Selangor has been labelled the Pakatan Rakyat’s road to Putrajaya, and its Bangi assemblyman, Shafie Ngah agreed to entertain us with an interview despite the short notice. Read what the state’s deputy speaker told Sufi Naz from English Section, on the various issues affecting the nation.
English Section [ES]: Firstly, on behalf of Harakah and English Section, we would like to congratulate Ustaz Shafie for being selected as Deputy Speaker. Were you surprised when you got chosen as deputy speaker? How did your family, friends and constituents take to the news?
Shafie Ngah [SN] : Firstly, thank you Harakah for giving me the opportunity to share my opinions. My appointment as deputy speaker was actually the consequence of the appointment of the new Selangor executive committee members. Looking at the composition of the state assembly, there was a need to choose a representative from PAS as speaker. My name was selected by Selangor PAS and another was nominated by the DAP. All the assemblymen then voted to choose who wold become the deputy speaker.
For the first time in Malaysia, a speaker has been chosen by vote. Bangi residents were of course happy to hear it. For me, it is an additional responsibility however, and reduces my time with my constituents.
I now have to go to the office at least three times a week because the deputy speaker’s post is a governmental one. My family was definitely surprised when they heard the news, because I did not inform them when I got nominated by the party’s state liaison committee. When the news finally broke, they only got to know it from the media. Even my wife didn’t know about it.
ES: Has being the deputy speaker changed your outlook on things compared to being only an assemblyman?
SN: It definitely has. When I started to perform my duty as a speaker, I was continuously thinking on how best to improve the existing laws in Selangor. So I have begun reviewing them to see whether they are still relevant in today’s context. The process is ongoing and I told the Speaker with regard to my efforts. If there are weaknesses, we will make it better and it not only involves Sharia law, but also on land, the environment and also the management of the state’s forests.
ES: DUN Bangi had recently sent aid to flood affected areas, quicker than almost all other non-governmental groups. How did you manage to do that and was it hard to organise? Were Bangi residents receptive to your appeal for aid and donations?
SN: Yes, Praise be to Allah. I have managed to play two major roles during the recent flooding; one as Bangi assemblyman and another, with a non-governmental-organization (NGO). In the context of the recent floods, I would have liked to play both roles, however the more prominent was the one with an NGO.
I already did my part in the Selangor government which connected as government to government to the various affected states. As there were so much that needed doing, I decided to move forward with the NGO, Bangi Care.
Bangi Care has been in the recent past been helping out in other areas and locations. For example, we held qurban in Cambodia, mass Sunathon (male circumcision) in Sabah and many other charity programmes.
Bangi Care was my original idea before I became an assemblyman. After getting elected, I handed the task to others, and acted only as advisor. When we move in to help as an NGO, the public’s perception is warm regardless of their race or political views.
This is happening because the people want to see what they can get from us and not the other way around. The building of houses by Bangi Care for example for those who have lost them during the floods is an enormous task because we are rebuilding lives.
When we started requesting donations online to build these houses under Rumah Rakyat Bangi Care, we received more than RM150k. What that meant was, the first phase of the project could proceed, and we could now move on to the second phase.
That does not include assistance we get in the form of manpower and materials. There have been about seven flood aid missions that we have already completed. I would like to express my gratitude to all Bangi residents because of their amazing support. This has made the dream of the flood victims of getting a house to replace the one they lost, to really come true, God willing.
ES: What was it like going to the flood affected areas, is there anything you could share with us?
SN: I was part of a team that had successfully gone to the flood affected areas. I remember our journey by land to Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan. I was extremely sad when I saw almost all the houses there, in water, and the victims, at a loss at what to do.
My second mission was to Kuala Krai, Dabong which was even worse, because I saw many of the victims staring blankly because they had lost all their houses and belongings. It really touched my heart. They could perhaps obtain food easily with the various aid agencies around, but getting a house replaced is no short order. In addition to that, they were poor, had no fixed income and depended solely on their wages as rubber tappers, at the perils of the rubber market.
When the rubber trees were also destroyed, their situation became really dire. Our initiative is for them to have some semblance of normal living, by owning a house again. This is what we call ‘back to life’.
When I met other NGOs, called up by the Kuala Krai district officer, we shared our experiences with them. These NGOs were experienced in building shelters. We evaluated the suitability of using tents and containers, and we found them to be less suitable especially for women and children to live in.
Thank God, I got the inspiration from my friends and it was fortunate for us too, that the factory which manufactures these houses is located in the area (Sungai Chua), making it easier to deal with them.
The houses for the flood victims were to be built according to our needs. When we saw all of it with our own eyes, we knew we had to act. I believed we could do it. Alhamdulillah, we have managed to build three houses already, which was completed last week, and launched by a Kelantan Exco member.
ES: What lessons in your opinion, can we learn from the recent disasters that had affected multiple states in Malaysia?
SN: There are many lessons to be learnt. There are those talking about disasters who do not believe in God and I do not wish to talk about this perception.
What I saw is that, any state government must be a robust one, able to manage its economy and cater to its citizens’ need. Kelantan for example, must be strong in order to ensure that all of its citizens are protected. What are the people’s most basic needs? It is housing.
Not only the government has to be strong, its citizens must be too. The people must be strong to help their government and not solely depend on the government. The rich get richer but the poor, what is going to happen to them? Development too must be channelled towards the children especially to those who would be migrating to other states to further their study or work.
The government and the people have to be united. The federal government had been entrusted to give the petroleum commission and royalty to Kelantan. Do not politicize it to the point it strangles Kelantan and its people and causes hardship for them.
The economy of Kelantan depends mostly on agriculture. Please don't let this slow-moving economy to suffer without being assisted. God already has given Kelantan petroleum so please hand them back the royalty and they will survive.
The government has the responsibility to upgrade the people and their lives. Kuala Krai, Gua Musang, Dabong are among the earliest settlements in Malaysia. The first communist attack and the first train in Malaysia also happened here.
So why are the Kelantan people so poor? It is because the federal government has not fulfilled its responsibility in helping them. Helping them is not courtesy but an obligation. It is enshrined in law that the federal government has to give the Kelantanese their petroleum royalty. Only then can they develop and be strong.
I hope what has happened be a lesson to the federal government, the Kelantan state government and its citizens.
ES: There recently were some complaints heard, regarding sand mining and retrieval in Taman Sepakat Indah II, were the claims true? Can you comment?
SN: Sand mining mining and retrieval in Taman Sepakat Indah II is legal because the company was given the concession to do so by the state government to clean and deepen the river. Due to the floods of 2008 and 2009 in that area, river deepening had been approved by the state government and the company entrusted did its work. The mining area however, is large and an irresponsible party had also taken upon itself to retrieve the sand. I took immediate action and instructed the company to stop its work in the area.
This action was supported by nearby residents, but unfortunately there had been rumours spread stating the concession has started operations again. I am now examining legal action to handle this matter.
An issue had also arisen regarding the use of the road here by lorries carrying the sand. We have not much choice regarding this, because the sand cannot be brought out by any other way. Moreover, the road itself is on reserve land.
Residents and the company tasked to extract sand are both not satisfied with each other, and I understand both their viewpoints. However the river has to be deepened immediately as it is now shallow.
The people living nearby too, must be respected, and not disturbed especially during the night and holidays. God willing, I have received commitment that there will be no more activity on the site on the days that I mentioned earlier. I will try my best to resolve this matter as soon as possible.
ES: Are there upcoming programmes for constituents that you can share with us?
SN: I can name you two or three programmes. One is a sewing class for mothers and it has reached up to the seventh session and focuses on Bangi residents. We send trained teachers to teach them at locations such as the surau.
It is not however an open market. We give the opportunity to the surau committee or the public themselves to choose the suitable candidates for the sewing classes. We have trained many women to sew. Our target is to at least have these women make their own clothing especially the expensive ones such as "baju kurung" and "tudung".
The second programme is called the "Akil Baligh Programme", a programme where we focus on female teenagers, and educate them on puberty. We teach them what is meant by puberty, the physical changes and its emotional impact.
Today, the world is an open sky, and a women's dignity can be destroyed easily. This programme has been ongoing for nine sessions and one series consists of 30 people.
We also have the "Get into Rugby" programme. Rugby is a sport in which the Malays seldom participate in especially in the villages. It is a sport pupils in boarding schools play, so those in villages do not have the chance to play it, let alone to touch the rugby ball.
We go to the field, give them the ball and get them to play. Now even the children can touch and play with the rugby ball.
There are several others, which you can search for through my official Facebook page, under the name shafiengah.com.
For 2015, we will continue the same programmes but it will be upgraded. This upgrade is intended to attract more public participation. At the end of the day, people will ask me "What can I get from you?"
As Selangor deputy speaker and a PAS Deputy Commissioner I know the people want to know that.
My way of thinking now is, to be "customer oriented". Let the customers get what they have entrusted to me through state allocations, amounting to RM700,000 per year. This allocation is what we channel through these programmes, and also including others, such as infrastructure restoration in the villages, the building of bus stops and security guard posts and also the village entrance initiative programme which was requested by the villagers.
ES: What are your hopes for Bangi and its people, and what would you like to see improved?
SN: I dream of a clean Bangi with good infrastructure, structured roads and beautiful landscape. In 2015 I will focus on the beauty and cleanliness of Bangi. At the same time, we want to attract Bangi folk to have a similar inspiration and take part.
For example, the "Bangi Bersih" effort; it is not only restricted to commercial premises that has to keep itself clean. The public too has to be hygienic and not litter. They should learn to segregate the garbage accordingly such as kitchen waste, furniture, construction waste and so on. This will facilitate the garbage contractor’s efforts to compose the organic matter.
Beautiful landscape is also one of my focuses. There are three roundabouts in Bangi, so we will make it ‘ more attractive. These dreams have yet to come true, but God willing, the true beauty of Bangi will soon prevail.
In addition to that, my aim is for Bangi to be a stop for tourists. People go to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport everyday and before they depart they shop at the Central Market or Kuala Lumpur. Why don't we make Bangi as a better alternative? When they come, they can buy their souvenirs here and then go straight to KLIA. Tourists have yet to see the jewel here. I think we must start to share the idea, as I believe when we share, we will get it.
When we have wishes and start to share it with people, they will also participate. Say it and do something, God willing it will become a reality.
ES: Lastly, do you have anything to add?
SN: The existing state government is one that was established through the people's hopes. It cannot stand by itself, hence we have numerous town hall meetings to discuss that have cropped up and hold dialogues. Holding a dialogue does not mean it is a medium to bash but to propose, so that it will be a development. Bangi is a place where the middle-class and educated people stay, and we can attract their support by inviting the people to participate in shaping its future. Let the community come alive because we all share the same aspiration.
At end of the day, everyone will enjoy the positive results. Don't just keep quiet. Let us not be a once in five years’ type of person. Everyone from all races and religions are welcome to join so that we can see the lovely Bangi and Selangor generally, and it will be a much better place with public’s participation, God willing. Thank you. - ES