Answering the call of politics
By: Husna Yusop (Aug 06, 2009)
Jaya division chief Ong Chong Swen tells
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
active in politics, have a career and take
care of her family.
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.
you encouraging more women to join politics?
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.
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.
you still have time to cook?
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.
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.
do you write about in your website
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.
are you interested in this particular case?
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
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.
did you get started in politics?
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.
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.
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
made you join politics?
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
did direct sales full-time?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
us about your start in politics?
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
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.
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.
mostly dealt with consumer issues.
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
Selangor is now ruled by Pakatan. Is the MCA still
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.
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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