New Penang BN boss tightens reins on Gerakan
"I am a straightforward guy. I speak my mind. I am blunt. Some people do not like my style but that is their problem. I am just telling you the truth and the truth hurts.
"Today, I have this position - I have a task to perform and a responsibility to discharge. If you agree with me, work with me. If you don't - stay away.
"But if you disturb me, do not blame me if I come down hard on you," the leader has warned members when speaking to The Malaysian Insider in an interview this week.
The Gerakan secretary-general, who was just lifted to the post of Penang BN chief on April 23, is faced with the mammoth task of delivering Penang to BN in the next polls, a feat that many have predicted was unlikely to happen, at least not in the 13th general election.
Observers believe DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and his administration have done well since it took over in 2008 and of all the Pakatan Rakyat-led (PR) states, Penang would be the toughest to topple.
Making matters worse is the continuous rumblings between the Penang Gerakan leadership and grassroots leaders, which in 2010 even resulted in a failed ouster attempt on state chairman Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan.
Sources believe that since then, Gerakan has remained fractured from the faction-fighting and may stay in a weak state even when polls are called.
But Teng has a different view.
Upon taking on Penang BN's reins, the 48-year-old Batu Pahat-born politician has blared the call to arms and sent a stern message to remind members that "the battle is outside, not inside".
"I hope it (faction-fighting) has stopped now. I do not want to escalate the factionalism in the party. But it is there, I cannot deny it. If I deny it, I am telling a lie," he said.
"I have been calling on them and telling them - the battle is outside, not inside. What happens outside is what will determine our survival."
He said his task to reunite Gerakan members was to unite all warring factions and point them in one direction - wresting Penang from PR in the coming polls.
"You can always settle the score after the elections," he pointed out. "Who is our real enemy now? The battlefield is not in our own little boxing ring. It is no point fighting to be a hero in our own party but outside, we are not even able to match up to our opponents."
Acknowledging the little time he has, Teng said he has to make his every move count.
Apart from managing relationships within Gerakan, the politician has drawn up a comprehensive plan to woo voters back into BN's fold and has employed the help of party veterans to spread his message across the Pearl of the Orient.
He told The Malaysian Insider that he has no time for petty politicking, no time to make enemies and no time to harp on the weaknesses of his political foes in PR.
Instead, he wants to tell voters why they should again choose BN, which he said has transformed greatly since Election 2008 under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Teng's plan focuses on adding value and improvising on Penang's development, including turning the state into an international tourism have n and an international financial district as well as establishing an Innovation Dynamo Park and an aquaculture hub, enhancing the development of coastal line fishery activities and closing the development gap between Penang island and the mainland.
"That is why I have been saying to others - I have no time to make enemies. If I have to apologise for my actions, I will do so because beggars cannot be choosers," he said.
Teng added that he does not even have time to entertain those who may oppose to his alternative development plan for Penang, unless they could add value to his ideas.
"Now that I am the state (BN) chairman, I have decided that this is the way that I want to do things and I have to convince everyone and say - look, we walk along this way. No more options, this is the way.
"I will take responsibility for my actions," he said.
He borrowed a quote from Singapore's influential founding father Lee Kuan Yew, saying these were the words driving him, his convictions and dreams for Penang.
"If I feel this is something good for the people, I will put my heart and soul to it. Even if the ground is swelling against me, I will do it. That is the business of a leader."
Gerakan was wiped out of Penang, a state it helmed for nearly 40 years since 1969, when it failed to secure a single seat in Election 2008.
Its BN partner Umno secured 11 seats in the 40-seat assembly while the PR parties of DAP, PKR and PAS each swept up 19, nine and one seat respectively.
Despite Umno's success with Penang's Malay voters, the ruling party still needs a strong Gerakan and MCA to woo the Chinese electorate. Of the 40 state seats, 22 are said to be Chinese-majority.
In the coming polls, Umno will contest in 15 state seats, Gerakan in 13, MCA in 10 and MIC in two.