From activist to political secretary – Mandeep Singh now ready to be at the forefront

Mandeep Singh is no stranger to activism, having made his name via the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, or better known as Bersih.

He then turned to politics, serving as Damansara MP Gobind Singh Deo’s political secretary.

Mandeep has been in the thick of politics and governance, assisting Gobind during his tenure as Communications and Multimedia minister during Pakatan Harapan’s brief stint in Putrajaya after winning the 14th General Election in 2018. Today, he helps his boss, who holds two key portfolios in DAP – as the party’s deputy chairman and DAP Selangor chairman.

Mandeep, who turns 37 on March 31, has also been actively involved in helping out the folks in Kuala Kubu Bharu over the past year. Some believe he could be gearing up to stand for the Kuala Kubu Bharu state seat in the upcoming Selangor election.

Twentytwo13 met up with Mandeep this morning to find out more about his plans.

You have been rather busy in Kuala Kubu Bharu over the past year. What’s the motivation?

Mandeep: First and foremost, quite a number of people don’t know I come from there. While busy in Damansara, I also help out in Kuala Kubu Bharu. YB Lee (Kee Hiong) is a dear friend. Whenever I go back to Kalumpang, I’ll reach out and assist her where I can.

When she is busy and needs help, I’ll go there to help out … whether it’s in terms of activities or having discussions.

In fact, I was there last week. I got tablets donated by (former MP) Maria Chin Abdullah, and distributed them in Kuala Kubu Bharu. I try to help the community there as much as I can.

Mandeep taking a closer look at the installation of a tablet that was handed to a recipient on March 12.

What help do the people in Kuala Kubu Bharu need?

Mandeep: It’s a semi-rural area. Many children there do not have devices, while some need stationery for school. The state government has been helping out, but more can be done. Take the tablet for example. It’s something many of us take for granted but it’s a luxury item and a necessity for some folks in Kuala Kubu Bharu.

There are other activities that have taken place, most of them initiatives by the state government. They include the reskilling of women, like conducting baking classes. We also carry out social media courses for political activists. So, there’s a wide spectrum of needs … from generating income and financial aid, to helping secure equipment for the community.

So, what is your end game?

Mandeep: The end game is to serve the people in whatever capacity I can. I have an advantage here (in Kuala Kubu Bharu) … I know the area, I know the people, and the current representative (Lee). I’m making more effort to help the people … serving the people on the ground.

Is this a sign of you standing in the Selangor elections?

Mandeep: With the little experience I have, from my Bersih days, and now with Gobind, I would say personally, I’m ready (to stand for elections). But I’ll leave it to the party (DAP). We are all loyal party members, there is party discipline, so I’ll leave it up to the party to decide.

If given the chance, I’m certainly up to the challenge and will do my best. I believe the party leaders know best.

What is the biggest challenge for DAP in Selangor?

Mandeep: We need to recognise the (Opposition) ‘Green Wave’. Like it or not, the last (national) polls showed how divided we are. The biggest challenge, firstly, is to convince our supporters to come out to vote again. We saw what happened in Johor and Melaka … the voter turnout was low and it affected our seats.

Secondly, we need to convince the fence-sitters. We are now in the Federal government, and this is our fourth month in power. We have done some work but it’s unfair to judge the government based on what we have achieved in just four months. Look at the DAP representatives who have served Selangor for the past 15 years. Their track record shows it all.

Look at how Gobind worked when he was the minister. The biggest win was in reducing internet prices, reducing the burden of the people. And we’re still enjoying cheaper internet rates.

Also, people see us working with Umno, DAP’s sworn political enemy. We are now on the same side, and people have to see the bigger picture in unifying the country.

We have to deal with race and religious politics. I truly hope people don’t fall for the rhetoric on social media… judge us based on our performance.

Is Pakatan Harapan lagging behind Perikatan Nasional (PN) in the narrative war?

Mandeep: On the social media front, I think yes. We are fighting against disinformation, misinformation, and the dissemination of fake news.

Are they (PN leaders) talking about the economy? Are they talking about policies? No, they are playing the race and religious cards. It’s a different narrative and we need to counter those narratives.

It is a challenge, but it is doable. We have experience in governing the country, we have learnt some lessons.

RTM and Bernama belong to the government but there’s only so much they can do. This new era is all about social media … not only in Malaysia, but all over the world. It’s easier to be the opposition and flood social media with all kinds of stuff.

Whatever we need to do, we need to do it faster and better. But I’m confident we will be able to overcome it ahead of the state elections.

How does your family feel about your participation in politics?

Mandeep: I come from a rather traditional family. Upon graduating (with a degree in industrial management) from Universiti Industri Selangor (now known as Universiti Selangor), I worked as an assistant manager in a bank in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.

I then got involved in activism. During my early days, my parents and family were afraid for my future. But over the years, my dad Karpall Singh, and mum Gurmeet Kaur (both 65 this year), and my three siblings, understood what I was doing. There were a lot of tears shed then, but today, that fear has turned to pride. When I was hauled up by the police, it wasn’t because I had committed a crime, but because I had dared to simply speak the truth.

In fact, it’s funny that we’re meeting today, as Facebook memories just reminded me that exactly eight years ago, I had spent a night in the lock-up for the very first time, for the ‘Kita Lawan’ rally. I was there, arrested, handcuffed, and later put in the lock-up garb, along with Adam Adli Abdul Halim and Teo Kok Seong.

Teo, Mandeep and Adam Adli in a picture taken on March 7, 2015. They were remanded for their involvement in the rally held in Kuala Lumpur.

Today, Adam is the deputy Youth and Sports Minister.

My family has been strong, and I thank them for their love and continued support.