Citizen Nades’ Endorsements

By Cindy Tham

PETALING JAYA: US presidential candidate Barack Obama appears to be able to charm the crowd fairly well on his own. Still, there is no harm in boosting his popularity by getting big names to endorse him, the most famous of whom is probably talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.

On a far less glamorous scale in Malaysia, celebrities and organisations like chambers of commerce and business councils have lent their support to parties and candidates on different occasions. This election, R. Nadeswaran, more popularly known as Citizen Nades, is hopping on the bandwagon to endorse two candidates: the Barisan Nasional-MCA’s Datuk Lee Hwa Beng who is contesting for the Kelana Jaya parliamentary seat and the DAP’s Edward Lee who is gunning for the Bukit Gasing state seat.

“I’m not endorsing the party but the individual,” Nadeswaran stressed. That explains why Nadeswaran has endorsed a candidate each from the opposition and the ruling coalition. “I don’t care which party he is from,” said the deputy editor who has been heading theSun’s special reporting desk and has a column under the well-known byline, Citizen Nades.

Nadeswaran, 56, has been covering local government issues since he was a journalist at The Malay Mail in 1978. Many of his stories have been hard-hitting of local council and state government decisions that smack of corruption, abuse of power or that are an utter waste of taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ money.

Citizen Nades endorses Lee Hwa Beng and Edward Lee. All pix by Cindy Tham.It was in the course of reporting on these that he got to know Hwa Beng and Edward, both of whom Nadeswaran believes have established a good track record in dealing with local government issues and standing up for their respective community’s interests.

“Local council affairs affect how the people vote,” Nadeswaran said. “I don’t know any other candidates and their track record well enough,” he told in an interview on Feb 22. “I can’t think of anyone else. Although there are friends who are running in the election, I don’t know their track record,” he said. “But I’ve seen these two men from close quarters.”

From the grassroots
Nadeswaran got to know Edward five years ago when he started reporting on the Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (now city council). He recalled a conversation they had: “Edward told me we need independent people to represent the residents’ interests, who can speak up on behalf of the people. I said, ‘I’m with you!’”

At 59, Edward may be deemed a latecomer in politics. The retired businessman, who was in the shipping and freight forwarding business previously, only joined the DAP on Feb 1, less than two weeks before Parliament was dissolved to pave the way for the March 8 polls.

So why did he enter the fray? “I’m very concerned about where Malaysia is heading. Other than taking it up in Parliament, there are also larger issues at the local government and state assembly levels that affect the people’s lives,” he told on Feb 23. “I think it’s important that since I am familiar with these issues that I contribute to make a change.”

Edward Lee wants to take grassroots activism to the legislature.He is taking on BN-Gerakan’s Datuk Dr Lim Thuang Seng, the incumbent for the Bukit Gasing state seat (N34) which has 33,183 voters. Lim has been the state assemblyman for the past two terms. He garnered 13,057 votes in the 2004 general election, 4,081 more than the DAP’s John Chung Yoong.

Edward is no stranger to PJ folk. He is president of the Section 5 Residents’ Association (RA) and pro-tem president of the All PJ Pro Action Committee, a coalition of RAs formed to protest against the local council’s move to raise assessment rates which the coalition said was unjustified. He has been vocal about the PJ Draft Local Plan and is part of the campaign to prevent further development on Bukit Gasing.

Edward was also the vice-chairman of the Puchong Incinerator Relocation Committee, which lobbied to stop the project following concerns about the potential health hazard and environmental impact. The RM1.5 billion project was later relocated to Broga and scrapped in July 2007 because it was too costly.

He is also part of the Coalition Against Water Privatisation, which filed for a judicial review to make public the government’s concession agreement with Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) and the audit on its non-revenue water (NRW) reduction. Based on the deal, Syabas raised the water tariff in the Klang Valley by 15% in 2006, after it said it had succeeded in reducing NRW – lost through pilferage, leakage and faulty meters – by the required 5%, which the coalition is querying.

Edward’s attempt to move from grassroots activism to the state legislative assembly reflects the frustration some local communities have with the existing establishment.

“The RAs in PJ have been vocal in dealing with the local authority. It has come to a stage where the people must be given more voice,” he said. “I have confronted local government in the past, they have been very receptive, but in the end, they still did what they wanted to. It’s time for the people’s voice to be heard.”

Edward said he hoped to be able to make more noise as an elected representative. “If we (opposition) have sufficient members in the state assembly, we can oppose any unfair proposal to change the state laws. At the federal level, we can make changes through the private member’s bill.”

Constructive criticism
While Hwa Beng, 53, is no stranger to Subang Jaya, where he has been the state assemblyman for four terms, he now has to convince the larger Kelana Jaya parliamentary constituency to support him. Kelana Jaya (P104), which has 79,648 voters, includes the Subang Jaya and Seri Setia state seats.

There is a three-way fight for the Kelana Jaya parliamentary seat this election. Hwa Beng is facing independent candidate Lim Peng Soon, author of the motivational book Dare to Fail, and Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s Gwo Burne Loh, who took the video recording of lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam allegedly brokering the appointment of judges in a telephone conversation with a senior judge, said to be former Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim. Both Lingam and Ahmad Fairuz have denied having the telephone conversation.

Nadeswaran, who has known Hwa Beng since the 1980s when he was a PJ councillor, said he was endorsing Hwa Beng for his efforts in addressing the problems faced by his constituency.

Datuk Lee Hwa Beng at his operation centre in Subang Jaya.One example is Hwa Beng’s role in the decision to scrap the plan to build a food court in SS18 in Subang Jaya several years ago. As a councillor in the Subang Jaya Municipal Council, Hwa Beng chaired the public hearing on the move to set up the food court on police reserve land, Nadeswaran said. The decision to approve the food court was reversed following the objections raised at the public hearing, he added. Nadeswaran cited another example where Hwa Beng did not support the council’s decision to allow only a selected consortium of pest control operators to provide their services in Subang Jaya.

Despite all these, there will be some quarters in the constituency who think he can do more. Hwa Beng said he would have more clout in influencing policymaking if he were elected to Parliament.

Other than addressing the problems faced by the constituency, such as the request for more vernacular schools, traffic congestion and building a Light Rail Transit line without inconveniencing any neighbourhood, Hwa Beng acknowledges that he would have to do more as a Member of Parliament (MP).

The BN must reinvent itself to allow its MPs to criticise the government or the people would be inclined to vote for opposition MPs who are more vocal, Hwa Beng told on Feb 16. “The people will say, ‘What’s the use of getting an MP who cannot speak up for the people’s interests?’”

The MCA central working committee member said there should be space for constructive criticism in the BN and Parliament. “If I get elected into Parliament, I want to play a role, if I can. It’s not easy but I want to,” he said. “I also want to be able to accept criticism. If I worry about being criticised, I will work harder. If no one makes noise, I can become lazy.”

Some may see this as a bold promise while others will dismiss it as foolhardy, especially given the BN whip which brooks no dissent from within the coalition.

“I’ve heard him speak out against the PJ and Subang Jaya councils,” Nadeswaran said. “If there is going to be a dissenting vote in Parliament, if there is no whip, I think it will be Hwa Beng.”

Nades the Citizen
Despite all the good things he has to say about the two candidates, Nadeswaran won’t be able to vote for either of them. He is registered to vote in the Klang parliamentary and Kota Alam Shah state constituencies.

“I know I’m going to be accused of all kinds of things but I think the least you can do is to identify decent people who can represent the interests of the people. Otherwise we would have riff-raffs being representatives in Parliament or the state assembly,” he said.

“This is not Citizen Nades the columnist, this is Nadeswaran the citizen, who is endorsing them,” he insisted, despite it being pointed out to him that the public would recognise the endorsement because it was coming from the public persona of Citizen Nades and not any other individual they had barely heard of.

Asked how the endorsement would work, he said, “I tell my friends I’m endorsing them. The candidates can also tell others that.”

Edward said he might invite Nadeswaran to be a guest speaker at his ceramah. Commenting on the endorsement, he quipped, “I must be doing something right.”

Said Hwa Beng: “Citizen Nades has been very outspoken on local authority issues. I have been a councillor for nearly 20 years. The endorsement is an endorsement of my credibility in the local authorities. It encourages me to be more transparent and accountable to my constituency.”

But what if the candidates, after they are elected, fail to live up to expectations? “I will have the privilege and honour to whack them in public!” said Nadeswaran. Those who have followed Citizen Nades’ columns will know he will be true to form.

9 responses to “Citizen Nades’ Endorsements”

  1. WHAT nonsense endorsing two opponents at the same time – better not to endorse any at all.
    A politician must have integrity at all times, doesn’t matter which party he/she belongs to. They must speak out his/her convictions and not toe party leaders’ commands especially in the Parliament when casting votes on reform or a bill.
    As BN MPs must vote what the party says – why vote for them then???

  2. I am a residence of SS 18 Subang Jaya. On numerous occasions I hv witnessed Dato Lee fought for the benefits of SS residence.

    A case in example was in 2006 when MPSJ approved the construction of Futsal Court in SS 18/5 playing fiend. This small padang is situated within the semi D exclusive area and is only accesable to the rich within that area. We the residence of other SS 18, SS 14 who shares a much bigger field in SS 18/4 requested the relocation of that futsal court, Dato Lee acknowledged and got the field constructed in Padang SS 18/4. That futsal court is the MOST ACTIVE court in the whole of Subang jaya.

    IN 2005, the Pasar Tani who carries out their business in SS 13 Industrial area wanted to move to SS 18/1A along Persiaran Jengka (where Bazaar Ramaddan occupies once a year with flourishing business) , again , we the residence brought up the issue with Dato Lee and MPSJ. MPSJ has agreed to such move because being in SS 13 Industrial area does not generate good business for the Pasar tani operator. Once again, Dato Lee has the residence at heart and objected to such move. With the press and public voicing out the objection, MPSJ aborted the move.

    The Subang Ria is an old issue, how long can the residence of Subang jaya and USJ hold against the developer, SIME Properties, to develop that GRREN LUNG into Commercial, is yet to see. But Dato Lee, while he is still the DUN, state assemblyman for SUbang jaya has called upon a Public Forum and let the masses voiced out their objection. We the warga of Subang jaya and USJ succeeded in objecting the development.

    Dear Dato Lee, you hv our blessing and votes to scale new high to parliament, but most importantly , still fight for our GREEN LUNG of subang Jaya over your dead body (which you used to phrase in yr speech). That piece of land in Subang Ria is ;Sew Yok; Lean meat in Sime Properties ‘s business eye.

    May God Bless You

  3. i respect nades, whether as a journalist or as just another citizen like me. he has a keen eye for details and is very shrewd.

    however, i have to suggest that nades has forgotten somethings that hwa beng has failed in – eg the belly dancing trip and police station in the park and bn container in the park…

  4. Nades is right. we do need a few good men to start an avalanche in changing for the better. Your endorsement is the beginning for your many readers.

  5. Citizen Nades may have been very vocal about local authority issues, but it seems that the Sun is already toning down on criticism against BN government. Perhaps he could consider moving to Malaysiakini or Malaysia Votes.

    Some say Hwa Beng has been doing a good job at local level. The question is whether he has spoken up and done something even at state level, in particular cases concerning body snatchings or tearing down of kuils and temples? These are Selangor issues that do not require him to go to Parliament to speak out against. And if he has done something but no one has listened to him, then what is his value in BN?

    Further, Nades did qualify Hwa Beng’s position, i.e. if there is a dissenting vote in Parliament (from BN camp) it will be Hwa Beng, provided there is no whip.

    I find that rather amusing, because we should be realisitic. There will always be a whip, no matter how small the issue is. And certainly not if the Opposition makes grounds this time round, which makes it more important for BN to vote along party discipline, regardless of how racist, bigoted or self serving the amendments are. I wonder if Hwa Beng can truly be more effective in Parliament then?

  6. I am uncertain why Citizen Nades would still endorse Dato’ Lee in light of his unwitting comments made (and published by the Sun) in relation to MBSJ local draft plan to require churches to apply for annual permits to operate in shoplots and factory outlets.

    I have written two comments cum letters (which has not been published by Dato’ Lee) at his website and as yet, I doubt I am getting any response from him.

    Should wish to read it, feel free to read it at the following:

  7. I’ve seen Hwa Beng in some Q & A sessions with residents of Subang Jaya, even as recently as 1 month ago. There were a number of instances when the residents put forth questions to him as to why certain unwarranted developments or public activities were taking place, & he could only answer – “I am powerless”, because, either “state exco don’t want to endorse” or “Prasarana Mgmt don’t want to meet me”. To this, one of the floor members asked, “If we are here, and powerless, and you are there, and equally powerless, then why did we put you there in the first place?” To this, Hwa Beng could only give a blank stare.

    That is the truth. I personally don’t think him being in Parliament is going to make a difference. If the present BN power structure remains – there is no way he could make a difference. Take a look at those who tried :- Loh Seng Kok (he should know this one – after all, he is taking over his place), Devamany, Sharir, Zaid Ibrahim – where are all these who tried to raise legitimate public issues in Parliament? Hwa Beng has always been a “safe” politician. Whilst I admit he does work hard, but that alone is not enough to put a stop to the many other ills plaguing M’sia today, of which, the prime issue is, CORRUPTION.

    If anything, YB, what would YOU do to eradicate this accursed ill? What are your plans, if you have any?

    Or none whatsoever? You have to play your cards right too, in the long run.

    He has raised a lot of Issues- any Rains after the thunders?
    -Bulletin board?
    -Audited Account of Puas (Selongor State Water Authority)
    -Domestic Tariff for Highrise & Condo
    if anyone following a sub-committee under him – CAHC – they were promoting Private meters before Condo user can enjoy Domestic Rate and talking Saybas need to have new legislation
    before Highrise/condo can have individual meters. However, the individual meters are stipulated in HDA (Housing Act) long time ago together with Electric and Gas meters!
    They are provoking residents to act upon the Developers on the matter of Water meter when the law is already in the ACT!!

    Is the judiciary review on reveal of Water Concessionaires agreement an effort of his?

    I cannot be convinced there is sufficient proven record for Edwards’ credit!
    What had been done by CAHC is a nuisance on the Individual water meters without disclosing the problem of new water deposits and installation charge, pushing Residents to push Developer to switch from Bulk meter to Individual instead of law to push Syabas …