MCA Kelana Jaya


Ong Chong Swen

王 锺 璇

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Answering the call of politics

By: Husna Yusop (Aug 06, 2009)

MCA Kelana Jaya division chief Ong Chong Swen tells Husna Yusop how she got inTO politics and why THE MCA still has a role in Selangor.

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
be 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 wanita wings.

Are you 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.

That also illustrates how I work with people, how I treat people.

Tell us 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 finance.

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 rotan.

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?

In Universiti 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.

What made 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 sales.

You did 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 always.

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 politics.

What 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.

Tell us 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.

What are 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 in it.

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 activities now?

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.

Selangor is 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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--- Article Information ---
This article was emailed from Sun2Surf.
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