A Weekend with Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail

An extremely busy day. My officers and interns came over to my house at 9 am. We then proceeded to Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail‘s house to start crafting the Budget Reply. She has a team of four advisors; an economist, a political speech writer and two researchers.

Kak Wan led the meeting by setting out what the broad issues are. She has a courteous, thoughtful but firm disposition. When we asked whether she should reply to Najib’s snide comments on her, she said no and added, “why should I lower my standards to his”. She said the best retort to Najib is to show him that a budget speech should be delivered with decorum and real facts.

She reminded us that we are debating the hard earned taxpayers money and to set policies for the people’s economic livelihood. Najib obviously doesn’t understand this, mixing cheap political potshots and fake promises that are not accounted for in the printed budget documents.

Kak Wan also directed us to look into her favourite topics, the Prime Minister Department, the Ministry of Health (she was formerly an eye specialist at Universiti Hospital) and the Ministry of Education. She also asked us to research certain claims made by Najib.

I provided advice on the budget documents, revenue and macro economics considerations. Her advisors provided choice words, opinions and political considerations. I have been on the Budget Reply team since 2010, working for Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim and now for Kak Wan. Ever since then, I have never stopped being mesmerised by the speech writing process, how these advisors construct sentences and carefully weigh and choose words. The Malay language is truly a complex and nuanced art and it is a privilege to be in the company of wordsmiths.

We covered a lot of issues this afternoon. The meeting ended with research tasks assigned to all to work on tonight. We will reconvene tomorrow at 11 am and probably spend another 6 to 8 hours on the Budget Reply speech.

We just completed the Budget Reply drafting session at Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail‘s home. We started at 11 am and ended at 6.00 pm, 7 hours of cerebral work! The dudes Arief and Hadi did not sleep last night and came up with the advanced draft. Haji Ramli and I provided edits and advice and my intern Cassandra took over the typing work as Kak Wan go through every line of the speech, either approving or asking for rewrites.

During the writing process, we were served cookies, kuih, muruku and bananas. Kak Wan also served some of her famous steamed kuih ubi (which she personally makes)!

When Kak Wan did her prayers, I took short power naps. The researchers tell me that I snored loudly and even talked in deep sleep. I have also been having a twitch on my left eye since last week and Kak Wan, who used to be an eye specialist, told me that it is a sign of fatigue and nothing to worry about.

Kak Wan will deliver her Budget Reply tomorrow at 12 noon and after that I have an RTM interview on the budget at 3 pm! RTM? Yup, RTM for real but not live, it will be recorded so that they can edit. Anyhow, I won’t be coming in for service night tomorrow but my officers and volunteers will be there to help constituents with their problems.

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