Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure - measure a year? (From Seasons of Love, Rent)
It’s almost one year to the day since I was elected into office on May 5th, 2013. No matter how much you read about the activities and the life of a Member of Parliament, you never really know what the experience is like until you’ve gone through it.
Despite the many challenges I’ve faced as an MP, I consider it a privilege to be able to serve the voters of Serdang and to represent the voices of many other Malaysians on issues concerning our elections, economy, education system and environment.
One of my first lessons as an MP is to learn how to admit my mistakes, apologise and move on. I made the mistake of accusing Chua Lai Fatt, an Indian voter in Klang who had been adopted by a Chinese family, of possibly being a phantom voter.
When I learned of my mistake, I arranged to have lunch with Mr Chua and his family to apologise to them. This was preceded by a public apology. It won’t be the last wrong thing I say, write or tweet but it did teach me the importance of researching thoroughly before making any public allegations.
While I had some doubts as to whether I would take an interest in dealing with rubbish or trash, I’ve subsequently learned to look at refuse in a different way. I’ve come to the view that our rubbish is actually a resource that should be utilised.
Rather than incinerating our trash, proper separation at source could lead to organic and food waste being harnessed for methane gas, which can then be used to generate electricity and the non-organic waste being sorted into high quality recyclables, which can be sold to generate income for the local community.
As part of the process of understanding waste disposal, I’ve visited a transfer station in Taman Beringin in Kepong, a refused derived fuel (RDF) municipal waste plant as well as a bulk waste landfill, both located in Semenyih and a scheduled waste incinerator near Kuching. I’m sure I will have more future rubbish related visitations in the near future.
At the local level, it has been an enriching experience working with and learning from my state assembly representatives – Ean Yong Hian Wah (ADUN for Seri Kembangan), Eddie Ng (ADUN for Balakong) and Shafie Ngah (ADUN for Bangi) – as well as the local councillors for MPSj and MPKj.
Business licence fees, approvals for development orders via the One-Stop Centre, the management of state versus municipality roads, and the responsibilities of the Commissioner of Buildings and the Joint Management Board have become common vocabulary though there is still much to be learned in terms of local government matters.
One of the most challenging experiences was the cut in the water supply in Balakong for up to three weeks in some places.
With the help of the very pro-active state assemblyman and my colleague, Eddie Ng, a special action team was mobilised in order to distribute water to the affected areas. While I had a few late nights out with the water truck, it was the tireless work of this team of volunteers, which allowed many affected households to have access to water during this time.
In Parliament, it has been a tremendously enriching experience in learning from my colleagues on how to ‘grill’ ministers for answers to tough questions and to ‘engage’ effectively with the backbenchers from the other side. I learned how to use answers from my parliamentary questions to highlight important national issues.
More rewarding of all, in this past year, has been my experience in engaging and observing volunteers who, without the expectation of any reward, worked hard in order to serve the larger community.
Whether they are advocating against the building of an incinerator in a densely populated area or serving as members of the local volunteer fire squad or cooking for and feeding the homeless in downtown KL, these are all examples of Malaysians from all backgrounds, races and religions who have inspired me at various junctures during this past year.
During the ‘tougher’ moments as an MP, all I need to do is to reflect on the tireless efforts of these volunteers and I am motivated and energised to continue in carrying out my duties as an MP, diligently.
I am looking forward to the new experiences that my 2nd year in office will bring. It has been a privilege indeed.
Dr Ong Kian Ming is the MP for Serdang. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.