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Pre-CNY thoughts

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.

Saving our schools

January 28, 2019

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This morning, I am at the SMK Bandar Puchong Jaya (B) for a CNY celebration.

I am here also to assess the repair requirements of the school and we will allocate a budget to carry out the repairs within 6 months. For this year, we are channeling all our community projek kecil resources for schools in Parliament Subang.

Last year we produced a 100 plus page report that detailed all the necessary repairs required for 31 schools in my constituency. We have forwarded the report to the MoE minister.

We cannot wait for the bureaucracy to act, and as such we are taking our own initiative and use my limited 2019 community fund to carry the most urgent repairs; namely health and safety issues such as broken toilets, exposed electrical wiring and plumbing works.

CNY Shopping Trip

January 26, 2019

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Happy Saturday, everyone! Today is a busy day for our office and YB Wong Chen. This morning, our office, in collaboration with Yayasan AEON Malaysia, brought 45 orphans to a CNY Shopping Trip at IOI Puchong Mall. Each orphan was able to purchase new clothes and toys for themselves. We would like to thank Yayasan AEON Malaysia, Sunway University student volunteers, and ex interns for making this event possible. It was truly an honour to spend time with such wonderful children!

Dispatch from London – Part 4

January 18, 2019

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Good morning. A recap of Day 4 at the UK Parliament. We had a relatively less hectic day with only 4 meetings. We started the morning looking at the workings of IPSA, a very important body that manages and sets the pay and office budget of MPs. Unlike Malaysia, MPs in UK do not get money to spend on their community. In UK politics, community money is frowned upon as vote buying. IPSA also monitors and makes accountable the spending of UK MPs and their offices. The creation of IPSA (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) is a major development to reduce cronyism, patronage politics and bring about greater financial accountability and transparency. We have to create and legislate a Malaysian IPSA as soon as possible.

After that we had a meeting on special additional funding for small opposition political parties, to level the playing field dominated by Conservative and Labour. This was followed by a briefing by the Institute for Government, where we discussed how to make the executive accountable to Parliament.

We then had lunch and celebrated the Speaker Dato Ariff’s 70th birthday. Incidentally, it was also my wife’s birthday. We had a simple lunch at a restaurant in a public area of Parliament called Porticullis House. It’s basically like a fancy food court.

After lunch we had meetings with the officers with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, our host and organiser. We discussed the 20 meetings we had and provided feedback. We returned back to the hotel at 4.30 pm. I had a short nap and then went to John Lewis and Hamleys.

Today, I will check out of my hotel after a final meeting with my colleagues. I will move to a more modest hotel about 1km away at Bayswater. I will stay 2 extra days, watch Macbeth at the Globe tonight, visit museums and catch up with friends and Tania Loke, my former P104 officer.

Dispatch from London – Part 3

January 17, 2019

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Good morning, it is 6 am in London. Here is a quick recap of Day 3 of our UK Parliament working visit. We started the day with a tour of the Parliament Achives where we were shown the original Acts for Merdeka and the formation of Malaysia. After that we had a very good meeting with the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs committee.

We were then given a special pass to witness Prime Minister’s Question Time, where Corbyn attacked May on her crushing Brexit defeat. Throughout the day, Parliament dealt with the no confidence vote, with MPs urging May to do the honourable thing and step down as PM. In the no confidence vote last night, she survived with an extremely slim margin of 18 votes! UK has 650 MPs. This is a crystal clear indication that her time as PM is coming to an end as soon as Brexit happens in end of March 2019.

It was an absolute privilege to witness the drama unfold and see how the laws and conventions of UK Parliament are adhered to. The vote upholds the fundamental principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty and emphasises that the PM does not control Parliament, but instead serves Parliament and the people.

At lunch, I sat with Lord Rogan and Hon. Ian Liddell-Grainger. We talked a wide range of subjects including international trade (China) and politics. After lunch we met the Clerk of the Committee at Portcullis House, who explained to us detailed processes of standing committees. This was followed by two more meetings, one with the Principal Clerk of the Table Office and finally the Minister of State for Asia and Pacific, the Rt. Hon Mark Field.

After the last meeting in UK Parliament, we went to Malaysia Hall for an event to meet mostly Malaysian students. I and four other MPs gave a talk and answered questions. I got back to the hotel at 9.30 pm, had a shower, called my wife and kids and had a decent sleep.