Supportive throughout the years, but no kneeling before Mahathir.
Contrary to what was widely reported, Federation of Malaysia Chinese Guilds Association lifetime honorary president Liew Poon Siak said he had never knelt before Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
In an interview with Malaysiakini and accompanied by Federation of Kwong Siew Malaysia president Ho Sai Cheong, Liew showed photographs and press cuttings of the event during which he was alleged to have done so while serving tea to the prime minister.
“In 2001, we organised an event in Putrajaya which hundreds of organisations attended. Ho was one of the organisers.
“During that event, we served tea to the PM but we did not kneel down. The children and I did not serve tea while kneeling down. I can show you the videos,” he said.
He also clarified that he did not wear a Manchurian outfit.
“I admit the children were wearing fake braids but it was the idea of their parents. The parents helped the kids to do their make-up. But no kneeling, definitely no kneeling,” he stressed.
He said the anecdote of him wearing a Manchurian outfit and kneeling down to serve tea was deliberately created by others in an attempt to vilify him, adding other Chinese associations were also circulating this version of the event.
He blames this on the rivalry between the Kuala Lumpur Chinese Assembly Hall (KLCAH) which he heads – a splinter of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) which claims the former lacks legitimacy.
Liew set up KLCAH after a failed bid for president of the KLSCAH in 1999 which was then known as the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.
Liew said he had organised five events in the past to which Mahathir was invited.
“I have been following Mahathir and have worked for him since 2000. Even after he retired and lost power, I still followed him. When he wanted to overthrow the then prime minister Abdullah (Ahmad Badawi), I helped his campaign.
“In the 2013 general election, Mahathir asked me to assist then prime minister Najib Abdul Razak so I organised a big Chinese New Year event in Bukit Bintang that attracted over 20,000 people.
“When he wanted to overthrow Najib, I also took risks and campaigned (for Pakatan Harapan) at the 14th general election.
Liew confirmed that he campaigned for Harapan despite being an MCA member.
“MCA people know where I stand. In the general election, I made no bones about helping him (Mahathir) including going to some places to understand the ground and pull in support.
“For the last 18 years, I never left Mahathir and worked for him behind the scene. I never asked for projects or money and only received two Datuk-ships on his recommendation,” said Liew.
He explained that an upcoming birthday dinner for Mahathir – the premier will turn 93 in July – which includes a tea-serving ceremony, was not meant to venerate Mahathir.
“We don’t glorify him even if he regains power, neither do we abandon him if he loses power. Many people don’t understand this and think we are adulating him now that he is prime minister again,” he said.
Love and respect
Rather, the five Chinese associations organising the dinner, which is slated to take place next month, is out of love and respect for Mahathir and not because of any personal agenda, he said.
“The response has been excellent. Groups that have registered are believed to have exceeded 200 and we have only 200 seats,” he said.
According to an announcement earlier this week, the dinner coupons will be sold at RM500 for each table.
It said the organisers have also collected RM100,000 donation from 25 sponsors and would be donating it to Tabung Harapan during the event.
Liew said Mahathir has agreed to attend the ceremony so he hoped the story about him kneeling down to serve tea will not affect the coming event.
“It is not true,” he said. – Malaysiakini