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Friday, March 7, 2008

In praise of Marrow

From the humble kampung in Bukit Bintang, Dr Cheah Wing Yin's character was forged by tender but firm hands. The DAP candidate for DUN Damansara Utama tells GetanMP-PJ Utara about the inspiration and the journey that led him to this platform today

“Thank goodness, he spanked the hell out of me when he did,” Dr Cheah Wing Yin reminisces. “I might have well been a very successful, conniving pirated-DVD lord today!”

The good doctor is talking about his dad, his one great influence in life. He died last year on May 13. The following month in June, he joined the DAP.

“In a way, it begins to complete his lessons.”

Dr Cheah is contesting against BN's Victor Gu for the DUN Damansara Utama seat this elections.

“Dad was a strict disciplinarian. And he lived that role, too. Idealistic, upright, and never swayed to temptations. He arrived from China when he was 16, and not long after was swept in the nationalist tide. He joined the communist movement, but found them too leftist for his liking. He had to flee from the group in Pahang and made his way to in KL.

“Dad worked as a mechanic in Lam Soon factory. He did two shifts to make ends meet. But he made time for us. Weekends at the Weld swimming pool – those are cherished moments; we would have noodles after that, which for us is a special treat. He was strict and he was warm.

“And education – now that he never skimped. Made sure we had tuition in our formative years. He instilled an ethic that I hold dearly today.”

Social Awareness
“Universiti Malaya was a hive of political thought and expression during my student years. There was the socialist movement, student union activism, free speech. Once during the Baling Demonstrations of 1974, the entire medical cohort skipped class to attend speeches at the Speaker's Corner. But professors were more liberal then too. They gave us replacement classes!

“But the key is this – each and every one of us turned out well. We didn't have the UUCA (University and University Colleges Act) to regulate how students should behave for their own future. It's a farce.”

“I was active in school, and very involved in the Varsity Christian Fellowship. Today, these friends are in various positions in society playing constructive roles. Some have become pastors. It is this people who are my network today; they have been very supportive of my decision to run in the elections.”

Rank and File
And yet, Dr Cheah is not one to be seen resting in the aircon comforts of an office. Volunteers have consistently voiced their admiration for the man who's up at the crack of dawn and doing his walkabouts meeting the common folks at the markets and homes. During the conversation, the cellphone repeatedly rings from well-wishers and supporters.

“I'm very comfortable with common people. I am them. I had always been actively involved in NGOs such as Rumah Harapan and the Malaysian Mental Health Association. Then there are other more professional-related bodies. But working with people, being with people – it's a natural occupation.

“If anything, I draw my strength from the rank-and-file. When I decided to join the DAP, it was because of the rank-and-file.”

Dr Cheah plans to keep his practice, at least for now. “I like the job. Plus honestly, I still have mouths to feed. I still have to see a kid through school in New Zealand.”

He laughs when you ask him about life after the campaign: “These days, I'm not sure if my wife still recognises me. I'm up at 6am and only back way past midnight.

“I'd love to do a trip with her and the kids. I've been thinking of hitting North, slowly working our way through the little towns; stay in those wongfeihong hotels or resthouses. That would be nice. To make trips like that, we get to understand a little more of this country each time... a fresher perspective.

“It will certainly help me in my work.”

Yes it will. It will certainly forge your work as a State Assemblyman, Dr Cheah.

Additional info:
DAP for PJ

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