By Wong Chen
Due to time constraints, Wong Chen was unable to write an article for this month. We got in touch with him and decided to do an interview instead. At the time of this interview, he was in Ipoh for Ching Ming, the Chinese practice of prayers and cleaning of ancestral graves.
- YB, what have you been up to lately?
I have been extremely busy in Parliament. The sittings have been 6 to 7 weeks long. We have been debating the national budget for 2023. The budget for the first three months of this year was approved in December last year. So the budget for the remaining 9 months of 2023 was debated and concluded last Wednesday on the 29th of March.
2. From your FaceBook postings, I see that you have been doing some travelling and I also read in the newspapers that you were stranded in Jakarta. Please tell us what happened.
I was in Jakarta as the chairman of the Malaysian Chapter for ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). I’ve just been appointed the new chair, replacing my good friend Charles Santiago. I led a delegation of 5 other Malaysian MPs to Jakarta for the launch of the Human rights report on members of Parliament at risk in ASEAN.
We went on Thursday and unfortunately, the return journey on Sunday was delayed by mechanical failure of the plane. Luckily, we did not take off with the problem. However, we had to stay the night in Jakarta and we managed to return to Malaysia and attend Parliament at 3pm on Monday.
A week after that I spent a week in Bahrain representing Malaysia and the Asia Pacific region for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) General Assembly. Some 1,700 MPs from 120 countries attended the event. I was the head of the Malaysian Delegation and had to attend the formal events as well as many side meetings with many parties including UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees), the Australian Parliament, the Non-Aligned Movement, and ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly. All in, I attended 22 events and meetings over a period of 5 days.
3. You had a very busy month, how are you feeling?
Well, I don’t sleep well in hotels. It takes me 2 to 3 days to condition myself to sleep reasonably well. So, from Jakarta to Bahrain, during that 10 days of travel, I probably had a week of bad sleep. So, when I got back to Parliament, Dr Muru (the Parliament doctor) told me that I am suffering from exhaustion and that I need more rest.
I feel a bit better now having been able to sleep around 6 to 7 hours a day since returning from Bahrain. My norm is 5 hours a day. I generally do not enjoy travel for work but I do enjoy the international exposure and exchanging ideas with fellow Parliamentarians from around the world.
4. Is there anything to report to your constituents regarding the month of March?
Well, the best news I have is that the Minister of Health has confirmed in the Budget debates that the government will finally build the Klinik Kesihatan in USJ1. We have been campaigning for this clinic for 12 years, so it is so good to finally have a confirmation from the government that the project will begin this year. The construction may take up to 2 years, so hopefully we should be able to have the clinic operational by 2025. This clinic is essential for the ageing population of Subang.
The second big news is on the passing of two bills on protecting children from sexual offences. I took part in both debates and I am very happy that we have passed these needed laws. Hopefully this will result in harsher punishments and deter future crimes perpetrated on our children.
At the time of this interview, the debate for the abolishment mandatory death penalty has yet to take place, but I am very confident that it shall also pass in the next three days or so.
- What is going to happen in April?
Parliament is going to sit until the 4th of April, after that, we will enter a period of recess. I will be probably be attending multiple Ramadan and Hari Raya events. I have no international events planned for the month of April, so I will have more time for constituency matters.
I am also looking forward to final confirmation regarding parliamentary select committees. The announcement should be made very soon. The Malaysian Parliament urgently needs the formation of these select committees so that we can better develop policies and do our job of making sure that the government of the day remains honest and accountable to the public. I will inform all in due time which committee I will belong to and what role I will play in the committee.
Lastly, I would like to take the opportunity to wish all my Muslim constituents Selamat Berpuasa and also Selamat Hari Raya.