Friday, September 30, 2011

The ISA, you and me

This article was published by The Malaysian Insider on September 27th, 2011.
 I do not intend to show that I am very savvy about the all-so-famous Internal Security Act. Nor do I mean to claim that I know better than those who’ve had their family members wrongly detained under the Act. This is simply my take on that famous announcement by the prime minister to abolish the Act.
The announcement, of course, was received with many different responses. People who are clearly aligned with the government will surely use this as their ammo, to use these changes to prove that the government is progressive.
Those who are on the opposite side can then argue that it was the opposition’s fight that made the government initiate the changes. After all, it is very logical to assume that the Act would have stayed there if there was not massive opposition against it.
Both arguments sound true at a superficial level, but I don’t think we should use any more brain cells to find out who will win this argument politically.
So let us move on to the rakyat. The Twitter timeline at that time was very encouraging, at least mine was (some even sounded as though the Act HAD already been abolished).
Most, I would say, welcomed the announcement but remained sceptical about the will and feasibility of the changes. With some flip-flop policies in the past and the increasingly louder voices of the right wingers, I admit that the rakyat has a right to be sceptical (though it would be great if most opt to be healthy sceptics instead of mere critics).
As for me, for as long as I can remember, I have been supporting the need for the ISA to be in place, or in my self-defence, the need for an Act which allows the arrest of suspected terrorists, extremists or big-trouble makers as quickly as would be required by the situation.
I do not agree with the use of the Act to “kill” political enemies but I am among those groups of people who’ve bought the idea that this Act has been one of the main reasons why we have not had any extremist attacks for decades. (Before you let loose your cannon, let me kindly remind you that I am not the only autocratic, dictator-minded guy around, as I’ve heard more extreme views on the ISA these past few weeks, mostly from the mouths of those from the younger generation.)
I know that this would definitely be a different case if I had any family members who were wrongly detained or if I were more passionate about human rights.
However, in this age of democracy, no matter how far-right a Malaysian is, and no matter how strict their views are on national security, it is good for them to be balanced with a sense of civil liberty. It is best that the right and left compromise, and stay as centre as possible.
Therefore, I think the PM’s announcement — although it should be treated with scepticism — is the best compromise Malaysia can get right now. The abolishment of the vaguely-defined ISA — which gives massive power to the home minister to detain any individual — is necessary because of its substance as well as the black history associated with it. This, if successfully abolished, can help Malaysia’s democracy turn over a new leaf, a plus point for civil liberty.
And for the centre-right rakyat, the PM’s assurance of another Act (which some people might argue to be another version of ISA) to keep terrorism and extremism in check can hopefully put your minds to rest. Our minds, to be exact.
It is undeniable that the changes provided could have been a lot better, but realistically speaking, in a country where every socio-political issue is volatile and can be exploited by political extremists who use race, religion and soon-to-be sex (God forbid), democracy should be attained in a slow yet stable progression.
So what now is our role in this progressive march towards greater freedom?
Most might say this freedom is their long-awaited right. Though fundamentally right, I still think it is morally important for us to learn to be more responsible with the greater liberty we will enjoy.
It is time we became more responsible with the news we spread and the things we say. Be more analytical about the rumours we read on the Internet and, better still, start telling our friends not to post unverified rumours on the Internet.
Better still if you are friends with those cyber troopers on both sides of the political divide.
After all, we all want the best for Malaysia. So while we strive to be more responsible, I see no reason for the system to not entrust us with even more liberty.
Still, you know what I find amusing? The “system”, after all, is controlled by mere humans too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Taking a hit before you kick

This article was published in The Malaysian Insider on 2nd August 2011.

Imagine that we are living in a perfectly fair world. The kindest of us all will get the bulk of all praises. The team that plays entertaining football (like Arsenal) will win all the major titles. And the taxi driver who is the most honest and disciplined user of the meter will earn the most money.
And vice versa.
Fact is though that this is not the case.
The eager bad-mannered guy who doesn’t wait for people to get out of the LRT before he goes in gets to sit, and not you, a pregnant lady who waited at the side to let people out first. Your partner gets the big promotion, though it was you who did all the work and presentations.
And that taxi driver I mentioned above got the least income, as he refrained from over-charging his passengers.
This might even translate into a bigger picture. The scholarships issue is an example. I have an acquaintance who got a scholarship to study overseas but with all due respect to him, his grades were actually lower than those of some of the other friends I have who applied for the same scholarship, same course, in the same year (and of the same race if that at all mattered) but did not get it. And true enough, he flunked his pre-university course and now has to continue with his parents’ money.
And the unfairness follows through with those who did not get scholarship and complained. Some who complained got it, some didn’t.  Oh yes how about those who unfortunately don’t have a loud enough “voice” to complain for them, and those who cannot even find a “voice” at all?
From what I see in my life, though it has only been a modest 20 years or so, most things are not just black and white. There are big grey areas, where justice does not prevail. Those areas prevent us from living like robots, yet most times they stretch our emotions to their limits.
What should we do then? We can stay bitter and complain. That is perfectly up to you. But sometimes, when you swallow it and get accustomed to the bitterness, you can produce the best of recipes from that taste.
In my opinion, this applies just as much to politics as well. Take the example of YB Khalid Samad’s withdrawal from the Lifeline4Gaza. I don’t know what transpired behind the scenes, but I think his decision to pull out only fired up the core PR supporters; and affected and yielded nothing but more criticism from the core BN supporters.
As a young man who has not chosen either side yet, I would have respected him more if he had complained but did not pull out, and had shown that he was indeed the better man among them.
And I am confident there are many others who feel the same.
Moving on to another example: the Wacana Sinar Harian article entitled “Apa Selepas 9 Julai.” That debate had a clear winner; with the unconvincing responses from the Election Commission (EC) representative, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan could have just sat there and smiled, and still have won on the issue.
However, there was a spoiler for the issue of Bersih 2.0 and of course, the spoiler was the crowd. The boos and shouts from the crowd were understandable and fair, yet again, it did nothing more than just underscore a point for those already in favour of Bersih 2.0. They could have just swallowed the stupidity of the answers, sat down, listened, asked bold questions, and let the EC representative do the damage for them.
Yet now, those who are against Bersih 2.0 will now think that most Bersih 2.0 supporters are unruly and rude, and be distracted from how Bersih 2.0 clearly won the debate based on issues.
After all, the perception game still matters a lot, and the perception of those who are not yet on your side should be valued like gold.
I will not start with the ruling party’s unwillingness to swallow things and move on. I could go on and on, maybe until the next general election. Some argue that maybe there is nothing much for them to swallow anyway, as they are the ones who are controlling this messy system.
I have to say it is not a far-fetched argument.
All in all, complaining is of course our birthright, but come to think of it, what really matters is what we do. Instant example: we can buck up the solidity of our defence, rather than point out that Singaporean football players are such actors.
Or a bit more realistically, maybe we should just prepare and bid to host the World Cup.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Of political hooligans, and dinosaurs

This article was published in The Malaysian Insider on 5th July 2011.
Twitter has been a very vital part of my life these past months, more than Facebook, Arsenal or food. I use it when the traffic light is red, when I’m bored, or anytime I’m watching Manchester United games. And I’m quite sure I’m not the only one.
When I observe the tweets posted by those I follow, most of their opinions are basically against the policies, actions or inaction of the government. I ask myself — are these genuine countrymen who want Malaysia to be better, or do they just hate the ruling coalition?
Though some remain mature and criticise the issue itself, many function as their party fortress, and will defend their party till their phone battery empties.
The need to get out of this overly partisan spirit is urgent. Though these calls to focus on the issue rather than party line or persona sound very clichéd, we cannot tire of it as it is vital for Malaysia’s democracy to move on.
Some argue that PKR has come up with the Buku Jingga — yet, to be fair, the ruling coalition also has their own set of new initiatives. However, in truth, we see nothing more than just a swarm of attacks and negative criticism thrown at each other, rather than debates to see who is right.
The Opposition Leader made a brave call inviting the prime minister for a debate, which was declined. Yet when the BN Youth leader offered to debate the issue with the Opposition Leader, the party’s chief strategist Rafizi Ramli was suddenly chosen to replace him.
This seriously cast doubts over these leaders’ real intentions: to debate for the benefit of Malaysians, or just to win a personal triumph?
As long as we stick to these negative criticisms and the swapping of personal attacks — yet do not talk about issues and give suggestions maturely -- the political fight will be nothing more than just two groups of people who are blindly partisan, bashing each other.
One can easily assume that this blind partisan spirit stems from having two very strong political parties who have not done enough to move on and fight based on issues. It cannot be denied that the revival of the opposition has helped to bring better checks and balances for Malaysia in Parliament, yet this two-party system has made most Malaysians too loyal to either one, so they no longer have their own stand on each issue as they come by.
Let’s just say I am party A, I will hate party B even if they help lower the imported car prices, which I have always longed for. 
Do not get me wrong, I am not here to ask everyone to back the government and make the opposition weaker, or even otherwise. I clearly realise that in this era where Malaysians strongly voice out their demands for their rights, I believe that we need to have a better check and balance system. Democracy can no longer take a back seat to physical development. Through this, transparency can have its fair game, where the ball is in the citizens’ court.
So, one possible suggestion is to break away from these dominant two. A third strong party with an ideology which is not individually-inspired can help break their dominance as well as to ease the two-party divide. Moreover, this can hopefully force coalition, which might provide checks and balances even before Parliament is in session.
A more plausible call is to pressure these dominant two to really make their stand on all major issues so their supporters can stop baselessly shouting their lungs out. If we have to be divided, let it not be because I idolise YB A and you, YB B. Let it be because of you want local cars to be protected and me wanting a cheaper BMW.
This is a difficult problem but I believe the leaders of the after-dinasour era can work this out, for a more mature Malaysia. In fact, they have to.
At the very least, I hope that they share the sentiments that we voters are tired of with our political battlefield being dominated by political dinosaurs such as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Tun Mahathir Mohamad, Lim Kit Siang or even Azmin Ali.
Oh yes, sorry, Datuk Ibrahim Ali as well.

Aku Melayu keliru

This article was published in The Malaysian Insider on 7th June 2011.
Aku belia Melayu, rakyat Malaysia. Ibubapa aku dua-dua Melayu, rakyat Malaysia.
Masa aku kecil, ayah aku selalu cakap, bila aku sudah besar nanti, mesti tolong bangsa aku. Tapi dia juga cakap, tolong dengan cara majukan bangsa sendiri, dan jangan jatuhkan orang lain. Tapi bila aku sudah besar, banyak aku tengok pemimpin negara aku cuba nak tolong bangsa aku, tapi mereka sekat peluang bangsa lain. Aku keliru.
Ibubapa aku cakap sekolah itu penting, dan perpaduan juga sangat penting. Bila sudah besar, aku dapat masuk sekolah asrama penuh, ada Melayu, India, dan Cina. Siam pun ada. Aku tiada masalah nak bergaul. Aku jarang dengar pasal masalah perkauman, cuma  daripada buku teks sejarah. Tapi bila aku keluar, aku jumpa ramai kawan lain. Bila borak-borak, mereka kata sekolah mereka dipenuhi satu bangsa saja, sama ada Melayu, Cina atau India. Mereka jadi terlalu selesa bergaul dengan bangsa sendiri.  Aku keliru lagi.
Bila cerita pasal dakwah, aku bukanlah mahir. Tetapi yang aku faham, dalam dakwah, Muslim mengingatkan sesama muslim tentang Islam, dan menceritakan kepada yang bukan Muslim tentang keindahan agama ini. Betapa indahnya konsep ini. Namun, bila aku sudah celik mata, lain yang aku nampak. Jarang dilihat rakan sebaya aku yang kuat berdakwah rapat bersama rakan kaum-kaum lain. Sebahagian mereka hanya hidup sesama mereka, hanya segilintir sahaja yang muncul kehadapan, berkongsi idea dengan rakan-rakan daripada agama yang lain. Aku jadi keliru.
Kini aku belajar di United Kingdom atas budi tak terhingga oleh MARA.  Dalam isu biasiswa, ramai pihak, terutamanya kaum bukan Bumiputera, ingin melihat sistem meritokrasi digunakan dengan lebih meluas dalam pemilihan pelajar. Ada juga mempertikaikan kewujudan MARA yang membantu Bumiputera namun tiada agensi untuk membantu kaum-kaum lain. Namun sejak kecil lagi, aku difahamkan pembahagian kuota untuk biasiswa adalah penting untuk mengurangkan jurang ekonomi di antara Bumiputera dan kaum-kaum lain.
Yang buat aku keliru adalah kenapa ada rakan Bumiputera aku yang bijak akademik dan tinggi sahsiah diri tidak mendapat biasiswa untuk perubatan ke luar negara, tapi ada kenalan Bumiputera yang sederhana akademik dan mempunyai pelbagai masalah disiplin mendapat biasiswa untuk pilihan yang sama?
Bila cakap pasal bangsa dan peluang, tak habis-habis debat sama ada pertolongan patut diberikan mengikut bangsa atau mengikut keperluan. Kalau ikut bangsa, kononnya kena adil dan tolong Bumiputera. Kalau ikut keperluan, mesti tolong siapa-siapa yang memerlukan tanpa mengira bangsa. Tapi berdasarkan fakta kemiskinan tahun 2009, semestinya jauh lebih banyak Bumiputera yang miskin (5.3 peratus) berbanding kaum Cina (0.6 peratus) dan kaum India (2.5 peratus).
Jadi, di kalau kita memberi pertolongan mengikut keperluan, sememangnya pertolongan ini akhirnya akan diberikan kepada Bumiputera juga. Maka apa lagi halangan untuk kita untuk dengan terbuka memberi bantuan ekonomi, kepada yang miskin terutamanya, berdasarkan siapa yang memerlukan? Oh mungkin pertolongan yang dimaksudkan adalah untuk Bumiputera yang sudah kaya untuk jadi lebih kaya. Aku jadi keliru.
Namun begitu, harapan masih ada untuk Malaysia. Masih ada Melayu yang percaya bangsanya perlu digalakkan untuk berjaya, bukan hanya disuap semata-mata. Ada juga Melayu yang sentiasa memperkasakan diri supaya mampu menjadi pemimpin bagi semua bangsa. Ada juga Melayu yang tidak hidup dalam kepompong Melayu dan rapat dengan rakyat Malaysia yang tidak berbangsa Melayu.
Namun, tindakan sesetengah mereka yang terlalu liberal hingga melakukan aktiviti-aktiviti yang haram di sisi Islam menjadikan mereka terlalu asing untuk dicontohi masyarakat Melayu konservatif. Aku bukanlah alim ulama dan aku sedar perkara ini tidak salah daripada segi kebebasan individu, namun secara jujurnya, sikap ini akan sedikit sebanyak mencacatkan imej mereka yang sepatutnya dicontohi.
Lebih teruk, imej kurang elok ini dianggap imej ideal untuk dicontohi masyarakat Melayu yang lain. Arak dijadikan wacana untuk bersosial dengan kaum-kaum lain walhal banyak lagi cara yang lebih dihormati.
Aku dilahirkan dalam keluarga yang konservatif. Berlandaskan kepada faktor sejarah dan demografi, aku percaya negara ini perlu di pimpin oleh Bumiputera beragama Islam. Perlu, bukan wajib. Namun, untuk merealisasi perkara ini, Malaysia memerlukan pemimpin-pemimpin Bumiputera Islam yang boleh menjaga kebajikan bukan sahaja Bumiputera Islam, namun juga kepentingan bangsa-bangsa lain. Konflik kepentingan antara kaum akan sentiasa wujud, tetapi aku percaya, jika Malaysia dipimpin oleh pemimpin Bumiputera yang adil, bebas rasuah dan juga tidak mementingkan diri sendiri dan juga keluarga, pemimpin ini akan lebih dihormati dan dapat menyelesaikan konflik-konflik vital ini secara muhibah.
Siapa kata konsep 1 Malaysia jadikan aku bangsa Malaysia?
Aku bangsa Melayu, rakyat Malaysia. Aku sayang bangsa aku, aku hormat semua rakyat Malaysia, jika mereka saling hormati aku.

Why you should vote.

This article was published in The Malaysian Insider on 10th May 2011.
Talk about the next general election is all over the news, blogs, and Twitter ... even at our own mamak night in London. It has been going on for a while, and may even go on and on till early 2013.
The signs of an impending election are everywhere. Umno again tried to bring PAS to the negotiation table for a possible unity talk, a move loved and despised by both sides of the political divide. MIC’s Central Working Committee’s decision to grant amnesty to previously-sacked leaders, though it resulted in an internal catfight, might give them an election boost. Pakatan Rakyat, energised by the drastic increase in popular votes in Sarawak, is now facing a decision on whether it should merge with Snap in the Hornbill state, a move proposed by DAP but understandably opposed by PKR.
Don’t even get me started on the video. You know which one. I’m not saying anymore.
Yet, all political parties will face one mutual problem come this election — the voters. As of early April, Malaysia still has 3.9 million eligible voters who haven’t yet registered. For a population of about 28 million people, that number is highly significant.
Worst still, 70 per cent of those are between the ages of 21 and 40 years old.
A lot of ideas have been mooted to overcome this problem. Both political sides have long started initiatives to get voters to register. On top of that, debates have arisen over whether the EC should allow the automatic registration of voters. The argument for this is straightforward but the other side might argue that increasing the number of registered voters automatically will do nothing more than just that. The turnout will remain low, as these voters do not have the conscience to vote.
The government might even argue funnily that this will just lower the percentage of voter turnout.
Why they don’t register is the question. Logic might tell us that the main reasons revolve around the low level of awareness about voting and registration, lack of easily accessed guidelines on how-to as well as the perceived view that the process is a hassle.
However, our concern shouldn’t merely be about increasing the number of registered voters and voter turnout. Malaysia needs as many citizens as possible to vote, but what’s more important is Malaysia needs informed voting decisions from its citizens. We need responsible information sources.
And to have concerned citizens, we need an impetus which will help them realise that a cross on the ballot is an honourable service to their nation.
People don’t bother to vote because they don’t feel that it is important. They don’t feel that their vote will make a change, or the change is not worth the hassle that they have to go through. Some might not even know who to vote for, so sit on the fence, or their couch literally. The message — that their vote is their responsibility as well as a means for them to shape which government handles their future — somehow does not reach their heart.
A young generation who does not care to exercise their vote implies a future of Malaysians who do not care about Malaysia. However, it is wrong to solely blame them for this problem as the conscience to vote responsibly will not magically materialise when you reach the age of 21.
A shake-up of our education system might be an idea. It is time for us to open our eyes and admit that we do need to educate our students about their rights and responsibilities to vote, at least by secondary school level. The Pendidikan Sivik dan Kewarganegaraan subject sounded like a solution to me, but having read their syllabus, it was more disappointing than Arsenal crumbling in April.
Concerted effort is needed in educating our youth about their rights and the know-how to vote. Having a standardised academic syllabus, a module or two on civil rights and duties, especially on voting rights, is long overdue. But this must also go beyond the classroom; and must reach out even to the societies and uniformed units of every school to accommodate a few informal sessions on civil rights and duties.
These extra-curricular activities which are enjoyed by many students — possibly due to its separation from academic matters — are arguably the most appropriate channel to emphasise this issue.
Apart from that, it is from the bottom of my heart that I hope for a more reflective, analytical, value-adding history subject in school, not a mere factual one. I remember memorising every single fact of the Malayan Union in high school, but rarely took the time to form my own perspective on it. Producing students who are reflective and analytical towards our nation’s history is one of the first major steps to raise awareness of their responsibilities as a citizen, including their voting responsibilities.
History teaches everything, including the future. — Alphonso de Lamartine.
Dear fellow youth, we owe a lot to this country of ours. The friends we have made, the rice we eat, the rewards we have reaped. You can dismiss the call to vote for your nation as being too ambitious, a call to vote for your race as being racist, a call to vote for your state as being too small, or a call to vote for your (parents’) political allegiance as being blind. I have only one call left for you. It seems clichéd but the most honest and undoubted reason I can ever think of.
Vote, for yourself.

How I think, most Malaysian youths choose their political affliations

This article was published in CEKU on 18th MAY 2011.
Dear friends, let me say a few things regarding my article:-
1. I will not mention specific names for each example, as I don’t want this article to be used against these people in the future. More importantly, by not mentioning specific names, it would give me the freedom to make up more stories, lie to all of you, and make this piece seem more interesting.
2. I have been blessed with the opportunities to meet different kinds of people. This ranges from successful overseas students to those who have stopped their education to pursue other things, and to my friends who were average academically but excelled in other things; co-founder of Malaysian Brights[1], to some friends who are yet to finish high school, and many, many more. These people speak a lot about their political beliefs, and share their views on Facebook; some even let people know what’s on their mind via Twitter.
Basically, in my opinion, there are different kinds of youth who choose their political sides based on different factors.
So let’s start with me, or youth like me. Those whose parents are well off; parents who are grateful for even the smallest of successes they have enjoyed. Most importantly, these parents talk to their sons and daughters about their thoughts, be it over dinner, in the car, or, for some, during the weekly ‘lecture’ sessions.
Let me share what my parents tell me with you. They believe that they owe a lot of their success to government policies. They believe that without help like scholarships or emphasis on medical careers, they wouldn’t be the good doctors that they are now. Don’t get me wrong, they are very critical of the mistakes made by the government, or how Machiavelli-like Tun Dr. Mahathir was; nevertheless, they also look at the successful end products, which they are a part of, fortunately for me.
Notwithstanding all this, I trust your wit to figure out the opposite scenario. And this will make up our first group; those with political affiliations already set early on, by the most influential factor in their lives; their parents.
The second group contains the youths whose high schools or colleges have had a strong influence on their political bearings. Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean schools secretly teach people about political affiliations, or teach bad things regarding any political side; it’s just that the school provides the two most important factors for students to cleverly make their own decisions. These two things are networks or connections, and values.
You might argue that these relate more to boarding schools; I have to agree with you on that.
So about networks and connections– this strongly applies to our current generation, with the rise of young politicians who might dictate our political scenes for years to come. For some of us, our seniors in high school, or even those in our alma mater, have played a significant role in initial political considerations. One will always look up to a respectable head prefect from the start of high school; and for schools with a strong alumni community, this respect becomes more of an idolisation. If their idol chose Party X and even held a significant post in it, they would know that there must be a great reason as to why they were doing so. I don’t mean to say that these idols dictate one’s decisions, but with networks and opportunities abounding, along with the desire to follow the footsteps of their idols, it would seem to carry significant weightage.
Ok – so in terms of value. I’ll give the example of my school, Kolej Yayasan Saad. We were very, very, very lucky to have a corporate figure spend his fortune on the school which nurtured us for five years. The school had almost everything; it was actually quite hard to find things to complain of. The rebellious mood was never there; in fact, we were taught to be grateful for the good fortune we enjoyed. And once we grew up, we came to realise that we owed a lot of this good fortune to the success and stability of the government, which had helped our school’s founder earn his fortune and share it with us for the purpose of future nation building. Hence, it was very hard to find my schoolmates expressing strong anti-establishment or anti-government beliefs; yet I must say, our minds were open to enable us to criticise the things we thought were bad, or anti-development – so please don’t call us Pak Turut.
Of course I mean most of us, not everybody. And yes, not all of us are rich.
Let us shift our attention to our fellow Malaysians back home. No, I am not talking about our fellow university students in Malaysia, more about those who spend most of their time on their motorbikes and playing futsal. They are voters as well, and please trust me; they are not as useless as you might think they are. In fact, they are the ones who would give 110% of their effort in any activity that is being organised in the community, if it appeals to them. As an example, a rempit friend of mine back in Melaka was talking to me on Facebook, about the Jelajah One Malaysia (JOM) programme organised by Barisan Nasional (BN) youths, which included Melaka in their tour. This friend, who, from what I know, had never been politically inclined, spoke about his excitement with the opportunity to get involved in the event and his new profound interest in joining the BN youths.
The opposite thing could happen via the same way and the same method. Enough said.
These youths, though seeming a bit less ambitious than we students are, actually do want to contribute to their community, if not the nation. They might not be able to do it academically, but their skills and commitments are very applaudable. So giving them an easy platform (activities like gotong-royongand futsal tournaments) to do so would make it easier for them to choose their political preferences, or at least have a bit of an idea on which box on the ballot paper to cross.
Then there is this group, which includes me, you and your friends sitting beside you now. Those who spend most of their leisure time on the internet.

There are a lot of political tools on the internet – the news, the tabloids, all sorts of blogs, Facebook and Twitter. It is so easy now to write something on the internet, that if I were to be a funny and famous writer, I could make thatrempit friend of mine the next in line for UMNO Youth head, or I could make Arsenal appear to have been the best Premier League team for the past five years. And this is why the internet has been one of the main factors in helping the Malaysian youth choose their political sides. They read online newspapers, they read blogs, ‘like’ certain Pages of politicians on Facebook, follow political leaders on twitter and many more.  Videos circulate like viruses on the internet; and we love gossip. These kinds of things have a special part in our brain, so hey leaders, I know you know that the internet is important for these voting youths, but I believe that you probably have not realised just howimportant it is yet!
I could go on and on and on, describing every type of friend I have gotten the chance to know well enough to observe their views on politics. But that would take ages.
So please let me conclude this personal view of mine with one last group. In fact, this is the biggest group of youths in Malaysia. These youths do not take any political sides. Some are not aware of political situations; some just could not be bothered to care. They do not think that politics is important and worse, they think that it is so messed up that they don’t want to be even partially involved with it.
So dear seniors, if you really do want us to be involved, or if you want us to cross you on the ballot paper, please help us. Indulge us in your activities; make us a part of your plans, if possible, not only as the passengers. You were once youths like us. There is nothing much I can say other than that.
And to my fellow youth, whether or not you are on my side or the opposite, or just an observer of these two sides, keep doing what you are doing.  The Dalai Lama once said, “Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.” So let’s start with learning, at least, the basis of politics in our nation, and let’s get our friends to do so as well.

Again, I don’t care which political side you are on. Whichever way, we are the future of our nation.

A call-out to all Malaysian youth and the pakcik makcik

“Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains. -Sir Winston Churchill.”
I love this quote by one of the best UK Prime Ministers. The quote’s core meaning reopens our eyes to the reality of human nature in all honesty; it’s the type of quotation that makes you nod in agreement when you first see it.
However, in Malaysia, one can argue that age might sometimes mean nothing, as immature character assassination at its worst form (involving pornography if you get what I mean) can be exemplified by adults who are already at the age where they should be the inspirational idols for many.
Back to my main point – this year especially, we have seen many youth revolts; from Tunisia to Egypt to the United Kingdom; from one unintentionally stimulated by the public suicide of a 26 year-old vegetable seller to the thoroughly organised demo with proper framework and chains of command by the National Union of Students in United Kingdom.
I even saw a Malaysian guy in London who helped spread brochures during the demonstration against cuts in the UK – moments afterwards, he attended my society’s event – much to my surprise.
I am personally against public demonstration for one reason. There are so many other ways for us to make our voice heard without implicating costs and exhibiting hooliganism or aggression. Although one might argue most demonstrations are peaceful, nonetheless it is obvious that it provides a platform for aggression, which is true in as many videos of demonstrations as we have all watched or witnessed.
Banning public demonstration is not something I am suggesting as it is against our human rights; but it is vital to stress the need for youths in Malaysia to understand that there are many other ways for them to be activists and to promote a cause. If you need a reminder, look at how we bloodlessly achieved independence in 1957. We have lived the freedom we have enjoyed from that, but sometimes disregard the spirit which had brought us our independence.
There are so many platforms for Malaysian youth to make a significant change. For example, in the UK, the avenues of the United Kingdom and Eire Council (UKEC) for Malaysian Students as an intellectual body which provides a platform for discussion and activities are there to be fully utilised. Democratic and intelligent ways of motion forwarding, voting and follow up memorandums afterwards backed up by the endorsement on behalf of the all Malaysian students studying in the UK and Ireland is an intellectual way to be heard. Or if you are disappointed with welfare management or community/religious activities in UK, get involved with UMNO welfare clubs in the UK, and make a change.
A point to ponder upon is the importance of grassroots movements, which have been synonymous with public demonstrations. Though that stands true, there is a lot more to it such as petitioning and online communities at the top of my list. It is a wise man’s job to not stand down to the lower denominator but to raise it, and I wholeheartedly believe intellectual medium beats aggression and physical influences any day. The role of the civil society is one to be looked at in the near future, so it may lead us to sustainable self-initiated awareness instead of cultivating the culture of aggressive mass gathering.
Some might argue that through democratic and calm methods they will never be heard, therefore the only possible clear option is to resort to aggression. I have a question for you: if you are a parent who would not allow their 14 year-old daughter to go out at night for reasons only an adult could understand, would you want her to opt to sneak out or crankily start throwing things around?
And that is only among family members, where, most of the time, strong blood ties make provisions for more bearable stressful moments.
So dear fellow youth, we are always at the advantage comparatively. Through the internet, we are obviously well connected with the other parts of the world. It is understandable to follow the wind of change brought across continents, to resort to aggressive demonstration and to embrace physical solutions. I used to be exactly like the kind of person I am speaking against in this article.
But I asked myself over and over again – what would I achieve by joining all these demonstrations and what are the bad things that could happen? However, the most important question is, what are good things that could be achieved if instead of demonstrating, I used that time to organise events through societies and even write on my opinions as my contribution back to society?
And the answer for that question is the only reason I wrote this article.
Last but not least, to our dearest ‘pakcik makcik’, we youth strongly appreciate what you have done to make Malaysia a better place for us youth to live in. Yet time has changed massively, youths mature much faster and with maturity, comes the hunger to make a change. Please let us help you make a change for our beloved homeland, and return the favour we owe to all of you.
Because when you think about it, what use would the contributions you made to this country be, if you want to spend your retirement like Ben Ali, Mubarak or soon to be, Gaddafi, right?
This article was published in The Malaysian Insider on 12th April 2011 and CEKU on 13th April 2011.

Kesian, ASEAN!

This article was published in CEKU on January 30 2011.
Majinmohsen:    “Money is earned in Rotterdam, divided in The Hague and spent in Amsterdam[1]
Sebuah ungkapan Twitter aku. Hanya ada dua tujuan aku bermula dengan ungkapan di atas. Sebab utamanya adalah sebagai intro supaya aku boleh menceritakan sedikit sebanyak tentang pengalaman aku bercuti di Eropah pada hujung bulan Disember yang lalu. Yang kedua, untuk mengajak para pembaca CEKU untuk menggunakan Twitter.
Sebenarnya, sebab pertama tidaklah sepenting mana.
Aku bercuti di Eropah selama 9 hari; dengan menaiki Eurostar, aku memulakan perjalanan di Amsterdam (paling, sangat dan sentiasa menyeronokkan), seterusnya ke Rotterdam, kemudian ke Antwerp, Brugge, dan akhirnya Brussels. Kelima-lima tempat ini membuka mata aku kepada cara kehidupan orang Eropah di Barat Laut, khususnya di Belanda (Hollandsebenarnya hanya menggambarkan sebahagian sahaja daripada negara ini) dan Belgium, yang dahulunya merupakan hanya satu negara sebelum perpecahan berlaku akibat Belgian Revolution. Tidak hairanlah bahawa kesemua tempat ini (kecuali Brussels) menggunakan het Nederlands atau bahasa Belanda sebagai medium utama percakapan harian.
Bukan sahaja kontor muka jelita dan cara percakapan yang sangat serupa, persamaan dari segi cara hidup juga dapat aku perhatikan; daripada kebanggaan mereka terhadap keju hinggalah sikap bersahaja tentang masa (sememangnya antonim kepada orang British) yang diamalkan orang tempatan di kesemua tempat ini.
Persamaan ini membuka minda aku kepada perspektif baru. Jika sebelum ini aku hanya menganggap Belanda dan Belgium sebagai dua buah negara di Eropah, kini aku sedar bahawa mereka berjiran, dan terdapat persamaan cara hidup yang dikongsi oleh mereka. Jika dulu aku hanya beranggapan bahawa mereka negara berjiran ibarat Malaysia dan Thailand, kini baru aku ketahui bahawa mereka bukan hanya berjiran, malahan pernah pada suatu ketika dahulu duduk di bawah United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Mereka berkongsi bahasa, adat Flemish, cara hidup, dan makanan ruji.  Malahan, bersama negara Luxemborg, ketiga-tiga negara ini dipanggil The Low Countries. Penduduk di negara-negara ini hidup di bawah dua entiti berbeza, hanya kerana dipisah oleh sempadan negara.
Ironinya, walaupun kedua-dua negara ini berpisah akibat keinginan orang Belgium untuk hidup di bawah kerajaan sendiri, namun adalah di negara Belgium-lah yang penggabungan negara-negara Eropah, walaupun bukan sebagai entiti tunggal, menjurus kepada  penubuhan Kesatuan Eropah. Bukan itu sahaja, Brussels merupakan ibu pusat Kesatuan Eropah, di mana parlimen bagi Kesatuan Eropah bersidang. Ditubuhkan pada tahun yang sama ibu pertiwi kita mencapai kemerdekaan, Kesatuan Eropah telah banyak membantu pembangunan di rantau Eropah.
Oh ya, Kesatuan Eropah itu lebih kurang ASEAN lah!
Muda-mudi Malaysia secara am tahu sedikit-sebanyak tentang keadaan politik, serta sejarah Malaysia, tanah tumpahnya darah kita. Bagi yang sudah mahir dengan selok-belok di Malaysia, mereka mengembangkan minda mereka dengan membaca tentang hal-hal semasa dunia, terutamanya tentang Eropah, Timur Tengah serta benua Amerika.  Memang sesuatu yang patut dibanggakan apabila kita sebagai bakal pemimpin negara pada masa hadapan cukup awas dengan perkembangan semasa di luar negara (terutamanya di negara United Kingdom ini). Namun begitu, sedar tidak sedar, kita telah terlupa akan salah satu fasa yang penting dalam perkembangan minda kita. Perkara yang aku maksudkan adalah tentang ASEAN iaitu Persatuan Negara-Negara Asia Tenggara.
ASEAN ditubuhkan pada tahun 1967, di Bangkok oleh lima buah Negara; Indonesia, Negara Thai, Malaysia, Filipina, dan Singapura.  43 tahun selepas itu, ASEAN kini mempunyai 10 negara anggota, dua kali ganda daripada tahun ia diasaskan.  Melalui prinsip fundamental ASEAN yang menegaskan bahawa ASEAN tidak akan campur tangan dalam pentadbiran setiap negara, terutamanya hal ehwal dalam negara, ASEAN memberi tumpuan dalam memakmurkan kawasan Asia Tenggara dari segi ekonomi, sosial, dan budaya melalui pencapaian kolektif. Mungkin belum lagi semaju Kesatuan Eropah yang sudah mampu memberi bantuan kewangan kepada negara-negara anggota; wakil negara-negara anggota ASEAN telah menandatangani sebuah piagam di Jakarta pada tahun 2008, dan tujuannya adalah untuk mewujudkan komuniti seperti Kesatuan Eropah.
Kewujudan pertubuhan-pertubuhan mengikut benua ini, atau mengikut rantau sebahagiaannya, sememangnya memerlukan sikap toleransi yang tinggi untuk mencapai kerjasama yang dapat memberi kelebihan kepada semua pihak.  Jika diikutkan akal logik juga, kerjasama sesebuah rantau itu amat penting dan sepatutnya diwujudkan, kerana negara-negara anggota hanya dipisah oleh garisan sempadan negara. Tanpa garis-garis sempadan ini, kita merupakan satu negara yang lebih besar, lebih banyak kepelbagaian, lebih tinggi sumber alam, dan mempunyai kelebihan demografi yang tidak dapat dinafikan. Pada masa hadapan, Malaysia, atau Singapura, jika hanya bergantung pada kekuatan negara masing-masing, tidak akan mampu menangani masalah ekonomi yang amat besar tanpa bantuan pertubuhan serantau. Negara-negara di Eropah seperti Ireland dan Greece, walaupun teruk dirudum masalah ekonomi, diberi peluang untuk dibantu oleh Kesatuan Eropah, jika mereka bersetuju dengan syarat-syarat yang dikenakan. Memang tidak dapat dinafikan, Kesatuan Eropah menegaskan bahawa syarat-syaratnya dipatuhi, tetapi perkara dasar yang perlu kita lihat adalah bagaimana Ireland dan Greece mempunyai pilihan untuk diselamatkan.
ASEAN merupakan inisiatif yang bernas, namun tahap kesedaran oleh rakyat sendiri masih tidak memberansangkan. Rakyat Malaysia khususnya masih menganggap negara-negara jiran sebagai musuh seteru, dan negara-negara Eropah sebagai idola dan rakan antarabangsa. Bagi diri aku terutamanya, keinginan untuk belajar tentang adat-adat Eropah lebih membuak-buak daripada keinginan untuk belajar adat-adat negara Thai mahupun Indonesia. Aku lebih selesa dengan dapur yang kotor dibuat oleh rakan-rakan Eropah aku, daripada masuk ke rumah orang tempatan ketika aku berada di Bali dua tahun lepas. Aku yakin, bukan semua rakan senegara aku begini, tapi aku yakin bahawa kebanyakan daripada kita berkongsi sentimen ini.
Tetapi lebih menyedihkan, masalah ini bukan hanya terjadi kepada rakyat Malaysia sahaja, ia juga dikongsi penduduk-penduduk di negara jiran. Sebagai contoh, kemenangan manis skuad Harimau Malaya dalam Piala Suzuki sememangnya positif buat negara namun ia tidak membantu walau sedikit pun dalam mewujudkan sikap toleransi dalam rumpun ASEAN ini. Pelbagai kata kasar dikeluarkan oleh kedua-dua penyokong (Malaysia dan Indonesia) yang mungkin pada mulanya berbaur gurauan namun yang jelasnya bertukar menjadi serius. Sungguh jelas bahawa situasi ini menggambarkan perasaan benci yang dipendam oleh kedua-dua pihak, hasil daripada pertelagahan kedua-dua buah negara sejak Ganyang Malaysia lagi. Tak perlu rasanya aku ketengahkan lagi isu-isu seperti amah Indonesia, isu lumur tahi di bendera, pergelutan hak kawasan dan #MalaysiaCheatLaser.
@justinbieber: I still hate Malaysia… I still can’t forget when #Malaysiacheatlaser. Satu daripada beribu-ribu ungkapan Twitter yang lebih kurang maknanya, selepas perlawanan akhir peringkat pertama.
Masalah-masalah seperti ini timbul disebabkan konflik yang berlaku berpuluh-puluh tahun dahulu. Pengisytiharan Malaysia (ditentang oleh Filipina dan Indonesia), pengasingan Singapura daripada Malaysia, perang antara Vietnam dan Kemboja, Timor Leste dan macam-macam lagi.  Setelah dijajah ketika dunia melalui proses pemodenan, keadaan tertekan dan ditindas meningkatkan lagi sentimen membenci oleh generasi penduduk setiap negara, namun, yang menghairankan adalah bahawa sentimen benci ini lebih ditujukan terhadap negara serantau, bukan negara barat.
Kurang pendedahan dari peringkat sekolah lagi juga mungkin menyebabkan komuniti kurang sedar tentang kepentingan ASEAN. Kita lebih sedar tentang hubungan diplomatik Malaysia dengan United Kingdom dan Amerika Syarikat berbanding dengan hubungan ekonomi antara Malaysia dan Thailand. Singapura dan Indonesia dianggap musuh ekonomi, sosial dan sukan; namun yang lebih menyedihkan, diherdik dan dicaci rakyat kita. Memang tidak dapat aku nafikan bahawa keadaan geografi yang begitu dekat menyebabkan persaingan antara negara serantau yang sengit, namun ini perlu dijadikan sebagai persaingan yang hebat, kerana kebenarannya, jika mahu ditelan atau tidak, ASEAN merupakan batu loncatan untuk semua negara serantau ini meningkat satu tingkat lagi dari segi ekonomi, sosial mahupun untuk memperkenalkan budaya masing-masing.
Tidak salah untuk melihat nun ke barat sebagai pedoman, dan tidak salah untuk melihat nun jauh ke timur sebagai idola (dan drama-drama mereka), namun pada zaman ini, mungkin kita perlu melihat lebih dekat lagi, ke negara-negara jiran dan serantau kita ini, sebagai inisiatif untuk maju ke hadapan.
Banyak lagi usaha, tenaga dan masa yang perlu setiap negara anggota curahkan untuk mengubah persepsi rakyat mereka terhadap kerjasama serantau. Lebih jujur, inisiatif pertama adalah untuk menyedarkan rakyat mereka bahawa ASEAN itu wujud, dan diteruskan dengan membendung sifat benci yang wujud dalam hati segelintir, jika bukan sebahagian besar, penduduk di rantau ASEAN ini. Penerapan lebih banyak unsur ASEAN dalam mata pelajaran Sejarah mahupun Pengetahuan Am perlu dilakukan oleh setiap negara sebagai petunjuk keinginan mereka untuk menjadikan ASEAN berdiri sama tinggi, duduk sama rendah dengan Kesatuan Eropah, jika tidak pada nombor dan statistic, pada nilai toleransi dan kerjasama yang ditonjolkan penduduk di rumpun ini.
Izham Ismail di Facebook tentang perlawanan akhir piala AFF antara Malaysia dan Indonesia,‎”I don’t see it as a negative confrontation, just brotherly berebut bantal.”
Mungkin ia dilihat oleh sesetengah orang sebagai hanya lawak jenaka tetap cuba kita bayangkan erti yang tersirat yang cuba diketengahkan oleh Izham. ASEAN tidak akan berjaya selagi kita melihat Brazil dan bukannya Indonesia sebagai abang kita, jika kita anggap Hong Kong dan bukannya Singapura sebagai tanda kejayaan ekonomi dan mengagumi kecantikan Scarlett Johansson dan bukannya Ann Thongprasom (tolong google). Aku merupakan contoh terbaik sebagai penduduk di rantau ASEAN yang melakukan ketiga-tiga kesilapan diatas. Globalisasi telah mengecewakan kita dengan jurang ekonomi yang semakin melebar antara yang kaya dengan yang miskin; sekarang salahkah kita memberi peluang kepada ASEAN sebagai landasan baru rantau ini untuk berjaya?

[1] Wikipedia -Rotterdam (2011)