In the days leading up to May 9, we stood at the juncture of many possible futures. We did not want to live in a morass of excuses and explanations anymore. So we began to hope, for hope was the only thing that could not be taken away from us in this sometimes land of dashed hopes. Kindness and courage poured from all corners of the world as Malaysians rallied for a common purpose: to reclaim the tenets of democratic values that define us and bridge the chasms that divide us.
The phrase, “A better Malaysia for our future generation!”, reverberated across the nation as we headed for the polls last month to put the country on the path to renewal. The same words were heard at The Edge’s Cook for a Cause recently. Only this time, it was a triumphant cheer to rejoice over the fact that the government did not belong to a single leader but, as should be, to the people.
Once again, Tan Boon Lee, executive director of IGB Corp Bhd and CEO of Tan & Tan Developments, as well as Datuk Albert Chang of ChangTee Holdings hosted the culinary fundraising initiative for 16 guests, including The Edge Media Group publisher and group CEO Ho Kay Tat, at Umi @ Sage, The Gardens Kuala Lumpur. The quarterbacks of the night — Tan and Chang who are both avid cooks — unleashed their inner Yotam Ottolenghi and whipped up superlative meals in the kitchen while the rest lounged at the bar area over a swill of Hennessy X.O and John Walker & Sons X.R 21.
There was, however, a more important reason to lift the glass. The cause would be donating a total of RM300,000, instead of the pledged RM100,000, to Tabung Harapan Malaysia. Established on May 30 by the Ministry of Finance, the fund offers the public an opportunity to ease the country’s monetary ordeal with its RM1.087 trillion debt as at end-2017, as reported in The Edge. Tabung Harapan Malaysia had amassed nearly RM75 million in donations at press time.
“When you go to vote, it is your duty and responsibility as a citizen. When you give money to the country [to help reduce the nation’s debt], it is more of an act of patriotism. This is a small way of us lending a hand to the government, which needs our help now to rebuild the country. It is the right thing to do,” said a donor who did not want to be named.
As everyone took their seats at the large marble dining table, the restaurant was suddenly abuzz with excitement as guest of honour, Damansara MP Tony Pua, who was there to receive the RM300,000 cheque on behalf of Tabung Harapan Malaysia, walked through the door. Pua, who was probably not yet accustomed to having people rise when he entered a room, flashed his famous toothy grin as he encountered the kind of reception typically afforded a celebrity.
Dinner ensued with a procession of dishes: First, a trout starter topped with smidgens of abalone with seaweed by Chang, followed by Tan’s silky smooth chawanmushi crowned with tarabagani (king crab) flesh, porcini mushroom risotto, and the main, a hulking wagyu Tomahawk steak. Laughter and chatter continued to permeate the room as a flurry of discussions about the country’s well-being dominated the rest of the evening.
As the old saying goes, a good dinner party is not just about what is eaten but also about what is said. It would have been remiss of us to not have asked Pua for his thoughts on Tabung Harapan Malaysia and his hopes for the country. “My feelings for the country are like those of a couple that has been married for 20 or 30 years. It’s the same for many Malaysians — they love the country but got dejected and lost hope along the way. What has happened [election results] is a rebirth. We have a second chance and Malaysians want to invest in this second chance. So Tabung Harapan is a manifestation of that desire for the citizens to contribute and commit to a new Malaysia. It’s like renewing our vows.
“I started in politics to be good opposition, to provide checks and balances to the government so the next generation could continue the fight. I look at Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh. They have struggled so much to achieve their dreams. So I wanted to do my part of laying the bricks. But I never dreamt that I would actually get to complete the journey. Now that we have this golden opportunity, we have to do it right. Because we have only this one chance. My ultimate hope is to build a country to meet the potential of our children so they never ever have to think about leaving Malaysia. This encapsulates everything we want to do.”
Cook for a Cause works on the premise of the chef-host providing an entire meal, from ingredients to preparation and drinks. The chef-host will agree on a fixed donation per head from each guest, after which gross proceeds will be channelled directly into the charity/charities of the chef-host’s choice via The Edge Media Group, also Cook for a Cause’s official media partner.
Look out for the second edition of Cook for a Cause with Tabung Harapan Malaysia in the next issue of Options. This article first appeared on June 18, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.