In the midst of being overworked and all the madness that comes with the budget season, I have been informed by my accountant WWW (former intern) that this year we have completely overblown our budget on our internship program. We are going to end up spending close to RM30,000 on our interns by year end.
When I became an MP in 2013, I must admit that my first year was confusing and difficult. I had just won a massive majority in Kelana Jaya, 2nd biggest after Rafizi Ramli in Pandan for PKR, but was “rewarded” the very last seat in Parliament. Getting the furthest seat from the Speaker meant that I had little chance to be noticed, and as such, little chance to speak in Parliament. I joined PKR as a policy technocrat but had to quickly navigate party politics.
However with help and guidance from YB Hannah Yeoh and her wonderful team, and with my two original staff of Tim and Deb, we started our community office somewhat clueless but determined. We asked many senior MPs on how to set up the Parliamentary office accounts and the only MP to step up to help was YB Tony Pua. Thank you Tony!
In many ways we were left to completely fend for ourselves, and it turned out to be a blessing. My team and I, together with my super bunch of loyal volunteers, Leong, Wyhow, Ho and Phang wrote our own rules on how to run an MP office.
We made up the rule that we should spend minimally on the richer communities of Subang Jaya and focus 70% of our very limited resources on the hard core poor in Seri Setia. We wrote the rule that we will not allow party interference in our office business (all my interns and volunteers till today, are non party members).
We made a decision not to award any contract work, simply because contractors were profit oriented. However, in 2016 we were forced by the Selangor government to reverse this policy. We also wrote the rule not to accept any big donations. That is why every year we sell RM50 movie tickets to raise funds. We reached out and became friends with several medical NGOs to jointly carry out medical camps for the poor.
We also created our Bulan Kebajikan program for the hard core poor. The poorest in Desa Mentari and Desa Ria responded positively to the program. In return, my constituents taught my interns and I very valuable lessons on humility, dignity and “poor economics”. I am sure I have said this many times before, as we became closer to our urban poor communities, we started seeing faces of poverty rather than mere economic numbers.
However the greatest program we created was to run our internship program. What started as a simple program in late 2013 has grown more and more intensive over the years. Frustrated by politics and stifled in Parliament, I decided that I should put my time to better use, that is to mentor the next generation of leaders. It is my secret hope that as many of my interns end up becoming good and honorable MPs. From the same pool of interns, we hired our brilliant officers; Gillian, Amir, Nadirah, Tania, Abigail and Tina. Former interns Megan and Paul Mae will also be joining my office soon.
As of today, we have had 67 interns, these are my padawans from our P104 Jedi Academy and I am unashamedly and immensely proud of every one of them! Our volunteers have also grown in tandem; we now have Jarratt, James, Melody, Crazy Shin and WWW being part of our volunteer family. We also have a parallel set of phone bank volunteers, who are absolutely committed to Abigail!
By taking up the task of mentoring my interns, I forced myself to work harder on public policies. That is how Monday Night Chat started with our Policy Monday segment.
When Dato Johari Abdul (MP for Sungai Petani) became the PKR Chief Whip in Parliament in 2016, he promoted me to a middle seat in Parliament, allowing me to better debate and represent my constituents. That simple act of kindness went a long way to restore my faith in party politics. Last year, after failing to convince the leadership to adopt big data analytics, Rafizi and I set up INVOKE Malaysia. Our hope is to continue to push for a better form of politics.
So it has been almost four and half years since my election and it has been a heck of a journey. The long and short of this long posting is the following appeal to you.
If you are interested to invest in the next generation of Malaysian leaders who are committed to clean politics and real reforms, do consider becoming a sponsor to our internship program. Essentially, we are looking for 60 generous donors willing to commit RM500 per year. If you are keen to support our interns, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your kind attention and I wish all a very good night. I leave you with some pictures of the P104 family, my officers, volunteers and interns.