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a breather from the office

Yesterday was spent with family and friends. We had a roti canai breakfast with my brother in law and my wife’s cousin and his wife. Then we went cycling around Lake Gardens, then to the National Art Gallery.

Lunch was with Lim and Kit, the earliest volunteers of my office in 2013. We also invited my former officer, Deborah and a former intern, Chris Lim. Deb is pursuing a professional writing career as a novelist and commentator. She also lectured part time at Monash. Chris is interning with Maybank and will be starting his second year doing economics at Warwick University.

After lunch, we shopped at Decathalon. We bought camping stuff and hiking shoes. Went home, played badminton and tag. Ordered pizza and our neighbour Norazza came over for a pizza and movie night. Watched Howl’s Moving Castle (fell asleep, my daughter kept waking me up), Norazza is a big Miyazaki fan. Woke up after the movie, went to bed just after midnight.

It was a real treat, to be doing everyday things with family and friends. Away from politics and the worries of the world. September is suppose to be a time for MPs to recharge, ahead of the long October to December Parliament sitting.

Tomorrow and Wednesday, I have back to back Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearings. So I will be back in Parliament for the next two days. Then on Thursday, I will be going to Germany.

Today, I am gonna devote my time with my wife and children.

Updates from aipa

28th of August- From 3 pm to 5 pm, I led the Malaysian team for the joint communique documentation exercise. This is the last leg of the substantive part of the entire conference, where the official and final summation of all the resolutions and decisions are studied line by line, negotiated upon and finally agreed by the delegates. Joining me for Malaysia were YB Kashturi Patto and YB Syed Ibrahim. In all, Malaysia made eight substantive and technical recommendations and variations to the final document. This final document will be used tomorrow for the closing ceremony.

At 6 pm, we boarded the bus to the Embassy of Malaysia for dinner with the Malaysian diaspora. We were stuck in traffic for an hour (jam hour) and as such we practiced in the bus, the song that we will perform tomorrow at the closing ceremony dinner.

It is traditional that at the end of every AIPA conference, every single ASEAN nation, is expected to perform a song or dance. This year we tasked YB Hanifa of Mukah to be in charge of music and YB Mastura of Kuala Langat to be in charge of choreography.

After dinner in the Embassy, we spent about two hours rehearsing our song and dance. Aa such we got back late to the hotel.

Tomorrow, I have another busy day; (a) closing ceremony documents from 9 a.m to 11 a. m, (b) a side meeting with Norwegians at 11.30 a.m but this time on human rights, (c) a 5 hour APHR meeting in the Sheraton, then (d) finally the farewell dinner.

conferences and resolutions can be invaluable

28th of August – Today is a rest day for delegates, after a hectic yesterday.

Someone asked what is the point of these conferences and resolutions. Fair question. The answer; it largely depends what efforts you put in yourself.

If you decide to attend a conference as a tourist, then you do nothing of value. If you come to engage, to fight for something, to network to change the world, then these conferences are invaluable.

As MPs, we champion your national and federal issues but when we go abroad, we change hats and represent Malaysia on policy and diplomacy.

My trips abroad are largely focused on three areas; (a) human rights (90% of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are related), am also a member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), (b) governance reforms (SDG 16) to learn and exchange policies; and (c) climate change (SDG 13).

For this specific AIPA meeting, I sponsored and got a carbon pricing/climate change resolution passed by legislators from all 10 ASEAN countries. With this passed, we can now use this resolution to influence our respective government ministers to take further action.

In the case of my resolution, to strongly persuade the ASEAN governments to jointly and severally take climate actions. Climate change is the most severe and immediate global problem we face now. YB Kashturi’s resolution enables her to push for greater protection of children from sex traffickers.

Can we compel the minister to carry out our resolutions? The short answer is, no, we can’t legally compel them. But these resolutions are very persuasive and represent the wishes of ASEAN Parliamentarians, so the ministers have to do something or come out with a strong justifiable excuse not to do something. It is almost the same political weight as a Public Accounts Committee recommendation.

On Thursday, I have side meetings for APHR where several MPs will discuss how to further improve human rights issues in the region. ASEAN is infamous for very unsatisfactory human rights records. So this is another very urgent matter, linked to governance and corruption.

Lastly, the Kingdom of Thailand has prepared a tour in the morning for us. However, YB Kashturi, YB Syed Ibrahim and I have to work after lunch, as we are representing Malaysia at the Joint Communique session. After that, we are to join the Malaysian delegation to have dinner at the Malaysian High Commission, to meet the Malaysian diaspora.

updates from the ASEAN inter-parliamentary assembly

Long day with a bit of time off after dinner to catch up with my old high school buddy, Pravut Kanchanawat. After the opening ceremony, ASEAN country statements and observer countries comments, YB Syed Ibrahim and I were asked to represent Malaysia on a meeting with the ASEAN Secretary General office.

At the meeting, I suggested two proposals; (a) the setting up of an ASEAN sub committee for every ASEAN Parliament; and (b) Parliamentary motions to be tabled for debate after every important ASEAN decision made by the respective Executives. My proposal was supported by MPs from Lao, Myanmar, Brunei and Thailand. The ASEAN chair noted my proposals but would like to keep the proposals on an informal/voluntary basis rather than in a resolution format.

After that meeting, we boarded a bus to a formal dinner hosted by Chuan Leekpai at The Sheraton. Then we went back to our hotel, where our MBK tailor brought our suits and shirts for our 1st fitting. Exactly 24 hours after we placed our orders yesterday!

After the fitting, Pravut and his business partner, Mr. Tee belanja Bob, Pritam and I to a late supper of Thai food near our hotel.

Pravut and I have known each since we were 13, that is 37 years ago! It is always great to see him and yarn about the good old boarding school days in UWC. We laughed at how fat in the middle, we have become. We also discussed politics, climate change and inequality, lamenting on how greedy the world has become since our idealistic youth in the 1980s.

ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly in Bangkok

26th August 2019 – Good morning from ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly in Bangkok. The conference kicked off with the AIPA song.

I woke up at 6 am, had an easy and light breakfast next to the Chao Phraya, reading the Bangkok Post. Thailand’s govt has rolled out 3 stimulus policies to avert a possible recession. The coverage is balanced and critical. They will roll out additional economic policies in November.

On meeting fellow ASEAN MPs, it has been a busy networking morning for me. I caught up with Lao and Myanmar MPs. Mostly exchanging views on economics. The overall feeling reflects what Barclay bankers told me 2 weeks ago. The trade war has had negative impacts on ASEAN overall.