YOUNG & DARING
By Joanna Lee
THE LAWYER WHO CHAMPIONS THE DOWNTRODDEN
Michelle Ng, 28, is DAP party’s legal secretary and a lawyer at Gobind Singh Deo’s firm. Her leap into politics quietly unfolded when, at the age of 14, she heard a little voice telling her, “I’m going to bring you to the ends of the earth”.
“I’ve always had a calling for Malaysia. I see potential in her, especially in those who are still struggling financially and socially,” Ng said.
During her student days, she found a keen interest in law, particularly policy and litigation, and later did one of her three internships with Tony Pua and Ong Kian Ming, MPs for PJ Utara and Serdang respectively.
After graduating from the London School of Economics on scholarship, completing her Bar and being called to the Inner Temple, she started her pupillage and career at Sreenivasan Young in Malaysia.
She had a good job but still felt something missing in her life. In 2017, Pua asked her to take up a legal case on the side. After that case, he offered her a more active role in DAP. She accepted and put in her resignation. “I was very sad because I really had a comfortable job and good bosses,” she recalled.
THROWN INTO DEEP ENDS
Ng’s learning curve has been steep. “Taking a pay cut was not easy. And increments in politics are not certain as well. In politics, the natural progression is stepping into office,” she shared. “But getting into office depends on whether the party has the confidence to let you contest and whether you win. I was forced to re-learn Mandarin fast. I’ve to also learn to explain (legal) things very simply to the press and to the public.”
Of navigating her work and uncertainties with her faith in God, she said, “The struggle is not so much figuring out what’s up ahead, but being courageous enough to take that step through the door.”
One of Ng’s biggest tests was when she had to represent and write an entire public interest case involving a group of Segamat constituents in 2017. Only in her fourth year of practising law, the legal technicalities and her decision’s impact on the voters’ future kept her up for three nights. Her only reassurance was a still, small voice that told her “it’s okay”. She questioned the voice but it ended well when the judge allowed their appeal for a judicial review in January 2018. She learned that “it’s okay” meant that God was in control.
FULFILMENTS AND TRUST
Ng believes that God has so far fulfilled His words to her. “When God said He’ll bring me to the ends of the earth, it wasn’t so much of expanding my horizons outside Malaysia as it was my capacity, experiences and this entire journey as a whole,” Ng said.
“The perception that politics is dirty is not wrong, but that’s all the more reason why we need good people. Darkness doesn’t cast out darkness. We need light. But we also need wisdom to know when, what and how to talk.”
For now, Ng takes one day at a time while believing she’s found her fulfilment. Her dream is that one day, she can affect change at the policy level, and draft laws and table them at the Parliament.
That sounds like a lot. “Yes. But someone’s got to do it,” she said.
The teacher who helps student discover their potential
Chan Yen Ping, 25, graduated from Cambridge University on a scholarship. This was something beyond the A-levels teacher’s dreams. But she sees God’s fingerprints all over her journey so far.
Chan’s decision to be an educator was triggered when she encountered trainee teachers struggling to teach Maths and Science in English. That got her thinking deeply about the state of education for the next generation.
When she was thinking about teaching as a profession while in secondary school, her mother told her to consider carefully as she won’t be as financially comfortable as her friends. She didn’t waver.
“I never planned to go to the UK,” Chan shared. She was only thinking of going to a teachers’ college. “But the university counsellor here said I had fairly good grades, why not try for the UK?” Chan replied she didn’t have the finances.
“Aim higher,” the counsellor said.
After coming out of the counselling room, Chan told God, “If You want me to go to Cambridge University, You must get me through three impossibilities – I must get an offer, I must get the grade, and I must get a sponsor willing to pay a bomb for an education course,” Chan recounted.
She made the grade with just one mark above the university’s requirement. “That was a reminder that it was not my strength and that God’s grace is sufficient for me,” she said.
Chan’s third miracle came through when in 2013, Methodist College Kuala Lumpur CEO Moey Yoke Lai and Director of Institutional Development Khoo Teng Sooi looked into her case and mooted the MCKL Teaching Scholarship to support students pursuing education as a major. Chan later became the first recipient of the scholarship.
Chan’s parents were supportive of her decision but she had to learn to rely on God and not ride on the faith of her parents or others.
MODELLING THE ROLE
Chan’s years at Cambridge University were among the best years of her life. In 2016, she returned with a B.A. in Education with Physical Sciences and started teaching at MCKL to serve her four-year bond.
“I love my job, although it has its ups and downs. You get to be involved in the student’s lives apart from academics,” Chan said. “Every student has value and is worth listening and talking to on a one-on-one basis.” This, she learned from her one-on-one tutorial sessions with the professors at Cambridge University.
She admitted that she struggled with how “Christian” she should be in the classroom. “But MCKL is great in the sense that you get a lot of opportunities to have such conversations with the students.”
Once, a student asked her, “How do you believe in a God that you can’t see?”
“I realise that opportunities (to discuss Christianity) happen and it’s up to you to seize them,” Chan said.
She hopes to inspire her students as much as her teachers and mentors have inspired her. “Grades aside, I want to help them find out what they want to do in life, to realise what God has made them for and not be dictated by society.”
The Perdana fellow added, “Education involves a whole nation. It is not a one-profession job. Teachers can only do so much. So if people will just stop complaining and think, ‘How can I help in education?’, that will be the first step forward.
“I do have a passion for policy. But I know that’s a distant dream, so I’ll take it one step at a time and see where God leads. From my experience, He’s always wrecked my plans so I’m not going to fix too many things!” Chan laughed.
Asian Beacon: Apr – Jun 2018 (Vol 50 #2, p14-15)