By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
Mak Soi Kun, one of the 12 candidates having won a directly elected seat in the September legislative election, is looking forward to set foot in the legislature as a lawmaker for the first time in his life.
As the candidate No. 1 of the list Macau Guangdong Alliance, Mr Mak succeeded to get the support from 10,348 Macau voters representing 7.3 percent of the total valid votes, despite his face was “somehow” new to most of the locals.
Hence, he was the ninth candidate to win the race, immediately after Lee Chong Cheng and immediately before Ung Choi Kun. Lee and Ung are both incumbent lawmakers and were the second candidates on their own lists.
In the 2005 direct legislative election, Mr Mak, also comes from the construction industry, was the fourth candidate on the same list as incumbent lawmaker Fong Chi Keong.
Speaking to the Macau Daily Times in his construction company’s office in Nape, Mr Mak denied that he was to replace Mr Fong in this year’s direct legislative election (Mr Fong changed to run for the indirect ballot), but said he was thankful to Mr Fong for giving him the chance to learn four years ago.
Reporter: It was your first time to run for the direct legislative election as the first candidate, and you managed to gather more than 10,000 votes. Did the result surprise you?
Mak Soi Kun: I was quite satisfied [with the result]. I think the current political environment in Macau is you get what you paid for. I have been involved in youth work and used to lead students from eight local high schools to rural areas in mainland China as a kind of experiential education. After the trip the teachers said over 70 percent of those participating students had changed their learning attitude. This was really a motivation to me. Also, after the handover I organised training courses for construction workers, and in the recent years I have been working on environmental protection. I feel that my work is being recognised by society.
Running for the election was a different thing. During the campaign, I and my team were further convinced that we had made a right decision [to run for the election]. We visited almost every corner of Macau and talked to people from different sectors. They were happy to talk to us and tell us what the actual problems in society were. I have two master’s degrees and one of them was in sociology. At the beginning I just hoped to apply what I had learnt on my work, but gradually I discovered another kind of happiness besides doing business. The reward is not just about making money, but being satisfied spiritually.
By chatting with the people we realised what they needed and from there we built up our political platform. We have confidence and capability to change the situation. The people also believed that our experience in social work would be able to help them.
We could also see an improvement in the election culture in Macau. The voter turnout increased, more people registered to become voters, and most importantly when we went to different districts to talk to people, they would really tell us what they demanded as if it was a question and answer game.
I started from the bottom in the construction industry. I understand the demand of grass-root workers. I am like most of the Macau people who strive to improve their lives by working very hard. It was like Macau who was a small fishing village before. As long as you have positioned yourself right, you must have a better future.
My parents were street hawkers. I learned in my childhood that I had to be independent and upgrade myself in order to go to a higher level and change my fate. “Knowledge changes fate” is what I want to share with young people. Despite I grew up in a poor family, I knew that I must have to keep learning in my life, that’s why I’m still studying at this age, a PhD in Management Science and Engineering from a mainland university. As long as you are persistent enough, there are plenty of opportunities in Macau.
I was born in Macau, I have to stand up to face the problems in society. I was chosen by the members of the Macao Jiangmen Communal Society [Jiangmen is a city in Guangdong and some Macau residents were originated from there] and supported by a lot of associations to be the first candidate of the Macau Guangdong Alliance.
The most important thing in this election was the victory of Macau residents. The ballot showed that they had a more mature state of mind, and they knew that they had to cast their votes from a pragmatic perspective.
R: Was there any room for improvement during the entire election process?
Mr Mak: Through chatting with a lot of people we realised that to make Macau a better place wasn’t as easy as we used to think. We must have to contribute together and listen to the people’s opinions. We need to help them solve problems and urge the government to improve. If we’re running for the next direct legislative election again, we learned that we have to emphasis our goals and beliefs first once the campaign begins.
Also, through dealing with other candidates I took my international perspective to a higher level and I have learned from the experience in order to enhance our campaign activities and service quality next time.
R: Last time you partnered with Fong Chi Keong in the direct legislative election but failed to enter the Assembly. What did you learn from it and how did it change your approach in the campaign this year?
Mr Mak: First I need to thank Mr Fong for giving me an opportunity to be the fourth candidate on the list. But due to the [proportional representation] voting system adopted by Macau, it’s almost impossible for the fourth candidate to win.
But I learned what the meaning and aim were in running for the election, and what I should and should not do. People’s demands tend to be pragmatic and so we have to follow, and at the same time we cannot go against public opinions. We must have to put civilians as top priority and cannot use the same old mindset on new things. The experience was very beneficial to me and thus I succeeded.
R: The Legislative Assembly will commence very soon. Did you do any preparations or are you working on any plans at the moment?
Mr Mak: I am looking at opening at least one lawmaker office in order to collect public opinions. I have also made appointments with some experts and scholars to meet them regularly and listen to what they think about the development of Macau. So the communication is two ways – people can come to the office to tell us what they think and I also go to people directly to gather opinions. The office must be located in a place where grass-root civilians live. And the opening hours will not be from 9am to 5pm, but at night time so that people can come to us after work.
It is also very important that people can keep an eye on us and check if we have done something improper.
But in the beginning, livelihood will be my major focus. “Clothing, food, housing and transportation” tell you what livelihood means and are supported by money – that is the economy. Macau’s economy is in a very small scale and so there are barely medium enterprises, but “mini enterprises”. By law a person who owns a company and hires only two staff is still a boss. A man opened a noodle shop and when he is at the cashier he is the boss, but when he is inside the kitchen cooking noodles or at night cleaning the floor, he is a worker. If the policies can favour more to those mini enterprises so that they can have more business and employees can get their salaries, there will be no problem in people’s livelihood. It’s not wrong to favour big gaming companies, but it has to be adjusted from time to time when society changes.
Facing the global economic crisis the foreign investors left Macau so easily and did not show any corporate social responsibility. Yet, small enterprises are likely to stay in Macau when things happen and so society will be more stable.
R: What do you think about you being named as the successor of Fong Chi Keong?
Mr Mak: My participation in the election was supported by the members of the Macao Jiangmen Communal Society and a lot of associations. And the votes I obtained showed the recognition given by the Macau public. I represent every local resident’s rights and interests, especially of those who had voted for me. The civilians are my boss. I run for the election independently this time.
R: Do you foresee any difficulties or challenges in the four years ahead at the Legislative Assembly?
Mr Mak: Yes, I’m new to the legislature and this is going to be my first time to work there. The whole world has been changing a lot in the past decade, and it’s certain that in the next four years Macau will continue to change. Hence, I must have to keep upgrading myself and maintain a close contact with people. I see difficulties and challenges as a motivation. I’m mentally prepared for the work and I also have the capability to handle it. I’m open to opinions and happy to improve myself so as to meet people’s demands.