HE wants to be a ‘Jack of all trades, but master of plenty’ to deliver, as he puts it, all kinds of development to the people in Puncak Borneo.
His ultimate goal is to be a people-friendly member of parliament not only to his constituents but also his comrades and those with different political affiliations and views.
That’s Willie Mongin, the new MP for Puncak Borneo and an IT expert.
He was raised by his mother after his father passed away in a rock explosion tragedy at a quarry.
The 43-year-old hopes to serve without prejudice and discrimination, stressing he is MP of all the communities in Puncak Borneo.
thesundaypost delved into what makes this approachable politician tick in a recent interview.
During the nearly hour-long chat, Willie spoke candidly on a wide range of subjects, including his family life, previous employment, favourite leaders, favourite football team, and footballing nation, what made him decide to enter politics, and how he is coping as a newly-elected MP.
Q: Tell us about yourself, your profession, and your family before you entered politics.
A: Before I got into politics, I was working with various companies. I worked with a bank as an officer and an American company as an IT manager, taking charge of Malaysia and Singapore.
After that, I joined a public company, also taking charge of the IT division before switching to a Belgium-based a Fast-moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company as group IT manager, looking after seven countries at that time.
In 2011, I resigned to contest the state election. After that, I formed my own company and become an IT entrepreneur.
I’m married with two kids. My wife, from Selangor, is a graduate from Monash University Australia. She worked with the bank as an economist and senior manager before resigning five years ago to open a food business in Kuala Lumpur. She is now running a Chinese restaurant there.
Q: Can you tell us about your early family life?
A: I grew up in a poor family. My father, a quarry worker, died in a workplace tragedy when I was only one year old.
After that, I stayed with mum, who remarried when I was in Form 1. So I have step-siblings.
Life was very hard back then. I used to tap rubber early in the morning before going to school. I had to sell fried beehoon in school.
My mum had to do three jobs – as a cook at St Joseph’s School, Kuching, in the morning; doing laundry for people at night; and washing dishes at a shopkeeper’s house. I used to follow her there.
So life had been very tough for me until I completed my secondary education. While waiting for my results, I worked as a general worker, doing odd jobs.
Subsequently, I got a job in Kuala Lumpur before furthering my studies at UKM (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) for a Diploma in Information Technology.
After completing my studies, I worked at a bank while pursuing a bachelor’s degree (with honours) in computing from Staffordshire University.
Q: After two defeats in the state election and one in the parliamentary election, what actually drove or inspired you to go for another try in the last parliamentary election?
A: The plight of the people being side-lined in various sectors of development was the catalyst.
My main aim was, of course, to join Malaysians in toppling the previous scandal-ridden government. The process could be very demanding at times though because it involved spending a lot of time and resources.
But when I looked at the sincerity of the people I worked with in calling for change, I was driven to contribute.
Q: If you had lost in GE14, would you try again in the coming state election?
A: I will definitely give it a second thought because I have lost almost everything. I told my wife this could be my last try as my resources were drained and I also have to consider my two growing up children, who still need my financial support.
I have to make sure they have proper education. It will be a great injustice on my part to neglect my children’s education and my family’s livelihood.
Now that PH has won, I can re-strategise my priorities to help develop our community.
It was a blessing from God that I won at the right time and PH got to form the government. Can you imagine if I had won in GE13 but stayed in the opposition? It would have been very tough for me to serve the constituents in Puncak Borneo. I believe God has His plan.
Q: Do you like reading? What kind of materials do you read?
A: Yes, I like to read and my reading encompasses politics, motivation business, economics, and religion. I’m a big fan of authors Robin Sharma, Robert Kiyosaki, and Richard Branson.
I also read about Tun Dr Mahathir and books written by Hannah Yeo and Baru Bian. They really motivate and inspire me. Sometimes I read novels.
Q: How did you decide which party to join after choosing a career in politics?
A: My involvement in politics started long ago – as a supporter of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. At that time, I was still an officer in the bank, and every weekend there were demos and political ceramahs in Kuala Lumpur.
I would join them. The people I mingled with were all ‘reformasi otai’ like PKR leader Tian Chua Chang and other like-minded people. Those days, I just went and joined them because I was one of Anwar’s supporters.
I also joined a very big demo at Padang Merdeka in 1998. I was there as a supporter who wanted reforms for the country. I never thought of joining big time politics before and wanted to be just an ordinary political party supporter, not even a member of any political party. I was neutral.
I did not support any party other than subscribing to the reformasi cause, calling for a new direction for our country to benefit all Malaysians.
Later, after being convinced by Sarawak PKR leadership, I finally decided to join PKR (Mambong) in 2009. I have been working and serving the area up till the time I was elected MP.
Q: How is it like juggling politics and personal life?
A: As a politician, even before I was elected, I have been commuting regularly between Kuching and Kuala Lumpur since 2001. I spend my weekends in Kuching, meeting the people, and listening to their problems.
In fact, my life as a politician and as a family man has been quite hectic even before I was elected. It is even more hectic now. I hardly get too see my family but I think it’s okay – something I have to sacrifice since they are in KL – my kids are studying there and my wife’s doing business there as well. I don’t want to interrupt them. But I want to bring them home for good once I’m settled.
Now that I’m a full-time politician, I will be in Kuching most of the time. I will go to KL for parliament sittings or official meetings related to my duties as MP. So I have to balance my time.
Yes, nowadays I hardly get to enjoy my football games. I love watching the English Premier League. I’m a big fan of Chelsea and Brazil. Now, I hardly have time to watch World Cup matches involving Brazil. I also don’t have the luxury to mingle around, even with my IT friends. I have to devote more time to serving my constituency.
Q: Who are the politicians you admire most in Sarawak or Malaysia?
A: The politicians I look up the most are Baru Bian and See Chee How. They don’t simply talk but when they do, they make a lot of sense.
I have been working with them for more than a decade and know how they work. I know their heart and their aspirations. We’re quite blessed to have leaders like them in Sarawak.
They are God-fearing people. I think this the first attribute we should have as politicians. I admire them and want to emulate their good character and values.
Q: Do you believe in gender quotas? If so, why?
A: Yes, I do believe in gender quotas. I don’t think we should discriminate against women either in the workforce or other areas. As a PH MP, I subscribe to the coalition’s manifesto of being fully committed to giving at least a 30 per cent quota to women in government. When we give them this quota, they will have the opportunity to serve. I don’t think we should side-line women who have the capabilities to contribute to the country.
Q: What about your priorities for your constituency?
A: First, I will work to put the basic amenities in place. It’s my absolute wish to make the villages in Puncak Borneo accessible by tar-sealed roads and provide them with electricity and treated water supply. These are the fundamental things that need to be prioritised.
I will also work to bring sustainable social and economic development to my constituency. I will lobby for high impact projects like road connectivity to the villages in upper Padawan – and yes, a better clinic for Siburan. This clinic is close to my heart because I can see the hardships endured by the patients. The present clinic is cramped and already deteriorating while the number of patients is getting higher and higher.
I will also look into the problems of our students, who score good grades but cannot get into higher learning institutes as well as our graduates, who cannot find jobs after completing university. There are many things to think about but for now, these are my priorities.
Q: Finally, how do you see Tun Dr Mahathir before and now?
A: I think Tun M has changed a lot compared to the past. I had a conversation with him during the eve of our GE14 victory. The way he spoke and his disposition, I think, were quite commendable. He may still have his own DNA but at least give him a chance to readjust.
No man is perfect – likewise Tun M. But I’m motivated by his new vision and energy. At 93, he’s still very motivated to bring the country to the next level.
Therefore, I would like fellow Malaysians to not judge Tun M too early but give him time to rebuild the country and make it great again.