N13 – BERAPIT

LYDIA ONG KOK FOOI 

Elected Position

  • State Assemblyperson for Berapit

Standing up for women

Ong is PR’s only female elected representative in the Penang State Assembly. She is also Penang State Exco in charge of Youth, Sports, Women, Family and Community Development.  In taking up this portfolio, Ong knew of the challenges that lay ahead, not just about her abilities but judgments based on her gender.

“Ups and downs are part and parcel of politics, it is being psychologically prepared for the challenges that matters,” Ong says.

Like many of her newly-elected peers, the previous BN Penang state government left them nothing but empty offices with many major documents missing. References were a challenge and they had to start everything from scratch.

“We had to earn the cooperation of government officers who had been serving a BN state government for 39 years at that point. My mind was constantly in thought to find solutions, the pressure was tremendous as we could not let the people down,” Ong recalls.

She says she was fortunate to have a team that was ready to contribute and together, they strived to do a much better job than the previous BN state government. Women’s organizations were finally appointed as members of governmental committees.

Ong also acknowledges the challenges that the Penang state government faces by not receiving financial assistance from the BN-led federal government. She nonetheless believes that for the sake of the country and the state, the fight must continue.  Assistance can be obtained through various channels including the private sector and community groups, which can be tasked with organizing activities.

Human resources are available especially from the youth which brings a whole new approach to governance. After three years, the PR Penang state government is now stable and on track.

As a woman, Ong knows the importance of many women having to juggle their careers and their responsibilities as mothers. She established a state-owned day care centre to assist the needs of working mothers.

Awareness activities were also organized to educate women on their rights and how to protect against sexual assault. Helping victims of sexual assault was also made a priority with the participation of several NGOs. The current Penang State Government is giving women the platform to be empowered and ready to go forward as difference-makers in society.

It is a long and arduous road to create conducive conditions for women to excel, Ong is determined to keep fighting on. She is thankful for the help she received along the way from various governmental and non-governmental organizations.

When it came to the development of the youth under her portfolio, Ong choses to be apolitical. This was done in order to ensure that the youth receive the best regardless of political interests. She has worked with organizations that are traditionally pro-BN to achieve this. Of course the BN federal government is not too pleased with this development, which Ong insist is for the best interests of the youth.

She has been politically attacked many times but resists the urge to respond in kind. Such discipline requires a strong will, perhaps a trait that runs in Ong’s family.

Ong is the daughter of Datuk Ong Chow Song who is a Gerakan stalwart was a former State Assemblyperson in Kedah. For many years, her father served the people but as of late, Ong feels that BN politics has become consumed with self-interest.

“My father was very angry when I joined the DAP, we have differing political views” says Ong. Growing up in a political family, she knew what to expect when she became a candidate in the elections.

Ong maintains a close relationship with her family. She has experienced a total change of lifestyle going from a housewife to a state Exco and thus has to sacrifice a lot of her personal freedom. She doesn’t see politics as a career but rather a job she has to do for the people.

“I hope I will be able to see real changes in the system,” Ong says.