By Wong Chen
My dear Constituents of Subang,
2020 has been an incredibly challenging year in so many ways and for all of us. Foremost is the Covid-19 pandemic and the endless challenges stemming from it. At the time of writing, the Covid-19 Malaysian official numbers stood at 105,000 infections with 452 deaths. The economy has taken a severe beating from Covid-19. Most employees have suffered pay cuts. Unemployment has doubled from the norm. Revenues of most companies have fallen. Many companies are facing cash flow issues and many may continue to shut down next year. At the social front, more and more Malaysians are suffering stress, loneliness, anxieties and overall economic hardships. Children are being inadequately educated and face intellectual and developmental scarring.
It is against this backdrop of unprecedented challenges that I now present to you, my report card as your Member of Parliament (MP) for Subang, for the Year 2020.
Let me start by reminding all that MPs essentially have 3 core duties and they are as follows: (a) to legislate laws in Parliament, (b) to drive policy making (this is done via Parliamentary Select Committees, events, talks, and general opinions expressed via media), and (c) to debate and approve the Federal Budget. In addition to the three core duties, MPs are also expected to do two other secondary tasks, (a) to serve their constituency on local matters and (b) to engage the international community. Lastly, I have a short note on the poor state of finances and challenges of the P104 office.
As your MP, I am happy to report that I have a record of 100% attendance rate for the 2020 Parliament sittings that is 55 out of 55 days of Parliamentary sittings. In total, I debated 18 times delivering speeches, debates and interjections. I gave three key speeches; the reply to the King’s speech, the crucial Covid-19 Fund bill and the Federal Budget 2021. I continue to be outspoken, to give the government constructive and alternative policy ideas, not mere criticisms. My mission is to pursue social justice goals, fight corruption and reform Parliament with moderate pragmatic policies. I have consistently been doing this since 2013, without fear or favour during the BN administration, PH administration and now the PN administration.
Policy making is my strongest attribute and I lead my party, PKR in public policy matters. In Q1 2020, my team and I developed a comprehensive set of social, political and economic reforms for the Leader of the Opposition. When the pandemic struck Malaysia in Q2 2020, I joined the PKR Covid-19 health policy team. In Q3 2020, I completed a nine part economic lecture series to train my interns and the same is open to the public. In Q4 2020, I refocused our policy interests on Parliamentary reforms, climate change and macroeconomic policies for Budget 2021.
In terms of policy work in Parliamentary committees, I left the Public Accounts Committee and was promoted in mid December 2019 to be the chairman of the newly formed Special Select Committee for International Relations and Trade. In the months of January and February 2020, my committee managed to conduct 3 official events of which two were meetings with ministers and one was a full hearing on Palestine. However after the change of government in March 2020, all select committees have been suspended from activities. In December 2020, I was re-assigned to be a member (representing PKR) of the new Special Select Committee on Finance and Economy. This committee will start operations in 2021 and will monitor both the Finance and Economy ministries.
On events and talks to discuss public policy matters, I was a panelist in a total 21 webinars with NGOs, think tanks and embassies, including ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, IDEAS, Bersih, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute of Singapore, various university student associations, bankers and the European Union (EU) Ambassadors. On press coverage, I have expressed many public policy and political opinions to both local and international newspapers on politics and economics. For the year 2020, I have been quoted in 209 news articles. I also participated in nine live TV and radio interviews with local and international stations including BFM, Astro Awani, Bernama and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I also recorded 33 episodes of Monday Night Chats for 2020, where we explained and discussed a lot of my policy ideas.
My office assisted the Leader of the Opposition office in the Budget 2021 debate. I also presented the PH budget position to the minister of finance in the first ever government and opposition pre budget dialogue. For my party PKR, I lectured and guided our MPs to prepare for their own budget debates. I also constructively debated the government on how to improve the Federal Budget of 2021 allocations. I also clashed extensively with the minister of finance on the issue of EPF withdrawals, income taxes, Petroleum tax, RPGT, excise duties, windfall tax, sales tax, and the Covid-19 Fund amendments.
On this front, I have to admit that my office has underperformed in attending public events. I have decided to avoid most if not all public events in compliance with directives from Parliament and as a public health policy. Prior to Covid-19, my office managed to clock in seven community events in January and February 2020, but during the Covid-19 period, I made only three additional public appearances with precautionary measures taken. In total we only attended 10 events for 2020 compared to 2019 where we attended 103 events in total. I intend to continue to avoid or minimize all public events until such time the Covid-19 pandemic is under control.
As for community funding and projects, these were severely disrupted when Pakatan Harapan lost power in end of February 2020. Nevertheless, we managed to disburse out in January and February 2020, a total amount of RM223,000 to 42 associations and 8 welfare cases. Since March 2020, our community budget has been reduced by 97% from RM3.5 million to a mere RM100,000 a year. While both of my ADUNS continue to have full funding from the Selangor state government, my office which is a federal government entity, has been completed deprived of community money to spend. Nevertheless during the Covid-19 period, we were extremely lucky to have received about RM100,000 in private donations from supporters and RM100,000 from the federal government. We used this money to provide vouchers to 245 poor families and 28 associations including Covid-19 frontliners. For the year 2021, we are expected to continue to struggle to provide community aid and projects.
On community complaints and cases, we had a very big variety of cases ranging from scams, road traffic studies, citizenship matters and JMB disputes. My officers and interns handled a total of 480 cases in 2020. This is a drop in number of complaints cases from the norm of 600 a year.
For 2020, I had in total 17 diplomatic engagements with ambassadors and officials including the EU, African Union, Norway, Cuba, Sweden, Japan, Singapore, Columbia, Brazil and United States. I also represented Malaysia for the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, hosted by Vietnam and done via the internet on two topics, the Economy and the Joint Communiqué.
The P104 Office
Since March 2020, I have been paying all the salaries and office expenses of the P104 office with my own money. When we lost federal power in end February 2020, our office resources to operate as a Member of Parliament was cut to zero. In a sense, this was expected because when PH government was in charge for 22 months, it did the very same thing to the Opposition. And the BN government used to do the same to the Opposition before 2018. It is extremely unfortunate that Malaysian politics did not evolve and reform from this “zero sum game” situation since GE14.
In view of this, my office had no choice but to cut back on staffing and also on the number of interns we take in. In 2019, we had 3 officers and now we operate with only 2. We also used to take in more interns; in 2019 we had 18 interns, for 2020 we took in 12.
That’s it for my report card on the annus horribilis year of 2020. Stay home, wear your mask, sanitise and keep your community safe. With vaccines and better treatments, next year promises to be better but that can only materialise if we remain fully vigilant.
Wishing everyone a better and happier new year!