Sunday, January 1, 2017

My 2016 by Yeo Bee Yin

As we welcome 2017 and have many plans and goals, I look back to the journey I have taken in 2016 and write down the milestones arrived. The destination is still far away and many times I ask myself "is it worth it?", it is by looking back the journey to see the lives changed, little differences made and remembering the many good people that run along with me and cheer me up in the journey that keep me going. 

Milestone 1: Tasik Biru 

I was the campaign director for DUN Tasik Biru but no matter how much the team and I tried and how much risk I took upon myself, we weren't able to win the rural seat to make this the first Sarawak rural seat won by the DAP. While there's no excuse to lose, we achieved progress we never made in previous elections. This is a constituency comprises of 68% Dayak, 6% Malay Melanau and only 26% Chinese, which was the traditional support base for the DAP. Yet we were able to win 45% of the votes and majority in 4 out of 20 Dayak villages! This was totally unimaginable for the DAP even until 2013.

When the result that we had lost was announced, many of us in the campaign team could not hold back our tears. We hugged each other and cried. All our hard works in the past few months especially that of the candidate Mordi Bimol for the past 5 years could not overcome money politics, cash handouts, election promises as well as fear and intimidation.

But the DAP cannot give up on Tasik Biru and our rural outreach because of this temporary setback. I remember the lady who wore the UBAH t-shirt with pride carrying her baby and walked with torch light in the dark kampong path leading up to our ceramah venue; I remember many of the villagers despite having financial difficulties stood with us against the big money from Barisan Nasional; I remember having discussions with the single mothers who canvassed for us but were fearful that their involvement in the campaign would deprive their children of the opportunities to study and scholarships; I remember the village lady who told me determinately that her vote and dignity cannot be bought with money; I remember the faces of all of the campaign workers that were full of pride when the candidate Mordi said in his defeat speech that “we have fought the battle with dignity and principle”; I remember every face that looked to Mordi with the hope of change and for a better future. I remember all of them.

We must remember that the history is long and we must become the worst enemy for the corrupt government, an enemy that will never give up until justice prevail on our land. Ubah Sarawak! Ubah Malaysia! 

Milestone 2: Youth Development
My office has been working on youth development since 2013. For 2016, we have organized 4 Youth Parliament and State Assembly visits (Jan, April and Oct), a Creative Activism Bootcamp (Sept), a personal finance workshop (Dec), 4 youth political forums/events (May, Aug, Oct, Nov) and at least 6 voter registration drives, which in total benefit more than 1,500 Malaysian youths. We have also empowered our youth community organizers to organize a Chess Competition in October. Personally, I took 6 interns this year so to allow them to have first hand experience in the political office. And I’ve also tried my best to accept the invitations to speak to youths from different walks of life and interview requests from university and college students. 

2017 is going to be even more exciting for us in youth development. We have a few new plans in the pipeline and will continue to do what we’ve been doing. There are things we’ve done right and things we need to improve on in our 2016 projects. But I would just like to take this opportunity to extend sincere thanks to my team and those who are involved in helping us in our journey to engage, equip and empower the youths in Malaysia in 2016! My office is small but I am definitely are blessed with a group of dedicated staffs and volunteers!

Why youth development is important for nation building? 

According to the National Statistics Department, there are about 7 million youths aged between 21-35 in Malaysia. This is around 25% of the population and 50% of the workforce, allowing the country’s economy to enjoy the demographic dividend as a result of expanding and young workforce. Politically, youths are not only a gigantic vote bank, they are also the best activists. Obama won his 2008 “Change” campaign starting as an underdog because young people came out in droves to campaign and vote for him. That’s the power of youths. We can make history, nothing less. Nevertheless, there is no free lunch in the world, elected representatives like us must engage with Malaysian youths to expose, equip and empower them, so that we can together rise up to the challenge before us.

Milestone 3: Women Empowerment 
In Malaysia, there is very little representation of women in the parliament and state legislatures. Except for Selangor, which has women representation of 28% in the state legislature, all other state legislatures and parliament have only around 10% women legislators. Hence women issues have not been effectively raised, which then lead to very little reforms in women-related public policies. Every 35 minutes, a girl/lady is raped in a corner in Malaysia and every 3.5 days, 1 baby is dumped and half of them did not survive. Such statistics although serious have not been widely talked about. 

Although more than 60% of tertiary students are women, only around of 50% working age women are in the workforce. (Malaysia’s women labour force participation rate is one of the lowest in Southeast Asia region). This is not only about the value of the society but also about working environment that is inconducive to pregnant women, breastfeeding and working mothers. The World Bank estimated a 2.9% additional GDP growth if Malaysia can push our female workforce participation rate to 70%. Working mothers are not only breadwinners and household managers (most of the time) for the families; they are also one of the drivers for country's economy. We need better women policies to protect our girls and to allow our women fulfill their full potential both in families and workplaces. 

In 2016, I continued my work on anti-rape and affordable childcare advocacy. In 2015, we launched “Rogol adalah Rogol” rape awareness social media campaign to spread the awareness about rape in Malaysia. The YouTube video we produced garnered more than 200,000 views to date. This year, I continued to allocate some of the state government allocation for my office to build a website and launches the first anti-rape website in Malaysia: to help rape victims and families to get information in a website as well as activists in term of policy advocacy. 

On affordable childcare advocacy, I continued to raise the issue in the media, state assembly and whenever possible – forums, dialogues and even party congress. Accessible, good quality and affordable childcare is one of the deciding factors for women when they consider whether to leave the workforce. Not only that, the World Bank reported that every dollar spent on preschool education earns between 6 to 17 dollars of public benefit, in the form of a healthier and more productive workforce with fewer wrongdoers. Good early childhood care and education (ECCE) is tantamount to national development. Therefore, I continue to raise the issue although sometimes I am being teased as to why I like to talk about about childcare since I have no children (and not sure if I’ll ever have, haha!). 

In Selangor, 25% of the main state government buildings are already equipped with public childcare. I’ll continue to raise the issue to ensure all of them have one. Selangor must lead by example in promoting workplace childcare. In addition, the Selangor government in 2017 budget has also increased RM2 million to our current childcare and pre-school subsidies for low-income families under TUNAS and Si-Kembar. 

These achievements however, is far less than what we really need for reform. In order to bring significant difference to ECCE field in Malaysia, we need reform in the federal level as it is under its jurisdiction and only federal budget can afford. I’ve raised the issue on Permata a few months ago, calling for greater transparency and most importantly, Women Ministry to spearhead all ECCE related programs including Permata instead of different initiatives being handled by different ministries with Permata absurdly put under the Prime Minister Department. I believe that the first step to long lasting ECCE reform is coordinated and strategic actions, not programs all over the place. I am still following-up on Permata and ECCE development in federal level and will continue to raise this issue. 

Beside continuing my work on anti-rape and affordable childcare advocacy, this year I’ve also started to advocate for breastfeeding facilities in Selangor too. And in my constituency, we are going to launch a public toilet that comes with nursing and breastfeeding room in SS2 commercial center very soon! Breastfeeding mothers and their difficulties need better attention from lawmakers and government agencies. We are still at infancy steps. 

Looking forward to 2017, as I’ve gained more experience in raising women issues in the last 3 years, I am planning a wider scope of work for my office next year in this aspect. We are also going to run projects related parenting workshop, women in leadership etc etc. In short, it’s going to be much more exciting! 

Milestone 4: Education

Our struggle and conviction towards social justice should not just be in words and rhetoric but real actions. Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change our country. I entered into politics with a dream that every child in Malaysia, regardless of their skin colors, religions, family incomes or where they are from even the deepest jungles in Sabah or Sarawak or the low-cost flats in the cities, will have opportunity for good education. When a country give access to good education to every child, the country will prosper because talents will be most discovered and used. 

Of course, real reform in education system will not be possible without federal power but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it. Here’s a project that my office started since early 2014 to give free tuition to low-income families in Damansara Bistari low cost flat in my constituency. It’s been 3 years since! (we made this video a year ago). 

I am always reminded of what my aunt told me when I was young “be faithful in little, much will be entrusted to you.” Yes, I want a reform in education system in Malaysia, although I can’t do that now, I can in my capacity as an ADUN do this to make small changes in my constituency and with the experiences gained, advocate better policies for reform in the future.

Milestone 5: Constituency Works
It’s been a happening year in Damansara Utama constituency. I’ve been trying my best to attend all the invitations to events/ forums/dialogues made by local associations to stay in touch with my constituents (would only skip when I wasn’t not in town or I had prior appointment.) I think this year I’ve attended at least 300 of them in the constituency, big and small, haha! In addition, our office also organized dialogues with residence, walkabouts as well as program mesra rakyat such as open houses or carnival. For low income families with food security problem, we have food bank programs that give RM50 assistance every month for them to purchase daily necessity. I also took time to do house visits on special cases. Although dengue cases was down y-o-y this year, Zika was a threat mid of this year, so my office ran constituency wide Anti-dengue and Zika campaign to raise awareness. 

My office also actively engages with the police and fire departments as they protect our people. This year, I’ve allocated some of my state government allocation for Sea Park Balai Polis and Damansara Utama Balai Bomba to do some small upgrade as their premises were very run down due to insufficient building maintenance fund from the federal government. 

On local issues related to the council MBPJ, our councillors (Daniel Lee, Jamaliah, Billy Wong, Ang Ming Ern and Sia Siew Chin) have been following-up on the issues. Here is the summary of some major issues. 

On some development projects: 
1.New public toilet in SS2 commercial center has been completed and will be launched soon.
2.Pintu Gerbang of Kg Chempaka: construction started and hopefully will be completed before Chinese New Year 2017.
3.New community center including multi-level parking, multi-purpose hall and badminton courts at Atria area: construction has started and it will be completed end of 2017. (This is one of the requirements imposed on OSK by MBPJ when they developed the area.)
4.RM3 million new parking space at Taman Bahagia LRT station.
5.Pilot project of waste composting just started at the kebuk sampah next to SS2 Medan Selera.
6.The council is now in preparation for the design of upgrade of SS2 Wet Market to construct roof and build better amenities. The open air SS2 marekt will finally have roof over the top (hopefully by end of 2017)! After the upgrade, the council will continue the SS2 redevelopment work in 2018 such as upgrade of Wai Sek Gai, Ibume and the park in the middle.
7.In 2017, all landed residential properties in Petaling Jaya will receive a new rubbish bins from MBPJ – the distribution will be area by area.
8.Sg Kayu Ara continues to pose threats of flooding for area like Kg Chempaka. River has been deepened with no major flood caused by river overflow reported this year. However, the river is still a tricky problem to solve especially now that the river deepening work has caused other issues such as collapse of river bank at Taman Mayang Jaya and there’s limited fund from JPS for major overhaul of the entire stretch of the river. My office is following-up the issue with relevant agencies and we’ve written all necessary letters. 

On the issue of maintenance, 
1.MBPJ spent about RM4 million to resurface at least 60 roads in the constituency in 2016. There are still some short-comings in the way the council handles road maintenance and our councillors have been raising those issue up in the relevant committees in the council. In the mean time, my office will need to intervene from time to time. For example, we proactively compiled a list of request for road resurfacing from feedback from residents and our self-initiated audit to submit to council for consideration for resurfacing projects.
2.More than RM1 million was spent on upgrading 8 parks in the constituency. With that, 25 parks have been upgraded in DU since 2013. 

There are still many things yet to be done and many things we can do better. Let's welcome 2017 with hope and anticipation that greater thing is yet to come. Here's to a purposeful and fruitful 2017! 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Selangor Budget 2017 Policy Debate Transcript

Below is the transcript of my policy debate in the current state assembly session. 

The top picture was taken by my intern who's attending the session as observer. Sorry for the quality, she needed to take from the TVs in assembly because of the sitting. :) 

Transkrip Perbahasan Dasar Yeo Bee Yin pada 2 November 2016 (Rabu) di Dewan Undangan Negeri Selangor. 

Terima tuan speaker kerana memberi ruang kepada Damansara Utama untuk turut serta dalam perbahasan belanjawan negeri selangor 2017 yang telah dibentangkan oleh Dato Menteri Besar pada hari Isnin.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Ucapan Belanjawan Negeri Selangor 2017 - Azmin Ali



Ahli-Ahli Yang Berhormat sekalian,

1. Kita menutup tirai 2016 dengan pelbagai kegembiraan untuk rakyat dan negeri. Pada 31 Ogos 2016, tatkala negara menyambut Hari Kemerdekaan, rakyat Selangor bergembira mendapat berita bahawa DYMM Sultan Selangor selamat diijabkabulkan dengan Tengku Permaisuri Selangor, Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin. Marilah kita mendoakan semoga Duli-Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku akan kekal bahagia dan terus bersemayam di atas takhta Negeri Selangor.

2. Dua minggu yang lalu, rakyat Negeri Selangor sekali lagi meraikan Istiadat Menjunjung Duli sempena Pemasyhuran Gelaran Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Tengku Amir Shah Ibni Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj sebagai Raja Muda Selangor ke 7 yang mewarisi Takhta Kesultanan Selangor. Majlis yang penuh dengan istiadat dan warisan ini menjadi tumpuan generasi muda tentang kelangsungan institusi kesultanan Melayu Negeri Selangor.

3. Kerajaan Negeri berikrar mempertahankan institusi Raja Berperlembagaan. Selagi ada bulan dan matahari, begitulah kesetiaan rakyat kepada Raja dan Negara kekal abadi.

4. Institusi Raja Melayu bagaikan sauh, agar bahtera bangsa tidak dihanyutkan oleh taufan dan badai. Raja dan rakyat berpisah tiada. Institusi Raja Berperlembagaan adalah payung kestabilan dan kemakmuran Negeri Selangor untuk kekal sebagai sebuah negeri maju yang peduli rakyat.

5. Di bawah naungan ini, kita bertemu sekali lagi untuk membuat persiapan menghadapi tahun hadapan. Pertemuan pagi ini turut dihadiri oleh Imam-Imam dari semua daerah, Penghulu dan Ketua-Ketua Kampung, Ahli-Ahli Majlis, wakil-wakil NGO yang mewakili budayawan dan penggiat seni, Persatuan Veteran Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (PVATM) dan aktivis masyarakat. Muafakat membawa berkat.

6. Kita akan membentangkan belanjawan dalam serba keyakinan. Kita telah mencipta kejayaan demi kejayaan. Pada 30 Oktober 2015 yang lalu, saya membentangkan belanjawan defisit sebanyak RM 630 juta untuk menjana pembangunan demi kesejahteraan rakyat dan kemakmuran negeri. Kita bersyukur sehingga 14 Oktober 2016 kedudukan kewangan negeri berada pada tahap lebihan sebanyak RM 351.38 juta.

7. Kutipan hasil negeri sudah mencecah 96.9 peratus, sementara belanja pembangunan sudah mencapai tahap 60.0 peratus manakala belanja mengurus pula pada tahap 77.1 peratus. Sehingga 14 Oktober 2016, rizab negeri berada pada tahap RM 3.62 bilion.

8. Kejayaan hari ini bukan helah untuk mengambil sikap selesa. Berkat kewangan yang kukuh, kita merangka Belanjawan 2017 untuk membangun bangsa dan memakmur negeri. Dasar mesra pasaran telah meningkatkan pelaburan domestik dan luar negara.

9. Pelabur mahukan kepimpinan yang mempunyai visi yang jelas, dasar yang tuntas dan berpegang kepada prinsip integriti dan kebertanggungjawaban dalam urus tadbir negeri.

10. Sementara Kerajaan Negeri bersikap mesra pasaran, kita tidak percaya tangan ghaib pasaran boleh membawa kemakmuran yang merata. Bahkan pasaran bebas yang tidak terkawal akan menyebabkan kesenjangan pendapatan dan peminggiran golongan berpendapatan rendah. Fenomena ini akan menyemai benih konflik sosial. Maka, kerajaan mempunyai peranan strategik untuk mencapai keadilan sosial sebagai asas pembangunan bangsa dan kemakmuran negeri.

11. Pelaksanaan GST telah menguncupkan pendapatan isi rumah dan menyumbang kepada ketidakupayaan melebarkan domestic consumption.

12. Sebagai sebuah Kerajaan yang peduli rakyat, Belanjawan 2017 akan memperkenalkan beberapa inisiatif untuk meringankan bebanan kos sara hidup rakyat khususnya di kalangan kumpulan isi rumah berpendapatan 40 peratus terendah (B40).

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Near to Impossible for BN to Fulfil Election Promise of 500,000 PR1MA Units

Media Statement by Yeo Bee Yin, State Assemblywoman for Damansara Utama on Sunday 30 October 2016 in Petaling Jaya.

Noh Omar should pay more attention in fulfillng Barisan Nasional’s election promise of building 500,000 PR1MA units by 2018.

Instead of  blaming the Selangor government, Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar should give a more professional reply on the issue of affordable housing in the parliament last Thursday.

In fact, Noh Omar should pay more attention in fulfilling Barisan Nasional manifesto in 2013 on affordable housing, which was “building 1,000,000 affordable homes - driven by public & private sectors - including 500,000 PR1MA houses.[i]” The recently announced Federal Budget 2017 shows that the cumulative total of PR1MA units built by the end of 2015 was only 10,291. For 2016, the cumulative total of PR1MA units approved were estimated at 145,000 with 60,000 expected to be completed by end of this year (see below the part ).

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

One-Sided 1MDB Forum in UM Another Reminder UUCA Must Go

Media Statement by Yeo Bee Yin, State Assemblywoman for Damansara Utama on Saturday 15 October 2016 in Petaling Jaya.

The one-sided 1MDB forum at Universiti Malaya (UM) organised by the UM students representative council (MPPUM) and Department of Special Affairs (Jasa) featuring 1MDB number one propagandist Arul Kanda Kandasamy was another reminder to us that the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) must be abolished.
It is sad to see Universiti Malaya, which was once a hotbed for student activism and idealism, has become a place for a one-sided-story. When the students held up placards that read ‘1MDB don’t spin’, ‘1MDB - Return the people’s money’, ‘Students want answers’, etc, they were labelled by Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz, a former Umno Youth leader, as “uncivilised”. But seriously, what could be more uncivilised than shamelessly stealing people’s monies?
While we are asking in Malaysia why there was no other side of the 1MDB story presented to the students in UM; across the Pacific Ocean, Washington University in St Louis was the venue for the United States’ second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. What a stark difference. When will we see the day that Universiti Malaya or any university in Malaysia become the host of election debates between political parties?
Although the UCCA was amended in 2012 to allow students to participate in politics outside of the campus, Section 15 still prohibits political activities inside campus and imposes restrictions on students from organisations that the university board determines to be “unsuitable to the interests and well-being of the students or the University”.
Section 15, coupled with Section 4 that strips away autonomy from the universities, makes critical thinking and objective debates impossible in campuses across Malaysia.
Since the enactment of the UUCA, tertiary students in Malaysia have been scared away from national issues. Many students are fearful to participate in political activities. In my short journey as a politician, I have met countless of students who asked me whether their scholarships would be taken away or whether they would be expelled from the universities if they participate in rallies, forums, events or programmes organised by the opposition political parties.
The culture of fear is prevalent. In addition, it is ironic and laughable to see many tertiary institutions offering subjects related to “critical thinking” when the very core spirit of the law that governs them is based on restrictions and controls.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Can we talk about affordable childcare now?

This article is written to raise awareness about the need to ensure good quality childcare are available at affordable price in Malaysia. 

Picture with my nieces and nephew, who like every Malaysian child,  
deserve good quality childcare when it is needed, regardless their parents income level. 

Why is affordable childcare an important topic? 

I have no children but affordable childcare is something that is very close to my heart because making childcare affordable is a serious matter in terms of human development as well as social and economic justice. 

1. Childcare is a financial burden to many families. 

Now, full-day childcare monthly fees in Klang Valley ranges from RM 350 to more than RM2,000 per child depending on the quality of the childcare centers. Childcare expenses have become an increased burden to many young families. 

2. The quality of childcare depends on who can pay more. 

Only those who are well-to-do can send their children to good quality childcare centers. In another words, children of the haves and havenots will have completely different starting points, feeding into the vicious cycle of inequality. 

3. Unaffordable childcare increases inequality. 

The lack of good quality childcare at affordable price drives women out of the workforce as it is more economical for them to stay at home to teach and take care of their children. When women stop working, the households go from dual-income and single-income, reducing the total household incomes. Worse still, various reports have shown that this is more likely to happen in low and middle income families, resulting in increased gap between the rich and the poor.

4. When women don't work, it is an economic loss to the country.

Women dropout from the workforce is an economic loss to the country. This is especially true for Malaysia as our women are increasingly better educated than men -  the enrollment to tertiary education is currently about 60% women and only 40% men.  As of now, Malaysia has one of the lowest female labour participation rate in South East Asia with only 54% of women in working age in the workforce. The United Nation Development Program (UNDP) calculated that increasing female participation rate to 70% would boost Malaysia gross domestic product (GDP) by 2.9%, which is equivalent to around RM 33 billion every year.

5. Investment in children gives the best return on investment for government in term of human development. 

James J. Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics and an expert in the economics of human development, has been advocating government invesment in early childhood care and education (ECCE). Heckman’s Equation proves statistically that investing in early childhood saves taxpayer monies in the long run - good ECCE results in lower social welfare cost, decreased crime rate and increased tax revenue.  In fact, ECCE investment produces the highest rate of return on investment in human capital development (as shown in the figure below).

What can we do about it? 

To provide good and affordable childcare, Malaysia can learn from Singapore, Australia, Finland and many other Scandinavian countries. Childcare in those countries are subsidized by the the government whereby tiered subsidies are given - amount of subsidies differ according to household income level. The childcare centers in those countries are mainly run by private operators at competitive market. To be eligible for the subsidies, they must meet certain requirements set by the government, which usually comprise of student-teacher ratio, qualifications of the teachers, safety standards and so on, to ensure good quality childcare.The amount of subsidies are computed in such a way that households spend similar percentage of disposable income on childcare. 

In addition, Government must also identify the structural barriers faced by the childcare industry and work to improve macro-environment so that childcare businesses can be run more competently and efficiently, offering better services at cheaper price. 

What does the Selangor government do about it? 

The Selangor government has similar subsidy programs such as TUNAS (Skim Bantuan Tadika Selangor) and Si Kembar (Skim Bantuan Asuhan Selangor). However, they are only limited to households with the income level less than RM2,500 and provide only small amount of subsidies. To expand the program to middle income families and increase the amount of subsidies to include better quality childcare centers are beyond the state government’s financial capability and jurisdictions. The Selangor state government budget is only 1% of the federal government budget and childcare is supposed to be developed by Education Ministry as well as Women, Family and Community Development Ministry. Therefore, we need political will from the federal government to make a more holistic reform in childcare industry. 


I hope that Putrajaya can consider the proposal above and derive a comprehensive and strategic plan to ensure that good quality childcare is available at affordable price, so that all our children will have equal opportunity to learn and develop in the early age, regardless of the income levels of the families.