SINCE getting elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Petaling Jaya Utara, Selangor, on 8 March 2008, the question I am most frequently asked is: “What do you actually do?”
It’s not a very easy question to answer. When Parliament is in session, the bulk of my time is used to research various issues, prepare speeches, get ready tough questions to ask ministers, and debate various issues and bills in chambers.
With a much livelier Parliament this time around, parliamentary sessions are frequently extended to as late as midnight. This ensures that as many MPs as possible get their voices heard.
When Parliament is not in session, I pay greater attention to my party and constituency work. Weekends and evenings tend to be much busier than a typical weekday. Let’s take the last weekend of July as an example, since it reflects a typical weekend in my life as a people’s representative.
The day began with a discussion with local constituency volunteers on urgent organisational issues. It was followed by an early-afternoon launch of a development project in Petaling Jaya, where I was the guest of honour representing the state executive councillor, Ronnie Liu, who had (unsurprisingly) other pressing matters to attend to in another constituency.
After a short break and much treasured rest at home, I met with a fellow state assemblyperson to work out problems faced by local constituents concerning an upcoming shopping centre project. This was followed by a function at the Damansara New Village to donate foodstuff to the needy on behalf of the Selangor state government, organised by Damansara Utama state assemblyperson Dr Cheah Wing Yin.
Next it was a temple dinner in the Sungei Way New Village together with Kampung Tunku state assemblyperson Lau Weng San. I took the opportunity to mingle with the community, who took up some 50 tables. Thankfully, the dinner started promptly and ended early, which gave me some time to clear up my e-mail inbox later that evening.
In the morning, I brought my wife and kid to a charity carnival organised by the See Hoy Chan Group. It was for the benefit of the Spastic Children’s Association of Selangor and Federal Territory at Damansara Uptown, where my own service centre is located.
After a press conference at 11am, it was a visit to Section 19, to a 50-year-old Hindu temple whose devotees were holding anniversary prayers and celebrations. To honour the occasion and on behalf of private donors, food items were donated to an orphanage and a home for the disabled in SS3, Petaling Jaya.
In that same visit, we took down requests from local leaders and residents of the Damansara Bestari low-cost flats concerning issues such as the drastic increase in maintenance charges and the lack of signboards in the vicinity.
By 3pm, Cheah and I were at Kampung Chempaka, where there are 200 less-fortunate households receiving aid provided by the Selangor government. Similarly, we took complaints from the residents: from applications for low-cost flats and welfare assistance, to the prevalence of gaming and betting machines in the village.
By 5pm, after a quick visit to a proposed property development in Kelana Jaya following concerns raised by residents associations in the vicinity, I was at the KLCC Convention Centre for the iProperty Expo, where one of the landmark property development projects in Penang was on display. Yes, I’m still the economic advisor to my party’s secretary-general, who now happens to be Penang’s chief minister — so I still have to play my part.
A shower and change of clothes, and it was to another dinner on Sunday evening, this time organised by the DAP Subang-Sungai Way Branch, attended by more than 1,000 people. Party leaders, including Lim Kit Siang, Ronnie Liu, Lau Weng San and myself, spoke on various issues, from local councils and fuel price hikes to ketuanan Melayu.
It was nearly midnight when I finally got home, and I had to remind myself about the 15 parliamentary questions I had yet to submit, my column for The Nut Graph, as well as my regular weekly Chinese column for China Press, all of which were due the next day. But one worries about all that only after getting a good night’s sleep.
So the above, if you haven’t already lost interest, is a simple snapshot of my life as an MP for Petaling Jaya Utara.
You would understand the absolute need to be disciplined when it comes to the number of appointments I accept; otherwise, it would never end. Not only would my role as an MP be compromised by insufficient research and attention — I also wouldn’t get to spend precious moments with my family, who are my pillars of support.
And the discipline must be kept regardless of how demanding certain voters may be to secure “face time”. It has barely been six months since the general election, yet already there are those who complain they haven’t seen me around. There are 76,000 voters in my constituency, and if all of them expect me to go around meeting people with the same frequency as I did during the campaign period, it would certainly defeat the purpose of electing an MP in the first place.
It’s a case of working hard and working smart, to ensure that I can make a real impact in the constituency as an MP.
Tony Pua is Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara under the Democratic Action Party (DAP). He is the DAP national publicity secretary as well as the investment liaison officer for the Penang chief minister, based in the Klang Valley.