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Monday, May 26, 2008

Busy Hannah takes it all in her stride

May 24, 2008
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By Debra Chong

SUBANG JAYA, May 24 — The clock on the wall tocked 4pm. Hannah Yeoh let out a long ragged sigh. Propping her elbows on the table in front of her laptop, open to check her e-mail, she turned and said, somewhat wearily: “Today's been an extraordinary day.”

The DAP assemblywoman’s schedule included a gotong-royong at 7.30am; a 3pm meeting with a businessman over carpark issues; and a night-time ceramah in Kota Raja, Klang where she had been invited by Sri Muda state assemblyman Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei to deliver a speech.

It was her first official invitation to a PAS event, and she was eager to attend. Despite being in the same political coalition, there had not been much interaction between the DAP and PAS.

The days have been packed for the petite 29-year-old ever since she ran and won the state seat of Subang Jaya, a middle-class surburb in Selangor. A month on, it's only got worse.

The former event management consultant has been up since 7am for a neighbourhood clean-up with the senior citizens club in USJ11 as part of her anti-dengue campaign. Subang Jaya is one of the worst dengue-hit areas in the Klang Valley. In the first three months alone, the municipality recorded over 12,000 suspected dengue cases; within the first 11 weeks of the year, five deaths.

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The gotong-royong was wrapped up by 9.30pm, enabling the baby-faced assemblywoman to head home for a shower before getting started on her correspondences for the day.

Hannah gets a tonne of e-mail, seemingly overnight, requesting her assistance with various issues connected to her position as a state legislator, though frequently the missives have nothing to do with that. Most just want her to use her authority to boost their pet projects or pet peeves.

“I started off a bit naïve. I like to trust people. But 50 per cent of the time, only 50 per cent of the truth is revealed. Now, I'm not trying to be sceptical but to be really effective, I need to interrogate them thoroughly,” said Hannah, explaining the idealistic zeal that drove her to politics before bursting into a tirade on how, so far, her work is far from related to that.

Thus far, she's been largely called on to take care of family issues, monetary issues, quarrels between residents associations and such.

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That same afternoon, after a pleasant birthday luncheon for her former boss with ex-colleagues at Rakuzen, a fancy Japanese restaurant near Holiday Villa Subang, she had to dash to SS15 for a meeting with a shop proprietor who wanted her help to convert the private back alley parking bays into public ones. However, he was reluctant to deal directly with the municipal council, MPSJ.

Recounting the issue, Hannah sighed, yet again. The people of Subang Jaya, she said, are educated and informed on social issues. But, she added, some of them can be very petty and vicious when they don't get their way.

“There'll always be things like that; that's when it's very frustrating. People stand behind but don't do work. People in the associations — there are some 29 in Subang — and some, not all, don't have very good relationships.

“I don't mind helping them with their problems but that's not the real reason why I went into politics. I came in to fight corruption. For me, I honestly don't want to waste time mediating among community leaders,” she said exasperatedly.

Her next appointment for the day underscored the truth of her words. Having received several e-mail from concerned residents on the worrying traffic situation in the affluent enclave of Wangsa Baiduri, she had set up a meeting at the MPSJ office with the residents, the condominium developers and the council officials to tackle the problem.

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On the surface, it seemed a resolution would be easy. The residents simply wanted certain safety measures enforced because an ongoing condominium construction caused obstruction and congestion of traffic in their gated neighbourhood. Yet it took two hours for the issue to be resolved as petty quarrels among the residents revealed aspects that hitherto had not been highlighted to Hannah. Her brow stayed wrinkled in consternation throughout.

“Earlier, the residents has stressed the MPSJ's poor response when actually the action plan and promises of action were directed at the developer,” she said later. She felt bad for wasting the local council's time. She had learnt that the officials had skipped out on another meeting because they saw how seriously she was in wanting to resolve the problem and wanted to accommodate her humble request.

“It's not important what happens to me but I want society to change. They want change but they're not willing to change themselves,” Hannah observed.

“For me, it takes both sides to change. We need good leaders, but we also need a civilised society. For such a system to work, the residents must play their parts well,” she added.

“My goal: The day the residents, municipal council, the relevant authorities can communicate among themselves without my interference. If Subang Jaya cannot get it right, we can forget about other places.”


Malaysian Insider

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