KOTA KINABALU, April 16 — Sabah MCA’s deputy chairman Datuk Francis Goh’s decision to enter politics a few years ago did not come as a surprise to those who know him.
The property tycoon dabbled in politics during the historical rise of Parti Bersatu Sabah in 1987, and is known in political circles for his work ethic and business acumen, something he honed during his 20-year absence from the political limelight in order to grow his business.
Since his re-appearance in 2014 as the party’s division chief for Penampang, the Beaufort-born Sino-Dusun has become a regular fixture in the area and is now set to contest the Kepayan state seat in the coming elections (GE14).
“When I left politics in 1994, I told myself that once I’ve earned enough, I will make a comeback and that enticement came in 2014 when MCA Penampang chief Datuk Paul Kong invited me to join the party as his deputy,” he said.
At that time, Goh was president of the Sabah Housing and Real Estate Developers Association (Shareda) and knew about the challenges that the business community in Sabah faced for over 20 years.
“There are a lot of policies that don’t serve the industry well which need to be rectified. I wanted to help but as Shareda president, I could only shout or bark, stage protests or walkouts, but they wouldn’t listen. They did not fear us because we were not influential figures.
“So I thought if I was within the political system, I would be in a better position to advise or make changes to business policies imposed by the government,” he said.
Among the things that he plans to pursue is the expedition of the development plan procedure which he said inefficient due to red tape and caused an unnecessary hike in prices.
He also wants to set up a special complaints bureau to deal with residential problems like drainage and rubbish collection.
Critics have said that Goh, a businessman with a successful record of property and housing projects, was in politics for the possible kickbacks and government contacts, but he is quick to dismiss such talk.
“I can honestly say that I don’t need it. I have a good land bank and every year, I develop new projects that are more than enough to sustain my business. I am already a notable businessman and successful in my ventures. I’ve always known that you need to be able to support yourself and the people when you get into this line,” he said.
Goh said he had spent the last four years listening to people’s problems and had spent a lot of money and time trying to figure out solutions, at the expense of his family time.
“My family, especially my wife, isn’t happy about my decision to enter politics now. They think we have a good life and time spent with the people is time away from the family. I convinced them of my ambitions and they have finally accepted it. I will give it a shot this election to see if I have the people’s mandate,” he said.
“But one good thing that has come out of all this is that I’ve lost a lot of weight — 15kg in the last couple of years,” he exclaimed, while pulling out a photo of himself last year.
Goh, a Penampang resident of over 30 years, has been peddling the Chinese majority Kepayan constituency, where the incumbent is former DAP native leader Dr Edwin Bosi who won the seat with a 7,287-vote majority in the last election.
When asked how he planned to win Chinese support for BN, Goh said the anti-BN sentiment has abated given the loss of momentum of the Pakatan Harapan alliance.
“I think they can see for themselves that the Opposition wave isn’t as strong as it was in the last general election and voting for the Opposition won’t bring the change that they want,” he said.
Goh said that he had been an Opposition sympathiser but felt being with the government is the right thing to do now.
“I think if I joined the Opposition, I could’ve won easily and handsomely. But after a few weeks, how do you serve the people without government support? I asked myself: Can I work as the Opposition? Did barking at the BN government while I was in Shareda help?
“As an Opposition representative, it would be frustrating to not be able to deliver your promises to the voters,” he said, adding that signs indicate that Sabah was still with the BN government.
On his likely opponent, DAP Sabah Women’s chief Jannie Lasimbang, Goh said she was at a disadvantage as one of the few native leaders in the Chinese-dominated DAP and constituency.
“She does not have the assistance she needs from the party leadership, and she can only focus on penetrating the local Kadazan kampungs. I think she can only hope to get votes from the Chinese who do not want to vote for BN,” he said.
When asked why people should vote for him, he said he had a proven track record of being service-centric, and for using his own money to help the cause.
“I think voters should choose their candidate before the party. If everyone in the country, all 21 million voters, chose great candidates with good principles, then the country will end up with the best people who have the interests of the people first.
“If you think a leader is corrupt, then use your votes and get rid of them in the coming election. But don’t punish a good candidate because of the party,” he said.