Liow Tiong Lai

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Yang Berhormat Dato' Sri
Liow Tiong Lai
Minister of Transport (Malaysia)
Assumed office
27 June 2014
Prime Minister Najib Razak
Preceded by Hishammuddin Hussein (Acting)
Malaysian Minister of Health
In office
18 March 2008 – 5 May 2013
Prime Minister Najib Razak
Preceded by Chua Soi Lek
Ong Ka Ting (Acting)
Succeeded by Subramaniam Sathasivam (MIC)
President of Malaysian Chinese Association
Assumed office
21 December 2013
Deputy Wee Ka Siong
Preceded by Chua Soi Lek
Member of the Malaysian Parliament
for Bentong, Pahang
Assumed office
Preceded by Lim Ah Lek
Majority 379 (2013)
12,549 (2008)
16,839 (2004)
10,715 (1999)
Personal details
Born (1961-10-13) 13 October 1961 (age 53)
Jasin, Malacca, Malaya
(now Malaysia)
Political party Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) part of Barisan Nasional
Spouse(s) Lee Sun Loo (李善如)
Children 3
Alma mater National University of Malaysia
University of Malaya
Occupation Politician
Religion Buddhist

Dato' Sri Liow Tiong Lai (Chinese: 廖中莱; pinyin: Liào Zhōnglái; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Liāu Tiong-lâi; born 13 October 1961) is a Malaysian politician who is currently serving as Transport Minister and as a Member of Parliament for Bentong, Pahang. He served as the Health Minister in the Malaysian cabinet from 18 March 2008 until 5 May 2013.[1] He is the president of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a major component party of the Barisan Nasional ruling coalition.


Born in Jasin, Malacca in 1961, Liow had ambitions of being a doctor but graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Nutrition) from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia instead.[2] He later obtained his MBA from the University of Malaya.[3]

He is married to Datin Sri Lee Sun Loo and has three children. He is a strong advocate of healthy eating, especially eating organic food.

Political career[edit]

Liow officially joined the Malaysian Chinese Association in 1981. Soon after graduating from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 1986, he joined MCA as a research assistant with a monthly salary of RM700. He became press secretary and later political secretary to former MCA deputy president Lim Ah Lek from 1989 to 1999.[1] After two decades of steady rise in the party, he was elected as MCA Youth Chief in 2005 and was elected as a Vice-President in 2008.

Liow is also Bentong Member of Parliament, having held the parliamentary seat since 1999. In 2006, he was appointed Deputy Youth and Sports Minister in a Cabinet reshuffle. Following the 2008 general elections, Liow became Minister of Health under prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. He remained in this position after Najib Tun Razak assumed the premiership in April 2009.

Call for Second Deputy Prime Minister[edit]

In October 2008, Dato Liow Tiong Lai who was then the outgoing National Youth Chief of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) raised the prospect of a second Deputy Chairman of Barisan Nasional to be appointed from among its component parties. The call was made at the MCA's internal party elections. As the Deputy Chairman of Barisan Nasional would be appointed the Deputy Prime Minister, it would mean creating a second Deputy Prime Minister position for Malaysia. Observers felt that Liow's proposal was simply a gimmick for him to win the internal MCA party elections.

While MCA accepted UMNO's leadership of the Barisan Nasional coalition, MCA felt that its seniority in the coalition should be reflected through a second Deputy chairman's position that would be filled by MCA. Liow said, "MCA is the second largest component party. The proposed deputy president should be represented by the MCA."[4]

Various MCA leaders backed Liow's proposal. Dato Wee Ka Siong who was the incoming MCA youth chief (then), said: "It (Barisan top leadership) must be well represented. We don’t want to see any kind of perception that Barisan is nominated by one or two parties. We don’t want to paint a picture where Barisan is dominated by one party and its decisions are accepted by the rest." Tan Chan Kong Choy, MCA's deputy president (then) said: "The history in Barisan Nasional shows that there is no hard and fast rule that only the senior leaders of any party can automatically assume the positions in the coalition. Tan Michael Chen (a former MCA deputy president) was the Barisan Nasional secretary-general in 1974."[5]

In response to Liow's call, the Deputy Prime Minister (then) Tan Muhyiddin Yassin said, "The present Barisan setup is still workable. There is a history behind why the Barisan chairman is the Prime Minister and the deputy chairman is the Deputy Prime Minister and all the heads of the component parties become vice-chairmen. Since 1974 when Barisan was formed, it has been working very well. I don't think it is correct to say you cannot express your views because your post is only a vice-chairman. Sometimes you come and don't say anything at all, then even if you become deputy, it's useless."[6]

Liow had planned to raise the issue at the Barisan Nasional level after the MCA had approved it. After winning his internal party elections, Liow, who had become the new MCA Vice-President said: "One step at a time. Let us reform Barisan first. We reform Barisan, (and only) then we will reform the government."[7]

MCA crisis[edit]

From late 2009 to early 2010, Liow became embroiled in a leadership crisis in MCA, vocally opposing the "Greater Unity Plan," a temporary political alliance between the factions aligned to then-president Ong Tee Keat and deputy president Chua Soi Lek.[8][9] Liow led a third faction pushing for new elections, but was unable to persuade two-thirds of the central committee to resign, which would have triggered an election under the party constitution.[10][11]

The crisis came to a close after Dr Chua resigned on 4 March 2010.[12] The subsequent election saw Dr Chua being elected president, while Liow defeated Kong Cho Ha in the contest for deputy president.[13]

MCA presidency[edit]

In the 2013 General Election, MCA suffered its worst electoral result in its history. Liow himself barely survived in his own parliamentary seat, winning by a majority of only 379 votes.[14] MCA had previously passed a resolution not to take up cabinet posts in the government if it failed in the 13th general election.[15] As a result of its poor performance, Chua announced that MCA would not take up its allotted cabinet posts, and Liow therefore was not appointed a cabinet position.[16][17]

In the following party poll for the presidency, Chua did not enter the contest,[18] and Liow defeated Ong Tee Keat and Gan Ping Sieu, and was thus elected President of MCA on 21 December 2013.[19] Shortly after Liow was elected, the MCA convened an extraordinary meeting to reverse several resolutions, including the resolution that stipulated that MCA members should not served at federal and state governments.

The cabinet was reshuffled on 25 June 2014, Liow was appointed as Minister of Transport in the aftermath of the MH370 incident.[20][21] He was sworn in as Minister of Transport by Yang Di-Pertuan Agong on 27 June 2014.

Election results[edit]

Parliament of Malaysia
Year Constituency Barisan Nasional Votes Pct Opponent Votes Pct Ballots cast Majority Turnout
1999 P083 Bentong, Pahang Liow Tiong Lai (MCA) 23,104 63.92% Abdul Wahab Sudin (KeADILan) 12,389 34.27% 36,996 10,715 72.59%
2004 P089 Bentong, Pahang Liow Tiong Lai (MCA) 27,144 72.02% Abu Bakar Lebai Sudin (DAP) 10,305 27.34% 38,689 16,839 73.46%
2008 Liow Tiong Lai (MCA) 25,134 66.35% Ponusamy A/L Govindasamy (PKR) 12,585 33.22% 39,168 12,549 73.01%
2013 Liow Tiong Lai (MCA) 25,947 50.25% Wong Tack (DAP) 25,568 49.51% 52,627 379 84.52%


Liow made a special appearance in the 15Malaysia short film "Healthy Paranoia", playing himself.[22]


  1. ^ a b New ministers and deputy ministers, The Star, 19 March 2008.
  2. ^ MCA must engage the young, The Star, 7 April 2008.
  3. ^ Biography Liow Tiong Lai. Accessed 9 June 2010
  4. ^ The Star, 17 October 2008. Liow proposes one more Barisan deputy chairman (updated). URL:
  5. ^ The Star, 'Deputy chairmanship in BN will reflect MCA's seniority'. URL:
  6. ^ The Star, 21 October 2008. Muhyiddin: Barisan parties need to band together. URL:
  7. ^ The Star, 28 October 2008. Liow: Consult MCA on second BN deputy chairman position. URL:
  8. ^ New EGM mired in legal wrangling while Ong pushes unity plan The Malaysian Insider, 4 November 2009
  9. ^ Liow tells Soi Lek to quit The Malaysian Insider, 7 January 2010
  10. ^ MCA boycott sign of frustration The Malaysian Insider, 3 February 2010
  11. ^ Don’t make me your scapegoat, Soi Lek tells Tiong Lai The Malaysian Insider, 7 January 2010
  12. ^ Soi Lek quits, fresh MCA polls imminent The Malaysian Insider, 4 March 2010
  13. ^ Soi Lek wins, Liow is MCA No. 2 The Malaysian Insider, 28 March 2010
  14. ^ Ken Vin Lek (7 May 2013). "The rejection of MCA". Free Malaysia Today. 
  15. ^ "MCA to mull on invitation by PM to join Cabinet". New Straits Times. 3 May 2014. 
  16. ^ Daniel Ten Kate (16 May 2013). "Najib Cabinet Rewards Base as Chinese Sidelined: Southeast Asia". Bloomberg. 
  17. ^ New cabinet – Waytha, Khairy, Paul Low in; MCA out
  18. ^ Leven Woon (13 December 2013). "How will Chua Soi Lek be remembered?". Free Malaysia Today. 
  19. ^ Lester Kong (21 December 2013). "Malaysia's former health minister Liow Tiong Lai is new MCA president". The Straits Times. 
  20. ^ Syed Jaymal Zahiid (25 June 2014). "MALAYSIA Now transport minister, Liow says finding MH370 is Job No 1". The Malay Mail Online. 
  21. ^ [1], Astro Awani News, 25 June 2014.
  22. ^ 15Malaysia – Healthy Paranoia

External links[edit]