IT is like going back to school for Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong these days.
He spends much time researching and studying, and keeping tabs on the happenings in the country.
It is also about field work for the MCA president and Ayer Hitam MP.
Dr Wee, 50, makes sure he is equipped with information and facts to fight for the people in his capacity as an opposition MP.
Drawing strength from helping people most in need, there was no stopping for him right after GE14.
The political tsunami on May 9 last year was indeed a big test for the party.
At the start of a media interview about the party’s direction in the Year of the Pig, Dr Wee says “nian yi ding yao guo (must celebrate Chinese New Year)”.
The phrase also reflects courage and resilience when the going gets tough.
“We go to the ground and meet people and eat nasi bungkus (economy rice) nowadays.
“There is no more cutting ribbons,” the former Cabinet minister quips, referring to events in the past when MCA leaders would be invited as guests of honour.
But Dr Wee has much on his plate these days as MCA’s sole MP and the only Chinese opposition MP.
He often works late into the night, researching on issues and preparing his text.
“I started writing an open letter on the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) to the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers at 12.30am (on Tuesday, Jan 29).”
The Cabinet, which was scheduled to meet on Wednesday, was expected to decide on the fate of the billion ringgit project.
Prior to the Cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali gave conflicting statements on the fate of the ECRL.
What Dr Wee did was to list out the consequences that the country would have to bear if the government were to cancel the 688km link.
Apart from harming bilateral ties with China, Malaysia’s largest trading partner, and an estimated RM20bil fine for breaching the contract, Dr Wee cautions that a nightmare looms should China take any retaliatory action, such as reducing or even stopping the import of commodities (oil palm in particular) from Malaysia.
“The livelihood of some 650,000 oil palm smallholders and their families will be directly affected.
“Also affected are products like Musang King durian and white coffee exports to China as well as tourism,” he adds.
Playing the role of checks and balances has never been easy, more so in the present regime, he says.
“The people are disappointed and unhappy over the many U-turns on promises made by the government shortly after GE14,” added Dr Wee.
Some of the issues are also discriminatory in nature, Dr Wee says, citing how the Legal Profession Qualifying Board (LPQB) bars law students who are Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) holders from Chinese independent schools from sitting for the Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP).
While the UEC is equivalent to A-Levels, the board in a circular dated June 5, 2018, stated the holders have to sit and pass two subjects at A-Levels effective 2021 to qualify to sit for CLP.
Another board circular dated Oct 26, 2018 listed the qualifications to sit for CLP effective 2019; UEC is not on the list.
And Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching came under scrutiny after she claimed to have contacted Attorney General Tommy Thomas, also the LPQB chairman, twice on the UEC/CLP issue in July last year and earlier this year.
Chinese education is indeed one of the major areas of focus for Dr Wee.
Despite the Chinese going all out to back DAP, the party with 42 MPs has disappointed them after it became part of the government.
Topping the list of “derailed” projects are the 16 Chinese schools approved to be built by the past government.
The Finance Minister went on to deprive Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC) of its RM30mil annual matching grant under Budget 2019.
This is the first time the 50-year-old university college (formerly Tunku Abdul Rahman College) saw the grant axed.
The grant, used for operating expenses, had helped to keep its tuition fees affordable, giving children from low and middle income families access to tertiary education.
TAR UC has produced 200,000 graduates to date.
Dr Wee says MCA’s approach now is to be issue-based, going for common values for a moderate and harmonious society.
He notes that a strong opposition is important in a democracy and that the various parties that shared the approach can work together.
Politics, he adds, is not a straight forward “yes or no” when touching on topics like PAS and Umno cooperation, and what lies ahead for Barisan Nasional which has been reduced to a three-party coalition after going into GE14 with 13-member parties.
Dr Wee points out that working together among opposition parties to strengthen the opposition bloc is not the same as forging a partnership, in a direct reference to Barisan’s victory in the Cameron Highlands by-election last month.
While MCA takes the moderate path, Dr Wee says the party never treats others as enemies.
MCA, he says, has to reflect and change for the better.
It has to keep evolving to stay relevant with a sense of purpose to help the people most in need.
“Making life better for the people is a huge responsibility that I took up when I joined politics,” he says.
And this is also his pledge to the people in Ayer Hitam as long as he is with them.