Beneath Calm Waters

By Michelle Ng

I had been thinking for a while to pen my political journey, but it was not until I was stuck in quarantine after contracting Covid that I had the time to do so.

The book ‘Beneath Calm Waters’, is titled as such for reasons that I will explain. Many of you know me as a person of little drama. This is because I believe in getting things done quick, with the least trouble and with as little fanfare as possible.

However, this approach means that we only see the results, without knowing the struggle.

The reality is that, beneath those calm waters is a lot of undercurrents.

You see, it is not easy being a backbencher in government. Firstly, because we are in government, backbenchers are held to the standard of a decision maker although we do not sit as part of the executive. Not many know the difference between the two. Yet, when we seek for certain decisions to be made, some are made in our favour, but not all the time.

Which leads me to my second point – when things do not go our way, as part of government, we need to ensure discipline. We cannot throw a fit publicly, as this would risk the stability of the ruling government. Perhaps we would have to seek alternatives to get things done.

In my first year as a policy maker, I honestly found myself feeling quite helpless with this state of affairs.

However, that feeling did not last. I reckoned that this surely is not how I’d like to spend my five years of service. I decided to adopt a change in mindset. Instead of feeling sorry for myself over what I did not have, I decided to focus on what I had.

I had a platform. I have a constituency. I had allocation (although not much in the grand scheme of things), and I had a voice. So, I decided to harness all of that and use Subang Jaya as a testing ground for new ideas.

This book tells the story of how Subang Jaya trialled Selangor’s first on-demand van hailing service, how we pushed for water sector reforms, implemented at-source recycling, lobbied for Selangor to be the first state in Malaysia to set up a legal aid programme and therefore take part in access to justice, and for a mental health subsidy programme.

But beyond just telling these success stories, this book also chronicles the failures along the way. More importantly, however, it talks about how we got back up and started again.

I did not want to just talk about theory and policy. I wanted to add a human touch, so that readers could identify. And so, you would see that aside from providing an account from my lens as a lawmaker, I also tell the stories of the people that inspired the policy changes we pursued.

This book also details the most difficult times in my political career, namely the first six months of service, where God somehow saw fit to throw at me a slew of very tough cases to handle.

This was a time where I had no staff. In fact, there was a point where I was alone in the office, answering calls on my own.

In this short time, I faced:

–  A traffic management plan along Persiaran Kewajipan which resulted in 72,000 angry users and eventually, a death threat;

–  The Seafield temple clash, which resulted in the loss of life of Adib, a fireman from our Subang Jaya fire station;

–  A huge fire that broke out in the Angsana flats, displacing 2000 residents during Ramadhan; and

–  The return of the horror of commercialising Subang Ria Park during MBSJ’s local plan amendment – a sore point in Subang Jaya’s history, which every ADUN since 1995 fought against. Whether or not I would be able to defend the park would be a test of my mettle.

As a 28-year-old then with zero experience in politics, facing all these in one go was scary.

By telling my story, I hope you would be encouraged in knowing that your most difficult challenges can be overcome.

If you’d like to purchase the book, it will be sold today at a discounted price of RM20 each. This price will continue to be applicable for the month of June.

Anyone who’d like to purchase the book may do so at my service centre in SS14.

If you’d like the book delivered to you, you may bank in RM20 for each book to the DAP USJ 6 Account (CIMB Bank – 8010737620) plus a shipping fee per book of RM8 for West Malaysia and RM15 for East Malaysia.

Finally, do know that all proceeds from the book will go towards the upcoming State Elections.

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