Tan Sri Datuk Chong Kah Kiat
Rome was not built in one day. The same rings true to Tan Sri Datuk Chong Kah Kiat whose success in politics today is a direct result of a very strong work ethic. Thus making him the eagle beaver – earnest in his work and in his pursuit of an objective and excellence.
A s early as his student’s days, Kah Kiat has the eloquent silence in him who conveys more by saying nothing than by speaking. Kah Kiat’s leadership qualities were already visible right from his time in school at All Saints where he led the school as the school captain and represented Sabah in volleyball in the sixties.
Apart from excelling in sports such as football, volleyball and basketball, Kah Kiat also excelled in his studies and soon after completing his secondary education in All Saints in 1970, Kah Kiat left for New Zealand to further his studies.
He returned home in 1975 with a law degree and a Master in Law from the University of Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand. It was the proudest moment for his parents and family in Kudat as he achieved distinction in his post graduate studies.
With a sharp vision, Kah Kiat threw himself into politics after a stint at the Attorney General’s Office at Kota Kinabalu and having worked in the law firm of the late Datuk Chong Thian Vun.
“(I wanted) to serve and bring more developments back to Kudat in particular and to Sabah in general.”
“At that time, the practice of democracy was not at its satisfactory level (and) the need to change the political landscape in Sabah became imminent. I felt it was time for me to go into politics.”
True to his vision, Kah Kiat was elected as the Kudat’s State Assemblyman in 1981 and subsequently was appointed as the Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister under the then Berjaya Government.
Since then, there was no turning back for this Kudat-born man, who despite so many challenges, defeats and obstacles, rose to become one of the few great leaders the State has ever seen in as many years. He is a man amongst men.
In 1989, Kah Kiat co-founded the Liberal Democratic Party as its protem Secretary General and became the 1st President of the Party after the protem President Saudara Hiew Ming Kong retired. The pinch was felt during the infancy of the Party where the entire army of 14 candidates lost in the 1990 State Election.
Despite the hardship suffered by the Party’s leadership, Kah Kiat was able to overcome the many challenges and managed to steer the Party to a greater height.
In 1992, the Barisan Nasional Government under the leadership of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad admitted the Party into its fold.
Its patience, hard work and commitment eventually won not only the respect from the Chinese community that the Party was sincere in its struggles but also that of leading members of the component parties in the Barisan Nasional.
Kah Kiat holds strong to his belief that “our future in Sabah and that of our children, especially the Chinese, lies with the Barisan Nasional.” His conviction was recognised by the Chinese community as more and more began to understand the concept of Barisan Nasional and many begun to throw in their support to the Barisan Nasional Government then led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Kah Kiat’s illustrious political career turned brighter when he was appointed as the Minister in the Prime Minister Department in 1995. Kah Kiat was later made the State Minister of Tourism, Science and Technology after being elected as the State Assemblyman for the Kudat Constituency in the 1999 State Election.
During his reign, Kah Kiat’s policy of getting rid off the three ills – illegal immigrants, illegal logging and illegal fish bombing – won him wide praises and respect from the cross sections of the community in Sabah.
The tourism industry has also turned for the better with many direct international flight routes being opened and with the strong recovery of many renowned resorts and destinations of international standards.
The unprecedented arrival of tourists from the foreign countries is testimony of the success of the Government and the Ministry of Tourism under the leadership of Kah Kiat.
Having passed the baton to Datuk Musa Haji Aman after the end of the rotation system in 2003, Kah Kiat continued to serve the State Government in the capacity as the Deputy Chief Minister cum the Minister of Tourism. Culture and Enviroment, a portfolio of which is very close to his heart.
He convincingly retained his constituency now known as Tanjung Kapur in the 2004 State Election.
Married to Puan Sri Datin Ivy Fam, Kah Kiat is a loving and caring father to two of their sons.
In 2004, Kah Kiat saw it timely to rejuvenate the 15 years old Party by expressing his intention as well as urging senior leaders to give way to young and able leaders to take the lead. Such exercise spurred a pool of young professionals and technocrats into taking up heavier responsibilities in the Party.
It was in this spirit that Kah Kiat did not seek for the Presidency in the Party Election in 2006, though he was still at the height of his political career in holding the high office of the Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, and at the same time enjoyed undivided support from all 25 Divisions in the Party.
On 18 August 2006, he magnanimously handed over the helm of the Party to Datuk V.K. Liew. Kah Kiat, however, did not retire from politics but continued to remain in the State Cabinet.
On 13 April 2006, Kah Kiat dropped a bomb shell by resigning from the Cabinet principally due to his differences with the Chief Minister over the State Government’s stoppage order for the construction of a world’s tallest Goddess of the Sea’s (Mazu) statue in Kudat. Upon resignation, he has received waves of support for the project not only in Sabah but the whole of Malaysia. The stoppage of the Mazu statue was reported in international media and attracted concerns of the Toaist communities especially in East Asia region.
Firm in his faith and belief in the freedom of religion as enshrined in the Federal Constitution, Kah Kiat has sought for legal redress to enable him to complete the private funded project. The case is still pending in the High Court.