FMT EXCLUSIVE PETALING JAYA: The son of Gerakan co-founder Tan Chee Koon , Tan Kee Kwong has spent much of his life as a doctor before joining politics through Gerakan in 1995.
He then went on to assume the role of Segambut MP for three terms before it was given to Gerakan member Ma Woei Chyi in the 2008 general election. Segambut now belongs to DAP's Lim Lip Eng.
Once land and cooperatives deputy minister (1999-2004), Tan also sat on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), questioning allegations of government mismanagement during his tenure.
He then quit Gerakan in September 2008 to join PKR, and has since remained an outspoken critic of the Najib administration. Tan currently sits on the party's central leadership council, and has been known to call PKR a “party of the future”.
In the final piece of the two-part interview, Tan talks to FMT about his experience in the Gerakan party and his disillusionment with the ruling government.
FMT: How did you join Gerakan?
Tan: In 1994, I was working quietly as a general practioner and looking after my aged parents. I was also doing some social work at Pusat Bantuan Sentul. I was then headhunted by Alex Lee, Gerakan vice-president (at the time), and joined the party two months before the 1995 general election.
Segambut was a new area in 1995. So I was asked to be a candidate. At that time I was under the mistaken notion that BN was doing okay and Mahathir Mohamad was all right.
In 1995, I won with a majority of 12,500 (votes). In 1999, when Najib (Tun Razak) won in Pekan by 200 votes, I won by 8,500. At that time, the BN got a hammering because of the Sodomy I (case). And then in 2004, I won with a massive majority of 17,000.
Did you join Gerakan because your father was one of the co-founders of the party?
(I joined) because it has a multi-racial approach to politics, which I believe in strongly. And of course, Gerakan started as an opposition party.
Were you in politics before 1995?
No. Never. I never joined any other party before Gerakan. Although politically aware, I was never a card-carrying member of any party.
You were in Gerakan until 2008. Why did you leave Gerakan?
Well, there are two reasons. One, I cannot respect the current leadership of Gerakan. (Minister in the Prime Minister's Department) Koh Tsu Koon is totally ineffective as a leader. Although he is in charge of KPI (Key Performance Indicators), he failed his own KPI in Penang.
You (Koh Tsu Koon) were a Chief Minister for four terms, but you contested and lost by a massive majority of 10,000. So if you failed your KPI, how can you be a minister of KPI? As politicians, our KPI is to win elections, (hence) my own KPI is very good.
And secondly, and more importantly, Umno 'tak boleh pakai'. We (other parties in the Barisan Nasional) try to talk until our saliva drips -- talk outside cannot, so talk inside (proper channels), (but) it's wasting our time! They (Umno) are just not interested. Honestly from the bottom of my heart, they are totally not interested.
They want to use the BN component parties (as) a rubber stamp (for) their cause. And now it is very clear that Umno has got only two 'perjuangan': to 'gasak' and 'sapu' as fast as possible, and play racial and religious politics.
So how can I support an entity like that?
You were in BN for 13 years, so during those years, you tried...
Many, many times. Not just myself. The MCA, MIC, PPP. (They all) tried; but it was no use. Bloody waste of time. And now Chua Soi Lek (asks for) equal voice. Please lah brother, they will never give you equal voice.
One example was (Gerakan's discussions on the) ISA. Many years ago, Gerakan made a lot of noise about the ISA. We debated about this, until the order came from Umno to (former Gerakan president) Dr Lim Keng Yaik to tell him to shut up.
Why be a politician when you cannot say anything? Only Umno can say, (but) you cannot say.
So you're saying Umno 'tak boleh pakai?'
They are irrelevant to today's needs (and) everything. The prime minister himself doesn't even follow the guidelines. He openly tried to bribe the people in the Hulu Selangor and Sibu (by-elections), and he dares to say that he is taking care of the poor and the needy! I don't know how he's got a face to do that!
More like rape the poor and the needy. (Former finance minister) Daim (Zainuddin) said the other day, “Oh, we must have a corruption-free government (and) no hanky-panky.” He should be the last person qualified to talk like that! They think we were born yesterday, that we are only two years old!
(In comparison) yesteryear's leaders (were) different. When my father was in the Opposition, he started a hospital called Sentosa Medical Centre. In 1972, (former prime minister) Tun Abdul Razak came and opened it. This is what politics is about: about changing your thoughts and your mindset. Nothing personal (involved). Nowadays, if they don't stab you in the back, you're lucky already.
Last time, the Seenivasagam brothers used to argue with Tunku (Abdul Rahman) like mad in Parliament, but later, they (were seen) eating and drinking tea together. What is happening now?
And Umno has strayed far, far away from its original struggle.
What do think was its original struggle?
It was to fight for the poor and the needy. They championed the cause of the teachers, the fishermen, paddy planters, and so on. Umno was a very poor party. Now (if) you go and look at its AGM, look at the type of cars they are driving. Now, their struggles are all about finding contracts.