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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Full circle for DAP's 'imokman'

On May 9 - the fourth anniversary of BN's stunning defeat at the polls - Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming dropped a bombshell.

Ong publicly announced that he would no longer be seeking re-election, despite being relatively young at 47 and being the incumbent of a safe and thus highly prized seat.

In Malaysian politics, it is rare for one to announce an "early" political retirement that is not related to a scandal, internal party feuds or health reasons (Ong is an avid distance runner).

For Ong, better known online as "imokman" ("I'm okay man"), two terms as an MP on both sides of the aisle had given him perspectives and experiences that he must now distil through the rigours of academia.

In an interview with Malaysiakini, Ong said once his term is over, he plans to write, research and teach on matters of public policy, either locally or abroad.

Ong has a stellar academic background. He was an Asean scholar and Fulbright scholar, the latter funding his PhD programme at Duke University.

He was previously with the Boston Consulting Group and two think tanks. Just prior to politics, he was teaching at UCSI University.

By returning to research and teaching on public policy, Ong has come full circle, albeit with the benefit of actually being a policymaker.

Besides that, he planned to assist small and medium-sized enterprises to adapt to the post-pandemic world as well as government policy after he took a step back from politics.

Ong had a short stint as the international trade and industry deputy minister. Among others, it was involved in policy making over Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade deals and reforms to the approved permits for vehicle imports.

"I wouldn't have been able to do this before 2018 but with 20 months of experience in government I feel that I understand how government works better," he said.

Policymaking, explained Ong, required political considerations but there are other factors such as business, both domestic and abroad.

"Whether it's free trade, the implementation of 5G, I've been on the front line as a deputy minister of international trade and interacted with a lot of ministers in government over the last two years.

"I think I can bring the unique perspective to help others to understand the public policymaking process better," said Ong.

He added that the black and white thinking and partisanship views when approaching public policy is harmful to society.

“If this kind of thinking filters down to civil servants or other public policymakers such as think tanks and academics, the world would be much more divisive,” Ong added.

Validation of past work

Validation of his past work came in the form of messages that he had received from some current and past ministers who are in Perikatan Nasional or BN.

"Surprisingly, quite a number of ministers and former ministers sent me messages. A former Umno minister asked me to stay on as an MP. He said whether in government or opposition, we need good people to be part of the political and public policymaking process.

"This is part and parcel of how we should be moving the country forward to a more mature political landscape," he said.

Ong said he has named a potential successor to the DAP leadership and explained his choice to the grassroots.

The successor, said Ong, has to be someone capable of representing the hyperdiverse constituency of Bangi which has 300,000 voters - one of the largest constituencies in the country.

For Ong, Bangi represents a microcosm of Malaysian society due to its diversity and thus the choice of a candidate must have wide appeal.

"I don't want to say the person's name out loud, because that will put unfair pressure on the person.

"If you look at my social media posts it will be quite clear who I've nominated," he said. - Mkini

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