s resources. For example, there are only seven police stations servicing the entire Petaling Jaya. How are the police supposed to reach the people in time or respond to all the possible crimes that can happen in such a large area with a huge population?

It may not be the job of the local council to tackle crime, but they shouldn’t be adding more problems that would make crime fighting difficult. MBPJ under both BN and PR have violated these rules.

Hostilities

With these issues in mind, I set out on my campaign. But although the issues and facts I advocated are relevant to Petaling Jaya residents, my supporters and I encountered several instances of hostility and were unwelcome for simply distributing leaflets.

“Traitor!” said one elderly lady to me as she walked past. She spat on the ground to show her disgust, next to the feet of one of my supporters who had tried giving her a leaflet.

One elderly man tore up my leaflet and shouted at my friend that he could not distribute the leaflets in the area. Another  lady, upon accepting my leaflet and realising it was for an independent candidate, quickly dropped it in disgust.

The public animosity was not always direct. A friend who was helping to put up my posters reported that my banners were removed or defaced the very next day. Having a limited budget, I only made 100 of these banners and could not replace them freely.

Mak-banner

Defaced.

Even friends who were supportive of me running for office started having doubts mid-way through the campaign period. “I tried talking about what you were doing, but my neighbours just scolded me for supporting an independent and said I was helping BN win the election,” said one of them.

A quick glance at the comments on blogger Haris Ibrahim’s posts about the independent candidates of Bukit Gasing will give you an idea of the hostility towards us. As an independent candidate, I was generally branded a tool or a BN agent and thus an enemy of PR.

With such hostility, it was difficult to even get people to just read up on the issues I was championing, even over the internet. The general view from PR supporters was that they needed to get a new administration in place first before they could start looking at individual candidates.

My response was it didn’t matter if I didn’t get their vote, but I urged people to at least read about Petaling Jaya residents’ right to freehold land and about our rules on development. These were issues neither PR nor BN were addressing.

Mak's campaign addressed local issues that PR and BN did not (© avlxyz | Flickr)

Mak’s campaign addressed issues specific to PJ (© avlxyz | Flickr)

Law and order

On the night of 1 May, I was supposed to have a ceramah at a small park along Jalan 5/4. The DAP had set up there as well however. I asked them if they had a police permit and they said they had one, which was most curious since I also had one.

I called the police to enquire about the situation and was told that the DAP did apply for a permit, but their permit for that particular venue was for the next day. When I told this to the DAP organising committee, the story changed and the permission they had was from MBPJ instead.

Now, the police had given all the candidates a briefing on the need to apply to the police to hold ceramahs and they had handed out forms to all attendees. The instructions were quite explicit because the police wanted to avoid any conflict over ceramah venues between candidates. MBPJ was not part of this process.

“Mr Mak, if you are not happy with the situation, you can come down to the police station to file a report,” said the police officer to me over the phone.

I told the DAP organisers that I had been instructed to file a police report. It was only then that the DAP relented and agreed to move away.

Meeting people

Of course, not all my encounters with people were bad. One business person who heard about me asked to meet me. After an hour long conversation, he agreed to help me print and distribute my leaflets at his expense.

A lawyer who follows my articles online bought 100 copies of my book to be distributed, while two friends donated RM4,000 to help finance my election campaign.

Others still simply volunteered their time and spoke nice words on my behalf during my ceramah. And I am most thankful for my girlfriend, who stayed by my side to help me organise and get through the elections even though it was a lot of work.

Overall, I would say my experience has been enriching, if not entirely pleasant. Whatever I end up doing next, I know I have at least laid the groundwork that would enable others to fight for their rights. The Nut Graph


KW Mak spent his own money, inherited from his late mother, for the election campaign. He has received no government contract to date, is not on the payroll of Barisan Nasional, and he is not a member of either MCA or DAP.

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36 Responses to “Running as an independent in GE13”

  1. anon says:

    Maybe you picked a poor method to achieve your stated goals? Quote:

    1) “I decided to contest to raise awareness on two important issues in Petaling Jaya — freehold land and development”
    2) “With such hostility, it was difficult to even get people to just read up on the issues I was championing, even over the internet.”

    Then again since your story is showing up on my Facebook feed perhaps it’s working in the end… ;)

    • KW Mak says:

      @ anon

      Before elections, I held press conferences, wrote articles, had meetings with resident groups/associations and even wrote a book. Taking part in the elections was the last resort.

      Regards.

  2. JW Tan says:

    It was a brave decision, and I admire you for that. Nevertheless, I think the key issue facing the electorate in PJ is more national than local, in that everyone is fed up with BN.

    Ironically, the PR strategy for GE14 is likely to be to get local candidates to champion local issues well in advance of the elections, over a long period of time, to win local trust. Maybe you’ll have better luck doing something like this.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ JW Tan

      Are you suggesting that I align myself to PR? I doubt they want to have anything to do with me, especially after I have repeatedly said that Pakatan Rakyat is equally guilty of violating development rules as Barisan Nasional. Here’s an article with examples of some of the inconsistencies that MBPJ is guilty of: http://www.thenutgraph.com/inconsistencies-in-mbpj/

      Regards.

  3. amin says:

    Dear Sir,

    I believe that you’re true to your struggle, being someone who has been so critical of MBPJ. I read the news a couple of years back about how you exposed the MBPJ’s senior officials’ ownership of low-cost flats, and also your struggle to change the leasehold status of Seksyen 1 – Sekysen 4 houses to freehold. My family actually lives in Seksyen 3. (Or was it someone else?)

    However, I am actually happy that you lost. Let’s say that you won, and you become an ADUN yourself. Probably you are able to make noise in the Sidang DUN to amend some laws to change the leasehold titles to freehold, or right any wrongdoings in MBPJ that you wish to clean up. Then again, you still require the support of the other ADUN, which are already aligned to political parties. You’re still trying to climb over a tall mountain. At some point, probably you might have to make some friends with the political party, which then no longer puts you above this bi-partisan politics.

    I believe that you’re always going to be critical towards the state government, and towards MBPJ itself, and I salute you for that. You’re one true example of a statesman.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ amin

      I’m fine with not winning. The intention was to let the public know what their rights are. Unfortunately, awareness of the issue is still lacking, so whether all of you will eventually get your rights recognised is debatable.

      I’m also aware that the prevalent mentality is that nothing can be achieved unless you are in a political coalition. However, anyone and everyone who is caught in a situation that neither BN nor PR wants to address will continue to be victimised as they would have no recourse.

      Regards.

  4. anonymous says:

    What can you say to the lawyers whose toes you have stepped on for the alleged misinterpretation of the Land Code? I am from Bukit Gasing and come from a family of lawyers. In dinners that we have gone to after the elections, I have heard allegations of your misinterpretation of the law, lack of documentary evidence to support your claims, and of the town planning department rejecting your proposal of leasehold to freehold conversion because there are gaps in your research.

    One uncle explained the situation to my younger sister through this analogy:

    If I was born genetically Chinese, can I change my genetic makeup to be, let’s say, German?
    Now if I was born genetically German but the hospital records were erroneously done and registered me as Chinese, I have every right in the world to be German, as it was initially intended.

    He said the same is true for the land. Some of the PJ leasehold land were converted to freehold because there was sufficient documentary evidence to prove that they were intended to be freehold. This is not true for all.

    Can you please justify this?

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @ anonymous

      My reply to your comment is independent of KW Mak´s reply to you.

      [...]

      The analogy your uncle used [...] He should have used “Permanent Residency” as the analogy for real properties which are leaseholds, and “Nationality” as the analogy for freeholds. [...]

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        Dear Comments Editor,

        Mr. anonymous said that his family of lawyers accused KW Mak of misrepresenting the Land Code. I am not defending KW Mak, but this is a VERY SERIOUS ACCUSATION, alleged or not (just look at his accusatory tone “Can you please JUSTIFY this?”), in view of the fact that KW Mak is a known public person using his real name on this website and others. Am I not allowed to say what I said in reply? The fact that they referred to only the Land Code goes to show that they really don´t have any clue as to what KW Mak´s point of argument is. How did I contradict your COMMENTS RULES?

        • Dear Kek Kuat,

          The comments policy (http://www.thenutgraph.com/comments-and-columns-policy/) states among others:

          Be constructive and polite so we can maintain a space for civil debate that is constructive, engaging and as inclusive as possible.
          Debate the ideas.

          Personal attacks, rants and profanities will not be tolerated. Intelligent and well-argued views about what you disagree with are more likely to be heard than angry high-pitched voices.Well-made arguments and observations also serve us all better and help to constructively move the discussion forward.

          Your original comment, which I edited, was filled with insults against anonymous’s family of lawyers which I shall not repeat here. How about debating the idea without having to resort to accusing others of being inferior? You can just as effectively demonstrate that their argument does not hold water by providing a well-reasoned, factual argument instead of being insulting and demeaning. Resorting to insults is only too easy and does not create a civil space for reasoned arguments about opposing ideas to take place.

          Cheers,
          Jacqueline Ann Surin
          TNG Editor

          • Kong Kek Kuat says:

            @ Jac

            Well, pardon my French, ma’am.

            I have always believed that intellectuals (or religious bigots and professionals such as Malaysian lawyers) should be more than capable of standing up to some robust innuendoes, especially those who draw first blood, for example, by challenging others´ competency.

            Anyways… let´s see where this Mr. anonymous takes us.

  5. anonymous says:

    Oh. One more thing. You were appointed councillor under the DAP quota, were you not? As a follow-up to your reply above, do you not see yourself as equally guilty as the PR govt in MBPJ? I would assume that you were appointed to serve the people and provide solutions to their local problems. By logic, doesn’t that mean that the inability of the PR govt in PJ to solve residents’ concerns translates to your inability to provide solutions for them? Being part of the PR govt of MBPJ, you did say that they are guilty of inconsistencies. Are you saying you are guilty as well?

    I would have wanted to ask you these questions in a debate before the elections but there weren’t a lot of them.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ anonymous

      1. Please point out specifically what the issues are with my research and I will debate you accordingly. Here is the book I published. http://makkhuinweng.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/the-truth-about-petaling-jaya-land-pdf/

      2. As a councillor, it was my duty to represent the public within the council. All the issues I have raised were issues that were brought to me by members of the public. None of the issues I have raised affect me directly. My responsibility was to ensure that the issues raised were valid, hence the research that I did and the presentation of documentation in the form of government circulars and rules that clearly states that what the present government is doing is wrong.

      3. You are attempting to place the failure of providing a solution on me when the responsibility of providing a solution is with the Menteri Besar (whom I have approached, mind you).

      4. It is true that I am a dissenting voice in the government, but allow me to remind you of the reason why people (including me) do not like Barisan Nasional. One of the key problems with BN is that they do not respond to the issues that are raised, either by ignoring it or threatening people with draconian laws.

      5. For PR to be better, all they need to do is respond with facts that debunk my research. It is not so hard for PR to call me a liar when that is what they do to BN all the time. Instead, there is only silence from the PR government. As a fairly recent example of this silence, the Section 5 RA (residents association) called on the Selangor government to resolve the leasehold issue back in December 2012 and a response was promised by Taman Medan ADUN Haniza Talha. There has been no response to date. http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2012/12/21/central/12487050&sec=central

      Regards.

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @ anonymous

      Didn´t he say he has left the DAP?

      Mr. Mak, am I mistaken [...]?

      • KW Mak says:

        @ Kong Kek Kuat

        Applied to join the DAP as part of the requirement to be a councillor under DAP quota, but the person with whom I applied never submitted my form to the DAP HQ. My particulars are not in the DAP database.

        So I could not have quit since I was never a member to begin with.

        Regards.

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @ anonymous

      [...]

      So, if you, for example, belong to a family which was found guilty of thieving and rape, does that mean that you are also guilty by logic?

  6. Asrul says:

    Thanks bro.

  7. Patrick says:

    It probably didn’t matter what you were fighting for. The sentiment on the ground for PR was so strong that neither you nor the other independents stood a chance in the first place.

    Better luck next time, but I doubt independents are going to have any sort of chance in any Malaysian election over the next five to ten years.

    Unless of course, you’re really, really popular and are a household name.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ Patrick

      In the same vein, I could tell you there’s no reason to vote because gerrymandering has ensured that urban votes (where most of PR’s support stems from) will never help PR achieve Federal power, unless of course you can transfer your vote to a rural seat.

      It probably doesn’t matter what any of us fights for, but it doesn’t mean you do not try if that is what you believe in. How each one of us does it, or whether we bother to exercise our rights or not, is entirely in our own hands.

      Regards.

  8. TNG says:

    Unless Malaysia has Proportional Representation, what you did is futile. It will get you nowhere. It’s just a waste of energy and money.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ TNG

      What Pakatan Rakyat is doing participating in an election system that is skewed towards Barisan Nasional is equally futile, but no one seems to mind.

      As for it being a waste of energy and money, it really depends on the individual, does it not? I may be a fool by your standards because the money and energy I spent are, in your opinion, wasted. But I was quite happy doing what I did, so I would view it as a fair exchange of my money and energy for an experience that I do not regret.

      And your words were spoken to me too by Gerakan and MCA members when I first helped DAP in the elections in 2008. Why people of differing political ideologies always repeat this message of ‘futility’ is beyond me.

      Regards.

      • TNG says:

        Who said what Pakatan did was futile? They have successfully denied BN their 2/3 majority, just in case you have not realised that. That is progress and the opposite of futile.

        You call yourself a politician but apparently you do not understand the difference between Constituency Representation and Proportional Representation. Their pros and cons. With the Constituency Representation that Malaysia and UK have, you need to form blocks like the BN block or the PR block or Conservative or Labour (or a 3rd Liberal block) to be able to affect policy, and there are no places for individuals like what you are intending to do. Hence, I said what you are trying to do is futile.

        • KW Mak says:

          @ TNG

          If your interpretation of politics was all there was to it, then the efforts of Dato Sir Onn bin Jaafar and Tunku Abdul Rahman was equally futile. No doubt they failed, yet today we celebrate and draw inspiration from their efforts of trying to change the mindset of Malaysians during their time.

          So I guess we will have to agree to disagree about whether my efforts were futile, because I certainly don’t see politics the way you do.

          Regards.

          • TNG says:

            I am merely cooly analyzing what’s happening without any emotional attachment and not saying you shouldn’t do what you did. For all I care, anyone can do what they wanted as long as it’s within the law and there is no law to bar you from doing what you did

            IMO, what you did is more of an emotional outburst and the only visible outcome is some personal satisfaction. Strategically and tactically, it has zero effect whatsoever on the present Malaysian political landscape. If you disagree, I would like you to tell me what they are. Which government policy has been changed due to your efforts? It will be hard for you to swallow but there are none.

            I heard Mahathir once famously said to Lim Kit Siang….treated as a dog barking in the jungle. In other word, you can shout as loud as you wanted but it will have zero effect on how BN runs the country. Your situation is similar because you are merely a lone voice with no party (BN or PR) to back you up.

            Unless you have a magic wand that can change Malaysia’s political system from present “Constituency Representation” to “Proportional Representation”, there will be no change to your situation. What I said has nothing to do with what is right or wrong but just merely coldly stating facts.

            Having said all that, what you did was commendable because you are putting time and effort in doing what you believe is right. But unfortunately, zero strategy and tactical value.

            BTW, you shouldn’t compare with Tunku Abdul Rahman because in his time, the political landscape of Malaysia was totally different from what we have today. It’s comparing apples and oranges.

          • KW Mak says:

            @ TNG

            Change does not happen overnight, and I’m not so arrogant to believe that merely by running for office, I would change the way things work.

            And it doesn’t have to be me that makes the changes. Everything that I have fought for is now public knowledge and serves as a foundation for anyone else who would like to take up the cause. You don’t need to start from scratch because the groundwork has been done.

            Also, running for office gave me enough publicity that certain important people took notice. Indeed, I have made many new friends whom I otherwise would not have met had I not run for office. These are people with information and documents that will further the causes that I stood for.

            If what I did earns me the descriptive label ‘emotional outburst and the only visible outcome is some personal satisfaction’ from you, so be it.

            Regards.

          • TNG says:

            KW Mak. From my understanding, you know what you did will not have any impact but you still do it. The only reason I could think of, you are passionate about your cause. Since passion is an emotional state, it is not wrong for me to say you did it more for emotional reasons. And things done for emotional reasons are usually rewarded with emotional satisfaction and not tactical gain. Hence I said what I said before.

            Unfortunately people who feel strongly about something and are not willing to compromise will not get very far in politics. Politics is a dirty game and it’s all about horse-trading and making compromises. There is no place for a person with integrity because by its very definition, a person with integrity can’t make compromises. It’s easy to have integrity if you have no access to power or not gotten a taste of power. Once [you have] gotten power or within grips of power, it is not easy to maintain integrity and that’s why I see Pakatan’s integrity going downhill since 2008. They are now acting more like politicians playing dirty political games instead of acting like more righteous persons.

            For your willingness to speak out for what you believe, you have integrity and I salute you. And I can imagine the type of abuses you get from die hard Pakatan supporters face-to-face. I said that because I too have issues close to my heart which is some of the lies by Pakatan. And Lynas is one of the biggest there is and when I post on public forum like Lowyat using logic and science to counter the lies, I got plenty of cyber abuses from die hard Pakatan supporters also.

          • KW Mak says:

            @ TNG

            Passion and integrity will not let you get power and would not allow you to make the changes to society, yet those who compromise and have no integrity are rewarded with power to screw people over. Oh the irony. :)

            Society tells me to do what my conscience tells me. Society also tells me to not rock the boat less I be victimised by the powers that be. Society is condescending on what ideals people should adopt for the betterment of society. Society celebrates freedom of thought.

            You have been chided for your stand on Lynas, yet you chide me for my simple act of running for office because it will not achieve anything. How does you having a stand on Lynas achieve anything? How do any of us having a stand on any issue affect anything?

            Such is society’s logic on standards. It is full of contradictions and silliness. We see it and realise the stupidity of it but we embrace it because it is easier to be stupid along with everyone else. Why? Because we can’t reconcile between long term and short term gains. Saving for the future or experiencing pleasure now.

            Evolution will punish us for being selfish: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2013/evolution-will-punish-you-if-youre-selfish-and-mean/

            Standing up for people’s rights will get you punished by the powerful now: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden

            The elections have come and gone. I am still here engaging people who would question me about my research on PJ land titles while many of the other independent candidates have just faded into obscurity.

            I do this whether society approves or not because I value the long term gain more than I fear the short term loss.

            Regards.

      • neptunian says:

        I think what you are doing is great. One has to work within the system while trying to change it for the better. There is no doubt that the system in Malaysia is totally eschewed, but someone somewhere has to actually take action to make a change. Just talking about it is the actual “waste of time”.

        For your action, I salute you.

        • KW Mak says:

          @ neptunian

          Thank you. One of the things I learned from a workshop by Loyar Burokkers (on human rights) was that it is important to push and test the system to see how far it will go. Even if the results do not favour you, the public will notice the efforts.

          This then opens up the issue to public discourse, which gets everyone thinking. For anything to become acceptable, there must be a public consensus on the issue, which has to stem from public discourse. There may be disagreements in the short term, but as time goes by and more of these cases are put forth and brought to public attention, public consensus will take shape.

          Regards.

        • TNG says:

          Malaysian political system is such that, unless you are in a bloc like either BN or PR, whatever you do has no bearing on Malaysian politics.

          The opposite of the Malaysian system would be “Proportional Representation”. In that system, KW Mak has a talking chance of getting into parliament and have some influence on the nation’s politics. If you want proof, just look at countries like France where nutcases and extremists can be elected and appear in the national newspaper. (Btw, I certainly am not saying Mak is one, just using it as an illustration.)

    • TNG says:

      Mr. Mak. If you re-read my post, you will notice that I repeated the word “emotion” several times. What I get from exposing the lies by Pakatan about Lynas is personal satisfaction which is an emotional state of mind. What you get out of yours is similar. There is zero strategic and tactical importance. And I will repeat by saying that, if Malaysia had proportional representation, you might have a chance to speak in parliament as an MP by going independent. Unfortunately for you, Malaysia doesn’t have that. I call a spade a spade without the sugar coating but which you perceive as ‘chill’.

      Another thing I got out of my Lynas experience is, it confirms [that] Pakatan [leaders are] first and foremost politicians and like all politicians including those from BN, they are prone to play the typical politician’s dirty games including lies and twisting facts etc purely to gain votes. So I wasn’t at all surprised at DAP telling you lies about them having gotten the ceramah permit when in actual fact, they hadn’t. [This] illustrates the lack of maturity of Malaysian voters. Many are so filled with blind hatred of BN (of course, with good reasons) that they can no longer think rationally and with a cool head. Instead, they will blindly believe everything Pakatan says as the gospel truth and nothing but the truth. That’s super naïve.

      • KW Mak says:

        @ TNG

        This is what you said right from the start: “Unless Malaysia has Proportional Representation, what you did is futile. It will get you nowhere. It’s just a waste of energy and money.”

        If you got something out of your Lynas experience, why is it that I can’t get something out of my experience from running for office?

        We appear to be talking in circles… haha. It’s fine if you don’t agree with what I do. You also don’t have to preach to me that your opinion is the only valid one. You have said your piece and I have said mine. To each their own.

        Regards.

  9. zamorin says:

    I believe anything done with conviction cannot be futile even though it might not be very obvious to others.

    It’s disappointing to hear that there were some voters who took to abusing you and your supporters. That’s disgusting just like how some Malaysians thought abusing Bangladeshis was the best way to protect our democracy.


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