Celebrating the Silver Linings of 2020

By Michelle Ng

Dear Subangites, Happy New Year!

Every year on the 31st of December, a trend will take place on Instagram where users will post a collage of 9 photos, known as their “Top Nine” or “Best Nine”. What happens is that an app will pull out top 9 Instagram photos from your account from the year that was which had the most ‘likes’, and constructs the collage for you.

My past top nines were celebratory. They allowed me a moment of joyful reminiscence, almost. I was curious to find out what my top nine would be this year. They were these…

Three photos relating to the political turmoil of February 2020, one photo (smack in the centre) of water distribution during one of the too many water cuts, one photo of a very sun burnt me during a food distribution of the first Movement Control Order, a photo of me with the late YB Dato Liew Vui Keong, one photo of 19 year-old me (I was doing the 10-year challenge where participants post a photo comparison – one of us 10 years ago, and one now), one video where we I took up a 2 years under 2 minute challenge (a challenge to list what we have done in 2 years under 2 minutes), and a more hopeful photo during Merdeka.

Surprisingly, my 2020 Top Nine was very reflective of the year that was for me. But was that all that was to it?

See, things that we see on social media tend to gloss over the less sexy news behind the scenes. But it was exactly these moments that brought out the best of us. I will highlight a few of them in this article.

Many were going hungry during the first MCO, and it was in these moments that I saw many stepping up to meet our community’s needs. Amongst them were the Lion’s Club, MPSJ JKP Zon 1-4, who between them saw thousands of meals cooked, thousands of bags of dried goods delivered, and thousands of kilos of fruits and vegetables from Cameron Highland saved.

The political turmoil was a shame and utter disappointment. Supporters are hurt to this very day. Yet this process revealed who exactly in the then government were impeding much needed change, and forced us to separate the wheat from the chaff. The people now know without a doubt which politicians are true in representing their electorate. As what Tony Pua said, ‘In an electoral system like ours, breaks like these only make parties / coalitions stronger’.

During the first MCO, many were suffering emotionally as a result of having to stay indoors for long periods of time, on top of perhaps having lost their jobs, and the stress of juggling family and working from home. It was in these moments that SEGi College decided to make available free counselling services to help people cope.

The water cuts were a painful process. There was one which happened on my wedding day. The easy and temporal resolution for me would have been to simply distribute water during a disruption, draw up media statements to call upon the authorities to buck up or investigate. But I decided to do a bit more by pushing for the restoration of the Select Committee on Water Resource, which would function as legislative oversight, or check and balance to the executive.

As the youngest first term Assemblyman, I would have been happy to have this (rather daunting task at the time) checked off the list. But to my horror, I was installed as the Select Committee’s Chairlady. I resolved nevertheless to do the best that I could. Since then, we have successfully pushed for more meaningful amendments to the LUAS Enactment. The original amendment was only to raise fines from RM100k to RM500k. The Enactment in its final form stipulates a mandatory jail sentence, maximum fine of RM1m, minimum fine of RM200k, and for the perpetrator to pay the clean-up costs.

The Committee’s members and I are fully aware that legislative amendment is not the be all and end all. We have made 38 recommendations in our report, and this is only one of them. Presently, we are investigating into the connection of ponds and off river storage to water treatment plants, so that we’d have emergency supply during a disruption.

2020 was a year where I saw Subang Jaya being pushed to the edge, where we were forced to be our most resilient. In hindsight, I think our community passed the test with flying colours – this is what I choose to celebrate of 2020.

In closing this piece, I would like to lend a quote from a meme of Thomas Shelby from the Peaky Blinders that is now trending on Twitter – “(We were) strong this year. Next year, (we will) be happy”.

May 2021 bring much joy for all of us! Let’s do this!