Guan Eng: I'll still eat ‘char koay teow’ by the road, DAP will stay working class

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng speaks to Malay Mail in Putrajaya June 1, 2018. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng speaks to Malay Mail in Putrajaya June 1, 2018. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 — DAP has been in power as part of the Pakatan Harapan coalition for over three weeks now, but Lim Guan Eng said the party and its members are still labouring to reconcile this with its working-class roots.

“Yes, quite a transition, and many of us are still trying to get ourselves acclimatised to this new position of power, that ‘you are now the government of the day and the country depends on you,’” he said.

The DAP secretary-general was speaking on Friday evening to Malay Mail at the Finance Ministry's plush office in Putrajaya, which is far removed from his party's headquarters in the working-class and slightly seedy neighbourhood of Pudu here.

For Lim, his path to the finance minister’s post has seen him go from being jailed twice as an opposition leader — once for sedition and the other time under the Internal Security Act — to eventually becoming the Penang chief minister, before taking up a Cabinet position now.

“From Kajang to Komtar, and then from Komtar to Putrajaya,” he said.

He said DAP was fortunate because it has always been a working-class party.

“We are not a businessmen's party. We are not a towkay party.

But he said it would now be challenging to stay true to these origins because their position in power would invariably attract many different classes of people.

“But in essence our culture, our values will remain working class.

“The food we eat, hawker stall-lah. Where the food is the best, it's the hawker stalls or alleyways.”

Asked where he would prefer to eat now that he is finance minister, he again named the unassuming food stalls.

“Of course I will still be eating char koay teow by the roadside and the best chicken rice, whether you like it or not, is still in the hawker stalls. Not in the restaurants, not in the hotels.”

Lim said it was also important for his party — and Malaysia — to stop looking at issues through ethnic lenses.

He contrasted his party's philosophy with that of MCA, which he said still looked at issues from an ethnic Chinese perspective.

“For me I don't see myself as Chinese anymore. Why should the Chinese reporter think just because I am Chinese that I will spare the ECRL project,” he said in reference to a question posed to him by a reporter from China after he was announced as finance minister.

“We have got to look at it from the basis of whether it benefits Malaysia or not, and not whether it is from China. It does not matter.”

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