January 30, 2019

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Good morning. CNY is around the corner and I have been running busy with meetings before we go to the CNY holidays. Just a few things to report.

First, on finances. Yesterday my officers attended the PM office briefing, where we have been informed that our office resources has been increased to RM300,000 from RM200,000. This is very good for us financially, as we can now balance our office expenses every month at RM25,000 a month without resorting to me forking out my own money or doing fundraisers. The less good news is the money will only be available in March 2019, which means I have to advance some RM60,000 to cover January, February and CNY bonus to my staff in addition to my advances in 2018.

However the biggest structural or systemic problem is the fact that in Malaysia, finances of MPs are not independent from the PM office. In the UK, the PM has no such overidding powers over this crucial matter of resources for MPs. We must reform this old way of thinking and eliminate toxic patronage politics.

Instead, UK has a commission that study and approve the financial needs of MPs. The UK commission comprises of the Speaker, the PM, the Opposition Leader and 3 MPs elected by their peers. This UK system helps to ensure fairer resource distribution (for instance my constituency is 5 times bigger than Putrajaya, and yet we get the same allocation) and most importantly eliminates patronage politics.

While Pakatan MPs have received higher allocation for 2019, I am not sure the same has been allocated to the Opposition MPs. Pre GE14, we were bullied by Najib UMNO BN with ZERO allocation. Now the tables have turned. However it is not right for us now to bully them back with less resources. Whether we like their politics or not, is immaterial. The Opposition MPs were elected by their constituents and as they such should be given the same adequate resources to serve their constituents.

For 2019, on policy research my office will focus exclusively on Parliamentary reforms. Some of my friends have told me that without political will, this will be a futile exercise. It may be so, but political mood can change very quickly, as we have seen recently in Cameron Highlands. I hope the Pakatan cabinet has woken up and that we may finally see some legislative reforms soon.

However, I am worried that we may have a rocky political year ahead with many nefarious issues, such as frogs hopping around. If only politicians spend 50% of their time carrying reforms instead of 100% plotting and politicking, Malaysia would have passed laws on press freedom, anti corruption and separation of powers in the last 9 months. Many of us who have spent more than a decade fighting for reform, are bewildered and increasingly angry at the snail pace of reforms.

So on the public policy front, my focus for 2019 is to continue to push MPs, from both sides of the reform agenda.

On community spending 2019, my office will focus our projek kecils purely on repairing schools. Yesterday, I was invited to a late lunch with 16 guru besars in my constituency. I gave a short briefing on my intention to carry out as many urgent repairs as possible. They came well prepared handing over project papers of what repairs they needed! My office has set a target to carry out urgent repairs for 30 schools, with a maximum budget of RM20,000 for each school.