Friday, May 1, 2009

SELAYANG: LEONG Sees Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Terence Netto | Mar 5, 08 4:50pm

It took 50 years for William Leong, PKR parliamentary candidate for pkr weekly pc 310108 william leong“Only a Malay leader can do it and when he came along to attempt to do it, I felt that I could no longer hold back but must plunge into the fray,” said Leong, 51, a lawyer and the party treasurer.

Selayang, to commit to a political vision – that of Anwar Ibrahim’s attempt “to transform the political landscape of Malaysia through the practice of multi-racial politics”.

After graduating from the University of Singapore in the early 1980s, he practised corporate law, serving causes like greater transparency and accountability in public affairs, especially on privatisation issues, alongside DAP stalwart like Lim Kit Siang.

However, he declined to commit to any party because of the absence of one that fitted his take on the Malaysian political scene and its reform.

“I knew that the race-based politics were headed up a cul de sac. I did not think that any party in Malaysia was wholly free of it. So I held back and waited until Anwar came on strongly in favour of multi-racial politics last year,” he explained.

pkr selayang talks 040308 william leong on lorryLeong had intermittent contacts with Anwar while the latter was finance minister between 1990 and 1998. The encounters were over matters of corporate law, but gave him a sense of Anwar’s leadership qualities.

So when Anwar returned from a lecture tour in in late 2006 and started campaigning for PKR in anticipation of an early general election, Leong decided to end years of sporadic quasi-political activity and join PKR.

“Mentally, I was attuned to continuing with my legal practice for another five years after which I would relax with golf. But when Anwar sounded the bugle call of multi-racialism, I decided at the age of 50 to throw overboard those notions and get to work.

“My life is nearly over. I’m doing this for my children,” said this father of three kids ranging in age from 11 to 17 years.

Visibility among voters

It helped that he was legal adviser to a group of people in a new village in Rawang. In 2005, they had banded together to prevent the construction of a high-tension transmission tower by power producer Tenaga Nasional near their housing estate.

The 650 mainly Chinese families who have been staying in Kampong Terantang since early 1950s were against the tower being installed so close to their houses, for fear of radiation.

rawang anti high tension cable walk 211007 crowd and towerThey lobbied their state assemblyperson and Barisan Nasional component parties to get Tenaga to reroute the cables through the nearby Commonwealth Forest Reserve. The matter has since been taken to court.

The three-year lobby gave Leong visibility among the 6,000-odd people who live in Terantang, in the Selayang parliamentary ward.

So when he was selected to contest the seat, he had a head start over MCA opponent Lee Li Yew, who was drafted after party big gun Chan Kong Choy was not fielded.

“We have had a good reception in all three communities,” said Leong of PKR’s campaign in Selayang, a mixed-race constituency of nearly 80,000 voters and a traditional BN stronghold.

When he campaigned in the Umno bastion of Kampong Kenanga just across the road from the PKR operations centre in Rawang, the reception gave Leong hope that the ground is shifting.

“It’s the same everywhere PKR has gone throughout the country. People want change. I have not waited all these years in vain,” smiled Leong, as if sensing a light at the end of a long tunnel.

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