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Dispatch from London – Part 2

January 16, 2019

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Day 2 in UK Parliament. We had 7 meetings today. We started with a meeting on the powers, scope and budget of All Party Parliamentary Group. Then we had a meeting regarding the Procedure Committee. This was then followed by a meeting with MP Richard Graham, who is the UK Trade Envoy to Malaysia. At lunch, we met more MPs, where I sat with Lord Beith and discussed Liaison committee powers which scrutinises the Prime Minister’s powers. After lunch we met the Director General of the House of Commons. Followed by a special meeting with Rt. Hon Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House and finally a meeting on Prime Minister Question Time. We got back to the hotel, had a rest of 20 minutes and then to University of London Senate House, where the Speaker gave a speech and took some questions from Malaysian students.

What a day! Yesterday, we did 4 meetings and 1 formal dinner. Today we did 7 meetings and 1 public engagement.

Through out the day, there was the palpable sense of doom on the Brexit vote. PM May lost, as expected but the size of the defeat was simply and historically staggering. She had 202 votes and the nays had 432! This is the worst ever defeat of a government bill since the 1920s.

Tomorrow, we have been given a slot to observe Prime Minister Question Time at 12 noon. Theresa May will also face a no confidence vote!

Dispatch from London – Part 1

January 15, 2019

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It is almost 5 am in London. I went to bed at 11pm and had about 5 hours of sleep. I am still slowly adjusting to the time.

Yesterday was our first day of UK Parliament meetings. We had four excellent meetings organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The discussions have been centred mostly on ideas and reforms that we can adapt and/or adopt for the New Malaysia. Some of the people we met provided interesting historical explanations of how these British rules of fair play came to be. The Malaysian Parliament is in dire need of a major overhaul to bring back democratic rules, separation of powers, and Parliament sovereignty to check and balance the executive.

Inadvertently, we have found ourselves here at a most crucial time of UK modern history. We are holed up in UK Parliament CPA meeting room, smack in the middle of a decisive Brexit vote week. The vote will take place about 10 hours from now. There is talk of another vote of no confidence against the PM if her Brexit plan is defeated.

Last night, we had a grand dinner hosted at the UK Speaker’s Apartment. I was seated next to Sir William Cash, one of the chief Eurosceptics and promoters of Brexit. We had a good discussion on many things, including his time as Thatcher’s advisor. His wife spent her childhood in Malaysia. I also had a good conversation with the Rt Hon Ann Clwyd, whom I met together with Rafizi a few years ago. She is well and as fiesty as ever, pushing her good governance agenda. Bill (Conservative) and Ann (Labour) are from the furthest opposite ends of the UK political spectrum, but both are friends of Malaysia.

Activities & Updates from Wong Chen

9 Jan 2019

I had a working lunch with the Ambassador of Cuba, HE Ibete Hernandez. We had a good discussion on the excellent Cuban health services and also their organic food produce. Cuba is interested in palm oil. My officers will follow up with a technical meeting on exploring bilateral trade opportunities.

Our office hopes to work with the Cuban Embassy to understand how their health services can be applied in Malaysian context.


10 Jan 2019

I had a long day today. Yesterday was a full day for me in Parliament, 7.5 hours of Public Accounts Committee meetings. This morning I was back in Parliament to meet MPs from Indonesia, Myanmar, Kosovo and Malawi in a human rights discussion organised by ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). I also met the Norwegian advisor, Liv Kvanvig who happens to be very close to my dear friend Ambassador Gunn! This is indeed a very small world.

After the meeting, I rushed back to my office in Kinrara to meet and brief members of several PIBGs from the Subang constituency. My officers Tina and Paul Mae presented a PowerPoint on our State of Schools in Subang paper and the financials. We briefed the PIBGs on our plans to use our limited community funds to repair schools in Subang. We have requested for the Ministry of Education for help last November but we have yet to get any written replies whatsoever. Many schools informed us that they have been waiting 2 to 3 years for federal funding to carry out urgent repairs. We have decided to direct all our projek kecil funds (RM200, 000) this year towards repairing as many schools as possible.

12 Jan 2019

My officer, Dhinaa, and I visited Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Tamil) Castlefield yesterday to take a look at the repair works done accompanied by Singam (Indian Community Representative of Subang Jaya) and Samy (PKR Kelana Jaya Branch Chairperson). We had a meeting with the school headmistress and members of PIBG. This is the first project we have completed in Kinrara with the remaining projects expected to start later next week.

Update on School Projects

Hello friends of P.104! The office is happy to announce that we have completed a few projects for the schools in our area. Though our budget wasn’t much, we allocated a sum for the repair of school infrastructure. Here are some pictures of what we have done so far.

State of Schools in the P104 Constituency

In July, the P104 office started preparations for a paper on schools in the Subang Constituency. It all started when YB Wong Chen attended a school function and realised the dire need for infrastructure repairs. Months later, the paper on the State Of Schools has been published. YB Wong Chen has also met up with YB Maszlee, the Minister of Education, to highlight this issue.

This has caught the eye of FMT reporters, and below is their summary.

PETALING JAYA: Schools under the Subang parliamentary constituency require a total of RM19.3 million for infrastructure maintenance and repairs.

This is according to a research paper by the office of Subang MP Wong Chen.

He based the calculations on the conditions of 31 out of 52 schools that participated in the research.

Wong, who was denied entry to government schools in his constituency during the Barisan Nasional administration, decided to carry out the research after noticing the state of disrepair in these schools. His team visited the participating schools and spoke to the people in charge.

Wong said many of these schools had issues securing funding for maintenance and repair works.

Infrastructure maintenance

The survey found many of the schools displayed extensive and serious infrastructural damage.

However, many face common problems, with the top five issues being termite infestation (52%), exposed or old wiring (45%), old, rusty, clogged or leaking pipes (39%), leaking, collapsed or damaged roofs (39%), cracked walls and need for repainting (36%).

The paper stated that schools requesting for funds to make repairs did not get a response or were turned down due to insufficient funds.

It also noted that many schools didn’t even bother to report the damages to the district education office (PPD) any more as they had given up on getting financial help, resorting instead to holding donation drives with the help of parent-teacher associations (PIBG) and students.

Operating expenditure insufficient

Most of the allocations given to schools are usually insufficient to cover actual costs.

The allocations are also significantly inconsistent, with the highest amount fixed at RM86 per student and the lowest at RM18 per student. No reasons were given for this wide disparity.

The survey also discovered that the ratio gap of guidance teachers (or counsellors) to students was too high, with the highest being 1:1,926.

Funds allocated for counselling were also very low, with one school of 600 students allocated just RM2,500 a year.

Funds allocated per subject were also too low and differed between the arts and science streams. Shortage of administration staff and delays in receiving funds were also reported.

No functioning internet facility

Some schools do not have adequate or functioning facilities like internet connection, equipment for classrooms or canteens, smaller classrooms and teachers’ rooms.

It was noted that the district education offices had made co-curricular competitions compulsory for schools to participate in. However, schools had to pay the compulsory registration fees per team, per category and per competition.

This placed substantial financial burdens on schools as no extra funding was provided.

This lead schools to collect donations from the PIBG and students to make up for the already insufficient funds. Cluster schools were luckier as they are given extra funding for this purpose.

Recommendations

Besides requiring RM19.3 million to fix the schools in Subang, the report recommends that schools be required to run based on a centralised budget or be allowed to plan based on their own needs.

It also urges the education ministry to hire at least one more person to specifically manage infrastructure and funding needs so that it won’t affect teachers’ teaching quality.

Some schools have suggested that they should be allowed to appoint their own contractors to save costs as the current process of appointing a contractor is too long, inefficient and costly.

Here is the link to the FMT report:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/…/wong-chen-rm19-3-mil-n…/