Hannah on Wan Azizah

It’s been slightly more than a month now since I was appointed to be Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s deputy. My husband rightly pointed it out to me that it would be a new season of learning for me. Learning not just about issues but the leaders we serve alongside with.

I have read some news reports criticising Kak Wan about the 11 year old’s child bride issue and while the matter is now in the hands of the AG, I would like to share with you my one month observation of working directly under her leadership.

At any given time, the heart of a doctor would overshadow all the other roles she carries. You would have probably watched how she rushed off stage to check on YB Hanipa Maidin when he collapsed at the outdoor assembly. I have also personally seen how she dashed off the Deputy Prime Minister @ Minister’s chair to comfort victims of sexual harassment when they started crying sharing about their ordeal.

I have seen how she refused to bite back when some politicians attacked her publicly. She always takes the higher ground of giving people the benefit of doubt. When she commits to a cause or policy, I saw how persistent she was in having it signed, sealed and delivered.

While I admit criticism on the speed of handling the 11 year old child bride issue, I would also like you to know that we are dependant on other ministries to do their part (some of which I would have criticised openly for their lack of action but I remind myself we are now part of the same administration & correction has to be made internally, re-training is needed for our civil service & improvement has to be made asap). In these weeks, I can assure you that her utmost priority is to protect that child even at the expense of her own reputation.

I also witnessed her conversation with baby Adam’s parents (toddler found lifeless in the fridge) and observed how she covered all angles of assistance needed for the parents to move on. In other cases, she would remind me the need to look at all angles (something which I sometimes overlook in my pursuit of fast outcome).

I also saw her the morning when the late Balakong assemblyman Eddie Ng passed away in a car crash. She had to compose herself in a meeting. Professional yet her love for her comrade was evident.

Sometimes we forget how far we have come since May 9. Here is a woman who will never steal your tax money, an intelligent doctor in her own right to lead & selfless enough to make way for others. Malaysians, don’t be quick to forget the years of sacrifices made to have this #MalaysiaBaharu.

They say kindness is the highest form of wisdom. If I have any criticism at all about Kak Wan, it would have to be her kindness. Her family went through a lot but it was her kindness that has set the stage for reconciliation and healing for Malaysia in the months leading to May 9. Many politicians in the past have hurt Malaysia but her kindness will keep her away from doing that to you fellow Malaysians.

First published on Hannah’s personal facebook page.

Schools must be free from political influence

Yesterday was a significant day for me. I attended a school function at SMK Taman Tun Dr Ismail in my official capacity as the elected Member of Parliament for Segambut. I sat with the teachers, PIBG members and students. I was invited to give a speech. This entire experience was a first for me.

If Pakatan Harapan had not won the election and formed the Federal Government in Putrajaya, all the above mentioned would not have been possible. In 2008, after I was newly elected as the State Assemblyman for Subang Jaya, I was prohibited from attending school functions in my constituency. I had blogged about setting our schools free. The Education Ministry led by Barisan Nasional had then issued a circular prohibiting Pakatan Rakyat elected representatives from attending school functions and had instead produced a list of allowed politicians into schools made up of mainly branch chairmen of UMNO, MCA, MIC and other BN component parties. The MCA candidates whom I defeated in 2008 and 2013 elections were invited to officiate school events in Subang Jaya the last 10 years. Even Chief Ministers and State Excos from Selangor and Penang were not allowed to officiate or participate in school functions.

Now that we are in Putrajaya, it is imperative for us to fix this wrong practice. Schools must be free from partisan politics and influence of political parties. Schools must not be forced to support any political party. Legitimate elected representatives from both the ruling coalition and opposition (including those from UMNO) should be allowed to enter schools to officiate events or programs organised by the schools in their official capacity as Member of Parliament or State Assemblyman.

I had also blogged about a circular in 2010 prohibiting election of head prefects and school captains. I urge the Education Ministry to revoke any of such unwarranted circulars issued under the previous administration. Efforts must now be made to ensure schools are set free to be everything they are designed to be – a safe learning place where both teachers and students are exposed to the value of a true democracy and democratic practices. Setting our schools free from political influence should be the first transforming act to nurture just the right culture for the next generation of Malaysians.

Farewell, My Friend

I’m going to share a personal story with all of you here. Back in 1990, when I was still in school, I received news that my favourite uncle (mom’s brother) had injured himself from a fall while working. He was admitted to SJMC and hours later, he passed away. My uncle was only 29 when he left us. He was one month away from getting married. He had personally renovated his house and bought new furniture in anticipation of his wedding day. I was told that he cried when his engagement ring was removed from his finger, moments before he passed away.

On the day of his burial, his pre-wedding photographs taken at the studio were delivered to us. His fiancee wept uncontrollably. Their wedding did not materialise. Their dream of beginning their lives together was shattered. Photograph of him in his groom tuxedo adorned his coffin and hearse. His parents (my grandparents) also could not participate in the funeral, just like Beng Hock’s parents. According to Chinese culture, the parents should not participate in the funeral of a child.

I can understand how Beng Hock’s nieces and nephews feel. I spent so many nights crying, longing for my favourite uncle to return. I can imagine the atmosphere in Beng Hock’s home now. My grandparents’ home was no different. One night, I shared the room with my uncle’s fiancee. I woke up to the sound of her weeping. She told me how my uncle wanted me to teach him English and that it was too late. How she was supposed to prepare soup for him for dinner but he never came home that day, it was too late.

Year after year, at every family gathering, I witnessed my grandmother crying. I saw my grandfather hiding in the kitchen, crying by himself. The loss of their son was too painful, too much for them to bear. Even on the dying bed in 2007, my grandfather was still thinking of his son – my uncle who left so prematurely at the age of 29, a month before his scheduled wedding.

Beng Hock’s death has brought painful remembrance of my personal loss. Beng Hock was my friend. I last saw him in the Dewan Annex at the Selangor State Assembly last Wednesday during our lunch break. I never imagined that that would be the last time we chatted. I am 30 years old. Beng Hock was 30 too. He would not be at MACC if he hadn’t accepted the call of public service. This race in which I have started to run to bring change in this land is not an easy one. I know some will stop running. Some may be injured running the race. I pray I will complete the race.

My sister who is indifferent to politics (like many other young people in this country) sent me a text message when I was at Nirvana Memorial Park in Semenyih the day Beng Hock was buried. She said : “Please teach me what to do in the event you are taken in by MACC too. I do not want to learn of it too late”. She must have seen the agony of Beng Hock’s siblings and realised that it could have been her going through it.

I hope my grandmother isn’t watching the news of Beng Hock’s death. She would be grieving and crying seeing Beng Hock’s mom. I hope this article doesn’t reach her. Just like how my family still remembers my late uncle some 19 years later, I know Beng Hock too would be remembered many years to come. Farewell, my friend.

Originally published in Hannah Yeoh’s blog and MySinchew. Republished with permission.

A Mockery Of Our Democratic Institutions

To those who argue that the political crisis in Perak now is a taste of Pakatan’s own medicine (referring to the Sept 16 takeover plan), they have failed to see the key differences between the two. If you remember what happened when Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim claimed to have the numbers to form the new federal government, he wrote to PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi requesting him to convene an emergency sitting of Parliament. This was rejected by the PM. The next constitutional option is to press for the dissolution of Parliament to make way for fresh new elections. That was also not entertained. Anwar Ibrahim exhausted the constitutional means that were available to him. If Pakatan were to act unconstitutionally and lure defections, then we will be having a new government today. But we didn’t and we will not act unconstitutionally. So you can’t say that Najib’s coup and Pakatan’s plan were one and the same.

Some may also say, well what about the earlier defection of Bota assemblyman, Datuk Nasarudin Hashim? Why did Pakatan Rakyat accept him? Why not force his seat to be vacated for a by-election? Let’s keep things in perspective here. His defection was that of an opposition lawmaker to a governing lawmaker. His defection did not alter the balance of power in the State Assembly. Pakatan Rakyat remained as government, and BN as opposition. Status quo. Logically and intelligently, anyone can safely assume that Pakatan Rakyat didn’t need a defection from BN. Thus, he defected on his own accord and on his own will. There was no need for Pakatan Rakyat to force him to vacate his seat as he did not win the seat on a Pakatan ticket. The Pakatan government really has no standing in forcing him to vacate a seat which wasn’t earned by Pakatan in the first place!

I must say that I had great respect for Sultan Azlan Shah. Until yesterday. I wonder how he could possibly consent to the formation of a new BN state government when constitutionally, a government is still in place. And to even approve to a new Menteri Besar when the existing one is still in office? How can any state have 2 heads of government at any one time? There can only be one Menteri Besar of Perak. This is a mockery. The Menteri Besar can only be removed by the State Assembly via a vote of no-confidence or via the dissolution of the assembly. And none of these two constitutional means has been requested by BN. How can anyone claim that Najib and Anwar are one and the same?

Next, the Sultan called for a “unity” government to be formed by BN and the Independents. Let’s be clear about this. The Independents are in no way legally bound to represent BN. Well, at least not yet, not till they officially become members of a BN component party. All that the Sultan and Najib has from them is a verbal assurance that “we will be friendly to BN”. And just by appearing in a press conference with Najib, it justifies the change of government? What if next week these Independents were to be seen in a press conference with Pakatan? A real “unity” government envisioned by the Sultan should have been an all-inclusive government of Pakatan, BN, and the Independents. Pakatan and BN each have 28 seats, and the Independents 3. Thus, no single party or coalition has a commanding majority. If there is to be a “unity” government, it calls for a new coalition of PR-BN-Ind which is impossible. Thus, what the Sultan has called for is simply a name without substance. What “unity” if it’s going to consist of only single-minded representatives – all “friendly to BN”? That’s not a “unity” government, it’s a BN government. This is a mockery of the intelligence of Malaysians. A beginning of what is to come with this PM-to-be.

Used with permission from Hannah Yeoh. Hannah Yeoh is the Democratic Action Party State Assemblyperson for Subang Jaya in the State Assembly of Selangor.