Keeping Busy in Parliament during Covid-19

By Wong Chen

In this article I will provide a short report about the recently concluded Parliament sitting.

The second Parliament session for 2020 started on the 13th of July and ended on the 27th of August. It was a relatively long sitting of one and a half months; the prime issues of this session were the economy and Covid-19 related legislations.

During this session, I delivered in total eight policies and committee speeches in the Dewan Rakyat. I also interjected on several occasions, engaging ministries to get better details and particulars. I debated on a variety of subject matters including the economy, governance, anti-corruption, unemployment, supplementary supply issues, insolvency matters, lack of fiscal discipline and Covid-19.

I have posted up all my speeches on my Facebook page. I encourage all to view them, so to get a better understanding of the national issues that I have raised, as your MP. Behind these speeches are many hours spent researching, fact checking and analysing data and policies. I want to thank my officers and interns for their contribution and work towards these speeches.

While debating in Parliament and contemplating legislations are crucial elements of Parliamentary work, the less visible but arguably more important role of Parliamentarians are the policy work found in select committees. As some of you may know, after GE14, I served in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for a period of 15 months, before moving on to be Chairman of the Special Select Committee on International Relations and Trade (CIRT) in mid-December 2019.

My CIRT committee started working in January 2020 but was disrupted by the political coup in end February 2020. In addition, since the MCO in March, all select committees have been suspended from further operations. While we remain “suspended” and as such are unable to hold hearings, I nevertheless have been engaging the diplomatic community during this Parliament session. I had five meetings in Parliament with the Ambassadors from Sweden, Thailand, Singapore, Brazil and Canada.

Despite the toxic political situation, I have decided to continue to discharge my work professionally. We are clearly not friends with the current government and we do constantly question and challenge their legitimacy. This is also my sentiment albeit to a lesser degree, towards the new administration of Parlimen Malaysia. Nevertheless, the bigger picture is to continue to push for Parliamentary reforms, which means I have to set aside our personal feelings, and engage the new Speaker.  To that end, my CIRT committee is working with Parlimen Malaysia in an attempt to re-organise all diplomatic friendship groups.

On the ASEAN front, I have also accepted the task to represent Parlimen Malaysia for the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA). I was put in charge of economic matters and also the AIPA Joint Communique team. The AIPA meeting will take place, via the internet on the 8th to 10th September.

During the same period, I also did two press conferences in Parliament. The first was on the Goldman Sachs 1MDB settlement and the other on the refusal of the government to change the Petronas governance structure, which is currently less than ideal. Other than press conferences, I have given ad hoc briefings to MPs on economics. I have also attended several talks in Parliament by experts on refugees, Covid-19, media and also poverty.

My Parliament Report Card

Lastly, on a personal front, I started a badminton club for MPs. This is simply because Parliament had just completed a sports hall in July with three badminton courts. It just seemed an opportune time to use the hall to have a badminton game in the early morning at 8 am before Parliament starts at 10 am. The club currently has eight active members and we play twice a week. I have managed to flatten a bit of my stomach and I feel much fitter and am less stressed from Covid-19, economic woes and political instability.

I will return to Parliament on 2nd November for the crucial Budget session. Till then, I will be spending more time in my constituency.