Hannah Yeoh’s book more about personal than political growth

The Malaysian Insight

Hannah Yeoh (in green baju kurung) yesterday lodged a police report against a Universiti Utara Malaysia lecturer for playing up her faith and accusing her party DAP of trying to push a Christian agenda. – Facebook pic, May 16, 2017.

SELANGOR Speaker Hannah Yeoh’s autobiography, which was launched in 2014, devotes more time explaining her anxiety as a young and restless woman searching for the right path in her career rather than trying to “Christianise” Malaysia.

The two-term DAP assemblyman for Subang also notes in her autobiography, Becoming Hannah: A Personal Journey, that not all Christians supported her bid for political office.

The autobiography is in the spotlight now after Universiti Utara Malaysia senior lecturer Dr Kamarul Yusoff had in a Facebook posting on May 10 used Yeoh as an example and accused DAP of hypocrisy, saying that the party only cared about separating religion from politics if it involves Islam.

“For DAP, separation of politics from religion should only be done if it is about Islamic matters. But if it involves other religions, such as Christianity, then they (DAP) are okay,” said Kamarul.

He also noted that Yeoh had urged other Christians to join politics to improve Malaysia based on the Christian model. The post was also carried in Harakahdaily and Utusan Malaysia.

“The writer used the expression of my personal faith as a Christian and in my personal writings as fodder to attack DAP. 

“Since then, various websites and media outlets have propagated similar allegations and some went as far as accusing DAP of having a Christian agenda based on my book,” said Yeoh, after lodging a police report against Kamarul.

In the book, Yeoh describes herself as apolitical and clueless about politics. She finds herself caught up in a chain of events, leading to her selection as a DAP candidate for the 12th general election, on March 8, 2008.

Her religious convictions come into play as she explains how and why she embraced Christianity as a college student, and how its teachings of loving and serving one’s country motivated her into standing for the elections, despite her fears and misgivings. 

She reckons that for someone like her, joining politics would have to be a divine calling, or she would not have the mental and emotional strength to last a day.

Yeoh talks about funding for her 2008 election campaign, noting that she only spent RM34,000, well below the legal cap of RM100,000 for a candidate contesting a state seat. 

Her 2008 campaign raised RM124,000 in total, the bulk of which were through donations from the public, by passing the box around at ceramah in typical DAP fashion.

Some funds were also donated by people she had never met before and whom she described in the book as “Christian businessmen”. She expressed wonder at the amount collected by a young and unknown candidate like her.

In the book, Yeoh mentions no funds came from religious organisations per se, and also records that the balance of the money after the campaign was used to finance operational costs at her service centre.

She also details how her friends – not party members – were the backbone of her campaign in terms of organising logistics and planning her campaign schedule.

Everything was done voluntarily and several on-the-fly moments are described as her young and inexperienced team figured out how to run an election campaign on the go.

The 111-page book only covers her first campaign and skims the surface of her new life as a state representative. It was published by independent publisher Strategic Information and Research Development Centre and is now in its seventh reprint.

And while Yeoh does write about speaking to audiences about her faith and personal journey, these speeches appear to be made in the closed context of Christian groups or at church meetings only.

She did urge more young people to join politics, more from the perspective of returning integrity, justice and fairness to governance in Malaysia, rather than to turn the country into a Christian one.

Yeoh’s book, however, only talks about faith in a personal context and not the party’s, and her frequent mention of God and faith were recorded as her own means of staying sane and focused in the turmoil of politics.

“The DAP has a Malaysian agenda and not a Christian one. As a practising Christian, I believe in the rule of law, justice, transparency, accountability, fairness and good governance.

“All these can be reflected in the legislative reforms I have pursued as an assemblyman and speaker of the state assembly. I reject corruption and abuses of power.

“These are the values I live by because of my faith in God,” Yeoh added. – May 16, 2017.

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