Saturday, October 1

Listen, listen, listen, if you’re dying to be a YB

4

FIRSTLY, let me express my concern and extend my support to Bandar Sibu MP Wong Ho Leng as he remains steadfast in his quest to battle his medical condition.

I pray that Wong may have a speedy recovery so that he could get back on his feet as soon as possible and resume his good work as a lawmaker.

I’m really glad that Wong’s wife, Irene Chang, has rebutted reports in a blog that she had derided DAP national leaders for not coming to help her husband during their time of need.

Chang had put on record that “since our party leaders have been told of my husband’s condition, each and everyone had been unbelievably supportive and caring”.

I think the article was written in bad taste and aimed at creating a wedge between Wong and top DAP leaders. I doubt the family of the Sarawak DAP chairman would be blasting party leaders over the matter. There was no valid reason to do so.

As a writer myself, I think it is very unprofessional and unethical to turn a family’s challenging situation into something so unpleasant and nasty.

Then again, some cyber troopers are also masquerading as bloggers and their job is to create ill will and animosity among their targets and victims. In a nutshell, the report was politically motivated.

But there was something interesting in the article as well. There are actually a few points brought up in the article which are worth discussing.

The first point of contention is the financial aspect of Wong’s medical treatment.

The article claimed that the family had already spent RM124,000 in the initial treatment and diagnosis in December (in Australia). It further said the total cost of the medical treatment for Wong over the next three months would hit RM500,000.

I think that such medical costs could be valid. I have a personal experience with medical treatment in Singapore.

Twenty years ago, I sought treatment at the Singapore General Hospital for a heart condition. Happily, I was covered by medical insurance but I can say that it was a hefty bill.

In Wong’s case, the treatment for brain tumour could be much higher. And this is 20 years after my case.

It was also reported that Wong is 53 years old and the couple has five children – four of whom are still studying.

The article quoted Irene Chang as saying that “our financial resources are already very strained.

“His legal practice suffered after he was elected the MP for Sibu because he is unable to concentrate full-time on his legal firm which is the main source of income for the family.

As a DAP legislator, he is expected to contribute a portion of his allowance to the party and more often than not, the allowance itself is not sufficient to pay for all the related expenses of serving the people as an MP.

“Every month, we have to top up another RM10,000 as additional expenses for serving the people and maintaining our service centres,” Chang had reportedly said.

I can concur with those statements even if they were not quoted from Irene Chang.

I believe that is somewhat correct as I understand the realities of politics and what an elected representative has to endure. We have to appreciate that being a YB is no bed of roses especially if you are an opposition legislator.

The 13th general election is around the corner. This is the time when aspiring politicians from both sides would be jostling to be candidates.

Some are actually so desperate to become YBs that they would do anything to be selected as candidates. That would include selling their souls, sad as it may be!

I know of one who contested in the Sarawak state election in 2011 on a party ticket but he immediately crossed over to another party when given the chance to become a candidate in the coming general election.

Where are your principles and ideals in politics? Where is your loyalty, one important ingredient in political life?

I’m sorry but I don’t think much of politicians who jump from one party to another just because they want to become candidates. It’s worse if the parties belong to the same political alliance.

I can never vote for such a candidate, even if I support his party. And I have very little respect for political parties pinching members from their allies. What’s happening, people? Where is the declaration of unity and cooperation? All lies and big talk, eh!

Another category of politicians who will never get my vote are those who refuse to step down. These are the people who want to be YB forever and bring the honorific to their grave. Whatever for, I wonder?

There is one MP who has served for five terms. His party openly declared that he would be replaced but he unashamedly went around lobbying leaders from other parties to help retain him as candidate.

Why are there such shameful politicians in our midst? Quite sickening eh!

Then, there are those who would have lobbied to be candidates for years but never had the opportunity to be selected.

There are also those who contested seven or eight rounds but never won. Then there are the lucky ones who came in out of the blue and became YBs in their first attempt.

However, after becoming a YB, they do not know what to do. Some could not cope after a while and would do stupid things like not answering calls from their constituents. Petty as it may sound but such acts put people off.

Every politician will claim that they are in politics to serve the people. There could be some sincere and genuine souls fighting for ideals and principles.

But the majority of politicians are in the game because the idea of being a public figure is attractive. Admit that it’s good for the ego.

Oh yah, some relish the idea of being addressed as YB. What, that is cool in the villages and kampungs. You are known to everybody.

At village events, you are always the guest-of-honour and seated at the main table with the host. It’s great being treated like a VIP. The ego gets boosted every time that happened.

People, try living in a city like Kuala Lumpur and nobody cares a damn even if you are a YB. They do not even know you.

Whatever it may be, aspiring candidates must be warned that being an elected representative is tough.

As the case of Wong Ho Leng has highlighted, it’s difficult if you have to cope on the allowances of a state assemblyperson or an MP. It’s insufficient to do a good job.

I know how difficult it is for opposition YBs to cope day by day. Or even for government backbenchers.

Of course, it’s different if you’re in the government and appointed ministers or to the board of government-linked companies where you are given generous allowances.

So I say to those desperate and dying to be YBs in the coming elections – listen, listen, listen, life as a YB is really tough. If it’s just about ego and being cool being a public figure and being called YB, I suggest you look for another job.

Comments can reach the writer via columnists@theborneopost.com.