On first impression, newly-elected Padungan state assemblyman (ADUN) Wong King Wei comes across as the boy next door who made it good in the world. Beneath the disarming charm is a man whose sense of duty to his beloved state Sarawak has led him to leave the comfortable trappings of a legal profession and answered the call to bring change for the state.
As someone born and bred thoroughly as a Kuching boy, Wong has been serving ably as Bandar Kuching Member of Parliament Chong Chien Jen’s assistant for his state and parliamentary constituencies for the last four years. The father of two, who did obtained his University of London (External) and Certificate of Legal Practitioner (CLP), has been working as a lawyer in Kuching since 2006.
Coupled with his fluency in Mandarin, English, and Chinese dialects, it has enabled him to understand and acquire the knowledge and know-how of an elected representative’s duties and tasks.
Since been elected as an ADUN, Wong has seen more of his time taken up by public service. Most of his personal time is now allocated for his family whenever he is available. “I certainly missed seeing my children, but duty calls. I know the hectic schedule was to be expected with this job. I just have to manage my time better,” Wong adds.
Another dimension of his life has changed as well. A regular church-goer who serves on his church’s worship team, Wong has certainly become the glare of attention for his congregation. “Now I have to make sure I shake everyone’s hands when I see them so as not to make anyone feel slighted,” Wong laughs.
The Sarawak state election was Wong’s second active participation in election campaigning. He noticed the substantial difference for the state election campaign compared with the 2008 general elections (GE). “We had more Peninsular Malaysia DAP members assisting us and better coordination in campaigning with other parts of Sarawak in terms of election posters and slogans.”
Wong believes that in the next GE, Sarawak DAP will have to recruit more volunteers and helpers as they cannot expect Peninsular DAP members to render as much help as they will also be occupied with the GE campaigning in their own states. Active recruitment of members and volunteers has to begin now via word of mouth, engagement forums and meet-the-people sessions.
The overwhelming response of the voters during the recent Sarawak election campaign took him by surprise. “We knew we had the support, but the size of the ceramah crowd and enthusiasm shown by the people was beyond our expectations. We felt the pressure; we know we have to perform for the people,” Wong remarked.
Padungan for Sarawak
Wong states that as Padungan is a relatively well-developed area and equipped with adequate infrastructure, its local issues may not be about teething problems, in contrast with other state seats (DUN). Nevertheless, he notes that there is the issue of haphazard physical development in the town area, especially the proposal by the local council to build sewerage processing plants in the downtown area. It will be an eyesore and may cause structural damage to the shops and houses located there.
As an ADUN, Wong has requested to sit in local council meetings but was rejected recently. “We are already witnessing the start of BN’s attempt to muffle the people’s legitimately elected voice,” he said.
As representative for the national issues concerning Padungan voters, Wong has promised to continuously raise the issue of accountable and transparent governance in the state. In particular, he will be looking to highlight more of the state BN leaders’ corrupted practices and unaccounted wealth.
“Our Chief Minister’s (CM) alleged obscene wealth and the means by which he obtained them is already known all over the world, and yet MACC has taken such a long time to investigate and prosecute him. We will have to continuously remind the public about it,” he added.
However, Wong foresees obstacles in the form of restriction from the state assembly speaker. “In the past, many of DAP’s ADUNs were either suspended from the state assembly or barred from speaking when they raised the CM’s corruption cases. We will have to keep up the pressure through media channels if denied the chance in the state assembly.” He believes with the presence of so many opposition ADUNs, the state BN government will be more responsible in answering their questions and queries as the people will be monitoring them.
Another area where Wong wants to focus on is the welfare of Sarawak’s poor. “Sarawak is blessed with much natural resources yet it is the fourth poorest state and has the second largest number of poor in Malaysia. The wealth disparity between the rural natives and the urban dwellers is getting larger by the day. We have to take more proactive measures to address this worsening gap.”
Wong believes DAP needs to work better internally as a team and also with other Pakatan parties. “PR’s cooperation is crucial to ensure we succeed. We share the same principles: that is – to serve the people and bring accountable and transparent governance for Sarawak. We have a common ground to work on.”
Elaborating further on the areas where DAP need to improve on, Wong emphasises the need to recruit more Dayak leaders and members to the party’s cause. Towards this end, he believes DAP need to step up in showing more consistent presence and providing assistance for the Dayaks. “We have to provide tangible help in the form of building and repairing the natives’ residences, teaching English to the children, providing water pipes for the longhouses, sponsoring diesel for their generator sets etc. The natives will know if our words match up to our actions.”
However, he recognises there will be a limitation to what DAP is able to do, particularly when it comes to financial aid for all these assistance programs. DAP will need to work harder to solicit funding aid from the public. DAP has to increase more funding drives and dinners to raise the funds for that purpose. He is optimistic that as a result of the good results that DAP obtained in the last state election, the public will be more willing to assist in this cause. -The Rocket