KOTA KINABALU: Guan Dee Koh Hoi has defended his lack of popularity among voters, following the controversy over his recent appointment as the new deputy minister for tourism, arts and culture.
The 68-year-old said he lost in three general elections because Sabah voters rejected the opposition.
“Yes, I lost. I also lost my deposit. It was because voters didn’t accept opposition parties,” he told FMT.
He explained that he first stood as a state seat candidate for the United Democratic Sabah Peoples Power Party or Setia, in the 2004 general election.
“It was an opposition party,” he said, adding that he lost his deposit.
In the 2008 general election, he said he fought under PKR in a state seat but the opposition was still weak at the time and again he lost his deposit.
“PKR didn’t win any seat in Sabah at the time,” he added.
Guan Dee then contested for the Beaufort parliamentary seat in 2013 on the then opposition Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) ticket and lost.
That last outing saw him obtaining a mere 409 votes, or 1.6% of all the votes cast, causing him to lose his deposit yet again.
Guan Dee did not contest any seat in the 2018 general election (GE14) and the Sabah state election last September.
The STAR secretary-general was, however, appointed a senator last December. As for his deputy ministership, Guan Dee said it was simply to fill a vacant position.
The post had not been filled since STAR president Jeffrey Kitingan gave it up to become the Sabah deputy chief minister in September following the state election, which was won by Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS). GRS comprises Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional (PN) and PBS.
Several opposition leaders criticised his appointment as a deputy minister, calling it part of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and PN’s “political survival” strategy. STAR is a component of PN.
But Guan Dee said he is not concerned by “their personal views”.
“Now I am given a responsibility and I want to fulfil the task ahead,” he added.
He said there is still a lot of work to be done to aid the struggling tourism industry which has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Responsibility has been given and we (tourism ministry) will go all out to help Sabah and Malaysia to boost tourism,” he added.
STAR holds six seats in the Sabah state assembly. If the party pulls out of the GRS coalition, the Sabah government could collapse.