Today is finally THE last day of Parliament for this term.
Because we do not practice a fixed-term, and the power to dissolve Parliament is solely in the hands of the Prime Minister, we have been kept guessing when will be the dissolution in the past 18 months. So I know, many MPs including me myself, have been saying “last day in Parliament” a few times by now.
But this is finally it; after a one month-long historic 6th session of Parliament (first time in 61 years we have a 6th session in a five year parliamentary term), the 13th Parliament came to an end at noon today.
Needless to say, I have mixed feelings at the moment. One on hand, I am frustrated at how helpless we were in the last five years to stop the government from bulldozing their ways through the House. When I entered politics, I believed very much I can make a difference and be the change I hope to see. When I was elected in 2013, I was filled with new energy believing that now I am able to make my voice (and the voices of those I represent) counted. Then I realised, in a Parliament dominated by a strong self-serving majority, I failed to stop legislations to impose new tax burdens on Malaysians already facing a challenging economy (GST Act, Tourism Tax Act – I debated this bill at 3am!) and new forms of draconian laws (National Security Council Act, SOSMA, POCAA etc).
Yet on the other hand, because of the platform given to me as a Member of Parliament, I managed to raise awareness on many issues inside and outside of Parliament. When I first raised the issue on youth unemployment and underemployment in my maiden speech in 2013, very few people spoke about it. Today, the government consistently include both unemployment and underemployment of young Malaysians in their reports. I am happy to be a voice for women in Parliament, having been inspired by my predecessor Saudari Chong Eng, who is the DAP National Wanita Chief. I spoke about the difficulties faced by rape victims to seek justice in the current legal setup, the lack of legislation to deal with sexual harassment, the need for a sex offenders registry, banning of child marriages, gender discrimination in the workplace etc. I am happy to report that some of these have been addressed, even if imperfectly. I will continue to pursue these matters. In 2014, I introduced the term “mommy tax” to describe the invisible economic contribution by housewives for doing unpaid work at home. As such, I called on the government to be responsible to ensure social security for housewives. I am happy that Pakatan Harapan manifesto, following Pakatan Rakyat, has included a provision for KWSP for housewives.
Throughout the MH370 crisis, my colleague Julian Tan Kok Ping, MP for Stampin and I consistently pursued the government on the finer points of the controversy surrounding the fateful flight. I believed that not only we have to give an answer to families of victims but we have to deal with the problems emerging from the investigation because they affect our aviation industry, and therefore the safety and security of all air passengers. Anyone of us could be in the next MH370 if the issues are not resolved.
In the past two years, I have also been doing work on immigration, border security and migrant workers. All these culminated in my team’s handling of the late Adelina Lisao’s case in February this year. One of my inspirations in politics is Lord William Wilberforce, a Member of the British Parliament 200 years ago. He and his colleagues were credited for abolishing the slave trade in UK. Beyond humanitarian concerns, immigration and migrant worker issues will eventually affect our society and our economy. I have even written an unpublished booklet on this matter. I hope to continue watching this issue and to publish the booklet perhaps in the near future.
When I started this note, I do not intend for it to be lengthy one. I had wanted to briefly trace my work in Parliament in the last five years as I come to the completion of this term. Perhaps there are more things that I can do, and I should do. But I want to say that I am thankful for the opportunity to serve.
The job of course comes with many challenges. Beyond the frustration because of the powerlessness I mentioned earlier, and the lack of time for my family including my toddler son, I have been chased out of Parliament by the Speaker, beaten by police, given “friendly warnings” when I raised certain controversial issues, and more “friendly warnings” when I decided to take firm action against the 60 illegal gambling dens in Bukit Mertajam, etc.
But perhaps to cap it all, and aptly at the end of this Parliament, I received a legal letter from a federal government agency threatening legal action against me for an issue I raised as a Member of Parliament. The truth is, I am like everyone else; my wife and I are extremely worried. We worry not because I did something wrong, but because we know we are mere Davids fighting a gigantic Goliath. Yet in a way, I see this final attack as a badge of honour (although nothing compared to what our leaders have suffered). I may be a powerless David with mere pebbles from the brook, but I will continue to do my small part. Who knows it will be that one pebble which will deliver the deadly blow.
Finally, on this last day of Parliament and now coming to the end of my first term as the MP for Bukit Mertajam; I have decided to join the Penang state administration and backbenchers to declare my assets. Even though it was not compulsory for MPs to do so, I decided to do it as my way of being accountable to my voters. You can see the latest Penang state government assets declaration here: https://www.penang.gov.my/pengisytiharan-harta-ahli-ahli-ma…
Thank you for your support and your guidance all these years. We shall continue the fight for a better Malaysia. And I truly believe, ini kalilah!
Steven Sim Chee Keong
MP for Bukit Mertajam
5 April 2018