Answering the call of politics
By: Husna Yusop (Aug 06, 2009)
MCA Kelana Jaya
division chief Ong Chong Swen tells
how she got inTO politics and why THE MCA still has a role in
You head both the MCA Kelana Jaya division and its
wanita wing. How did this happen?
I have been pro tem
division wanita chief since 2003. It was pro tem because of the
re-delineation of the parliamentary constituency. In 2005, I
became the wanita chief. In 2008, I defended my post and
contested for the division chiefís post and won. I believe I am
the only woman to be division chief and Wanita Chief in the MCA.
It takes a lot of commitment for a woman to
active in politics, have a career and take
care of her family.
You could say there
is still a long way to go for women in politics here. But the
environment now is conducive. If I take my division as an
example, I am glad I have the support of both the youth and
encouraging more women to join politics?
Yes, yes. But you
have to remember the family factor constrains women from being
actively involved. Normally after graduation, women will be busy
with their careers and families, especially if they have
children. It makes no difference to a man whether he is married
or not because the wife will take care of the children and cook
for him. It is not the same for a married woman.
Even when both
husband and wife are working, it is the wife who ends up doing
all the domestic duties and taking care of the children. Thatís
why I think it takes a lot of commitment for a woman to be
active in politics, have a career and take care of her family.
In my case, I have a supportive husband. He has known me since
university when I was an active student. So, he should not be
angry with me now for being who I am.
Do you still
have time to cook?
My children have
been trained to eat whatever is put on the table. I have also
been lucky since I have had good maids who have stayed with me
for a long time because I treat them as equal, as family
members. I treat them with respect, by being gentle but firm.
And that has always been my motto. I say when you take a stand,
you must be firm but the approach can be gentle. And I think I
have done that with my family, colleagues and maids.
In almost 20 years,
I have only had two maids work for me. The second one left when
she had a chance to work in Ireland, and my first maid came
back. They can pay £600 (in Ireland); how can I afford that?
When she got the offer, I told her I could not pay her that
much, so with my blessings, she left. I gave her a good
recommendation. Some people said I was stupid (to let her
leave). I told them it was an opportunity for her. I think when
you are good to people, it will come back to us.
You are very lucky
in that sense.
illustrates how I work with people, how I treat people.
about your children?
My elder son is
working. My second son and daughter are still studying in the
US. My daughter took up music, my second boy is doing business
What do you write about in your website
I have written on
(Burmese democracy leader) Aung San Suu Kyi because I feel
strongly about her confinement by the military government. There
was an article about three people who kidnapped children from
Sunway in April. And then the following month, about three men
who kidnapped, robbed and raped a 17-year-old girl who turned up
at school at 7.30am.
Why are you
interested in this particular case?
I feel strongly
about this case because it is different from other cases where
women go out clubbing and get raped, or those who accept rides
from strangers. I am not saying they asked for it, but there are
some precautions they should have taken. But this girl was a
bright, happy, enthusiastic person who went to school to further
her education. What right did they have to take away her joy?
And you know this will haunt her for the rest of her life.
And worst, when the
three rapists were brought to court, they appealed for leniency!
And the reason they gave was that they came from a poor
background. A poor background does not give you a licence to
kill. I wrote that the judge should give them 20 years and the
I have also written
about security. It is an issue in densely populated Subang Jaya
and Kelana Jaya.
How did you
get started in politics?
Malaya, I was involved in the student union and in charge of the
welfare of foreign students visiting the campus. Thatís when I
started to entertain people. I mingled with foreigners. At that
time, there were a number of national issues which student
unions were taking up.
I was already
interested in politics. But after I graduated I hadnít decided
to join any political party. I was more an issue-orientated
person. If Umno or MCA picked up on something which I thought
was correct, I would support it. Even if it was picked up by the
DAP, I would agree. Likewise, if there were issues of interest
to the public that were not taken up, I would voice out. At that
time, most of us were coffee-table politicians who like to make
a lot of comments.
But like many new
graduates, I found myself constrained by time, what with
starting a career and having a family.
I went into teaching
and worked hard. I was the library teacher, Chinese language
society adviser, house master and student counsellor. I tried to
reserve weekends for my children. Back in the 80s, it was
difficult to find a maid. So, when I went to work, I sent my
children to the nursery.
you join politics?
In 1995, when my
second son started primary school (SJKC Lick Hung), I got
involved in the parent-teacher association (PTA). I am the type
of parent who feels since my child is there, I want to know what
is going on in the school. So, I went for the AGM, got elected
as a committee member and became involved in community
activities. At that time, I had left teaching. I left in the
80s, after teaching for seven years and got involved in direct
direct sales full-time?
I got involved in
direct sales because of its flexible hours and the positive
environment. Itís very positive. You always learn something new.
You have to read up a lot and motivate others. I like that kind
of environment. And in a few years I felt a change in my
perspective because I had to mix with different people.
Itís different from
teaching. When you are teaching, you are teaching with
authority, with children who are younger than you. Whatever you
say they follow. But after the career change, I mingled with
different kinds of people. I had to talk their language and I
felt it was good training that made me open up and be prepared
So, all these
experience helped when in 1995, during my involvement with the
PTA, I had to get in touch with the MCA. At that time, Subang
Jaya (now Kelana Jaya) was an MCA seat. It was (Datuk) Lee Hwa
Bengís first term (as an assemblyman). We met at a number of
fundraising activities. From there, I got in touch with
motivated you to go into politics?
When I was involved
in the PTA, I realised that in the Chinese schools, we had to
raise funds for many things, even to build classrooms or for
in-house upgrading. It was difficult to get funds from the
authorities. I thought if I was not involved in politics, then I
would have to beg for donations all the time. So, maybe it was
time for me to start getting involved, to see whatís best, or
the proper channel to bring up the problems. That motivated me.
Youíve been in
Subang Jaya for a long time Ė 30 years. But you are not a local.
I am from Kota Baru.
I did my primary schooling in Kelantan, my secondary in Penang (Dato
Keramat Convent) and then my tertiary education in Kuala Lumpur
(Universiti Malaya). I bought my first house when the Subang
Jaya township was launched. Since then I have moved a few times,
but always stayed in SJ and now USJ.
about your start in politics?
I got involved in
community service in 1995. The following year, a group of
friends decided to join MCA and urged me to join. Later in 1998,
I became the branch chairman (of Kelana Jaya) and in 1999 I
became the division wanita deputy chief and state wanita
executive councillor. I have not looked back since. I was active
in the partyís consumer affairs bureau. I even went on air over
Radio 5 to talk about consumer rights. I was also interviewed
fortnightly by a Chinese newspaper on consumer issues.
among the significant issues you have highlighted?
I took up a lot of
issues like the Plus-Tag, now Smart Tag. At that time when you
lost the card, whatever money you had in the tag was lost. But
now if your tag is stolen and if you have the top up slip which
has your account number, you can still go to the counter, pay
the RM15 deposit and secure the card and whatever amount is left
Another issue was
the time-sharing concept. In the 1990s, a lot of developers were
keen on selling club memberships for RM10,000 or RM20,000 with
free holidays every year. They had linked up with places in Port
Dickson, Europe or Hongkong, for instance, and members could
apply to stay there. The problem was, they would only have 30
rooms but 5,000 to 10,000 members. If many members applied at
the same time for the same popular location, they might not be
able to get it. Initially, it was an exciting concept. But then,
there were a lot of complaints. We took this up and highlighted
it in the papers.
So, you mostly dealt
with consumer issues.
Yes. And, apart from
that, I was also involved in education and general issues. Over
the past one year, our division picked up on a lot of issues as
we have more chances to meet the people face to face. As long as
it is a people issue, we are for it.
How has it been like
after Pakatan Rakyat took over the state? Do you have fewer
No. Our team is
still busy. But I would say that the March 8 general election
results Ė the tsunami Ė came as a shock. The party and the
divisions had to do a lot of internal adjustment. From April
last year until August, we were not able to do much for the
community as we were busy with party elections. But now we are
back helping the people.
now ruled by Pakatan. Is the MCA still needed?
Yes. If anybody
comes to us for help, like for transfer of schools or anything,
we will help. And during our walk-around, people complain to us,
for example about the market. There was a big hole on the floor
and it had been left unattended for months. Nobody took a
personal interest. So, we highlighted it to the MPSJ and got it
fixed within two weeks.
My team in MCA
Kelana Jaya is people-orientated and holds peopleís needs to
their hearts. Last August, the Barisan Nasional leadership
appointed Lee You Hin as Subang Jaya state assembly development
coordinator and me as officer for the Kelana Jaya parliamentary
constituency. Though these two seats are in Pakatan Rakyat
hands, the BN wants to continue serving (the people). Every
Tuesday night our office is open to the public and we still have
a lot of people coming to us for help.
What is your
advice for women interested in politics?
You need to adjust.
I am happy I have three grown-up kids, all are successful,
straight-A children. My daughter is on the deanís list almost
every semester. My son is also the same. Basically, as mothers,
we donít have to be with our children 24 hours. But we must know
when they need us. Like when they have exams, they must know we
are always available. And I always motivate them.
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