N34 – PAYA TERUBONG
Despite The Odds
Yeoh Soon Hin got acquainted with DAP and was recruited into the DAP when he met Nga Kor Ming. Both of them were students in the Law Faculty of the University of Malaya. Like many others, Yeoh witnessed injustice and corruption entrenched in Malaysia. The DAP became his calling and his focus in life.
While Nga is now known as one of the most charismatic speakers on stage as thousands throng to hear him speak; Yeoh has since become the DAPSY chief of Penang and the Assemblyperson of Paya Terubong.
Despite having being exposed to the DAP since his high school days, it was only in 2001 that Yeoh joined the party. It was a time when the party was in its lowest with party heavyweights like Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh losing their respective parliamentary seats. Despite the lack of support given to the DAP then, Yeoh joined to find a way to empower the party.
“A lot of my friends told me I was stupid as I could have gotten a lot more by joining a BN component party, but it wasn’t about money, it was doing what is right,” says Yeoh.
When elections came around the corner, no opposition candidate wanted to stand in Paya Terubong, which was seen as a BN stronghold. Yeoh decided that he would volunteer himself to take on the formidable task of wresting the Paya Terubong state seat from BN.
The problem with Paya Terubong was that it was large and densely populated. Under normal circumstances, it should have been divided into at least two separate constituencies.
When the results came out in 2004, Yeoh lost the seat by a mere 1,000 plus majority, so he was optimistic of his chances when the 2008 General Elections came about. Yeoh and 18 other DAP colleagues who contested in Penang in 2008 were able to win their respective seats, enabling the DAP to form a coalition government with PKR and PAS.
One of the first few things he noticed about his new role was a complete lifestyle change. He has less personal time now. Since March 8, 2008, he claims that he has never switched off his mobile phone.
When asked about the challenges he faces in Paya Terubong, Yeoh answers that Paya Terubong is the most populated constituency in Penang, with 10 JKKK (Jawatankuasa Kemajuan dan Keselamatan Komuniti) officials.
Yeoh considers his revival of abandoned projects like the Taman Cemerlang and Desa Aman apartments to be amongst his greatest triumphs. Recently a Chinese Daily voted Yeoh as one of two most hardworking assemblypersons in Penang.
When asked of the achievement, Yeoh humbly says, “It is probably because I have the biggest constituency in terms of population, I have to do the job of three Assemblypersons in order to make sure my constituents are happy.”
Yeoh will go into historybooks as the assemblyperson to finally witness the closing down of the rubber factory that has been an eyesore to the people of Paya Terubong for many years. The rubber factory has allegedly released harmful environmental pollutants into the air and water and many years. Under Barisan rule, even though BN leaders promised to deal with the issue of the factory, they were merely making empty promises.
Finally in 2012, the DAP has honored its pledge and the factory is shutting its doors for good. Yeoh and the State Government have worked tirelessly for this achievement and it has come to pass. Indeed, Yeoh was an assemblyman who promised change, and made it happen.
Yeoh recognizes also the challenges he faces with a hostile federal government which refuses to render aid to an opposition held state. The cash-strapped PR government is unable to facilitate as many developments and upgrades as the state government wishes due to financial constraints as the federal government is in charge of budget allocations for the federal states. One innovative solution is to compel private developers to widen roads as part of the conditions of their project approvals.
“We will work hard for the betterment of the people of Penang no matter what the challenges are,” Says Yeoh.