Category Archives: The Malaysian Insider

Kudos Malaysia for first step in addressing Rohingya crisis


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Kudos Malaysia for first step in addressing Rohingya crisis
By Zan Azlee

Now Malaysia has decided that they we will take the Rohingya and Bangladeshis stranded at sea in for refuge and assistance. So did Indonesia and Thailand (a bit later!).

Its a good and compassionate move although it came later than it should. It means that Malaysia is after all human and we will help those in need.

However it doesn’t mean that this will set the a precedence for cases like this and that the country will open it’s gates to anyone who come.

I have no problem with Malaysia receiving and accepting refugees. I would agree wholeheartedly even if we decide to be a signatory of the refugee convention.

However, it isn’t as simple as just saying we will now accept refugees. Before the country does that, we need to make sure to set up policies that will allow for refugees to be placed here.

First thing is that we as Malaysians need to change our perception that harbouring refugees would mean the increase in social problems.

Remember how our government decided to give refuge to Bosnians when the war broke out in the former Yugoslavia? Nothing negative came out of that, right?

That worked out well because the government thought things through properly and had a plan for when these people were accepted into the country.

I am also very happy that our foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman had made the decision to meet with the Myanmar government to voice our concern.

And by emphasising to them that we are the current chair of ASEAN and how concerned the rest of the ASEAN community is regarding the matter of the Rohingyas.

It is a first positive step to ensure that our regional collective isn’t just a lame duck that only exists to give government officials from several countries to enjoy expensive holidays together.

We also need to realise that Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia agreeing to harbour the 7000 or so people stranded at sea is not a permanent solution to the problem.

This is only a short term fix to a problem that needs a two pronged approach – the short term, which is to address the immediate crisis, and the long term, to solve the oppression happening.

So let’s make sure that the motion is set to now solve the long term problem and that momentum will continue and not stop prematurely in this process.

I like the fact that when the people band together and voice our concern, the authorities listen and decide to do the right thing. And this is exactly what happened in this case.

Good job Malaysia and Malaysians in being a leader and taking the first positive steps to making a difference (even if it took a lot of pressure to finally do it!).

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

The Rohingya: After 30 years, we need to be more human


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Malaysia, let’s be more human
By Zan Azlee

The fact of the matter is that a majority of Malaysians have a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to people of different ethnicities.

This is particular so when the different ethnic group is of a people they consider lesser or beneath them. And there are many who Malaysians think are beneath them.

Take for example the different legal migrants who come to Malaysia to look for a decent living, like the Nepalese, Bangladeshis and even the Indonesians.

We look at them with disgust as if they are lowly servants or labourers (and even if they are, they are still people and it gives us no right to treat them that way).

Don’t deny it: we all know how we look at these migrants. It’s totally different than how we look at migrants who are of Caucasian or even Arabic descent.

I remember the incident of the capsized barge in Banting in June 2014. It was carrying 97 illegal Indonesian immigrants back home. Around 30 drowned.

When the news broke, before we knew they were Indonesians, social media was busy spreading the headlines and news all over different networks.

Then when information surfaced that it was a boat full of illegal Indonesian immigrants, the chatter stopped. I feel I can assume it is because they thought “Oh, it’s just Indonesians”.

This was the same when a month after that, another boat carrying about 80 Indonesians, who were also illegals, capsized off the coast of Pontian.

And this week we saw almost 2,000 Rohingya who were fleeing their home in the state of Rakhine, Myanmar, abandoned at sea by smugglers.

Some arrived in Aceh, Indonesia, while a majority arrived in Langkawi, Malaysia. Both countries have refused to allow them refuge.

After multiple decades, almost as long as I have been alive, the Rohingya problem in the Southeast Asian region does not look like it will ever be solved.

Because the problem has been around for so long, most of Malaysians are familiar that the country does not accept refugees.

Many are also familiar that there are tens of thousands of them in the country already illegally either registered with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) or not.

I do not mean to call out the negative nature of us Malaysians, but I just think that we need to feel more compassion and empathy for our fellow human beings.

I do understand that there are a lot of issues to think about when it comes to accepting refugees into the country and proper government policies need to be in place for that.

I am not saying that we just open or gates and let them flood in today. All I’m hoping for is that we at least start talking about it and to see if we can actually help in anyway.

I am sure being the chair of Asean this year, we at least have a little bit of clout to start the discussion, if at the very least, anyway.

It has just been too long where we keep saying that we do not interfere with the matters of our neighbours. We really need to be more human.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

It’s 13th May! Err.. so what about it?


It’s May 13th today and if you’re Malaysian, you would know it’s significance. But err… is it really still significant?

Above is a video I shot for The Malaysian Insider six years ago where I interviewed filmmaker Liew Seng Tat and Ismail Mohd Safri the owner of Warong Saga, the most popular lontong stall in Johor Bahru.

Jeez! Six years ago… I guess I’ve been a bit lazy.

Second chances are what makes us human


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Second chances are what makes us human
By Zan Azlee

Rehabilitation instead of capital punishment. That was the issue I wrote about in my column last week and it was in response to the Bali 9 execution.

The piece received fairly interesting responses from the readers. It seems that most Malaysians (and I’m only extrapolating here) are in favour of capital punishment.

However, I am not swayed and still adamant that rehabilitation is the way to go rather than sentencing someone to death or dismembering their limbs.

This week I would like raise the same issue, but this time using a different case study. And so comes the case of the convicted Malaysian paedophile Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin.

Convicted and sentenced to five years in prison in the United Kingdom, Nur Fitri’s case has been on the top section of news websites all across the country.

There was this big debate between politicians, activists and members of the normal public on whether he should be given a second chance or not.

Some say he should be brought back to the country and be given a chance to finish his studies because he is an intelligent student. Some say it would be better for him to just stay in prison.

As a father to a little girl, I am disgusted just like everyone else with the thoughts and intentions of paedophiles and I can definitely understand the outrage and anger against people like these.

But, I also strongly believe that everyone deserves a second chance and the challenge is to punish them enough so that there will be remorse, then rehabilitation so they can reenter society.

Everybody makes mistakes and although we need to realise that there are consequence and we need to pay for the mistakes we make, we also deserve the chance for reform.

And when I say that everyone makes mistakes, I do mean everyone, including those who are given the authority and are responsible for judging and sentencing.

So there should always be an avenue for review and exoneration before it’s too late. And it would definitely be too late once someone has been executed or had limbs cut off.

Remember that it is always better to treat the disease than the symptoms and just by eliminating people who do wrong doesn’t eliminate the cause as to why they did wrong in the first place.

But at the end of the day, I am saying this from the perspective of an observer. Would my perspective be different if I or a loved one was a victim?

Would an eye for an eye then be justified? Would it mean that I would want the perpetrator to be killed, maimed or even incarcerated for life? Would it be so easy to forgive?

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

Do we rehabilitate criminals or just punish them?


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Do we rehabilitate criminals or just punish them? By Zan Azlee

So it seems that capital punishment has been a trending topic online the past few days and it is no surprise why – the executions of drug smugglers in Indonesia.

They were eight individuals from Australia, Brazil, Ghana, Nigeria and Indonesia. But the ones who got the most media attention were Australians, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

The two were convicted and sentenced to death in 2006 after being caught as ringleaders of a group of Australian smugglers known as the Bali Nine.

The fact of the matter, or at least what was reported, is that after a decade being in prison, the two convicts had shown remorse and turned a new leaf.

Apparently, Chan was ordained a minister in February while Sukumaran spent his time in prison teaching fellow inmates art and English. They were rehabilitated.

And that’s the problem I have with capital punishment. It leaves no room for the rehabilitation of those found guilty of crimes. Isn’t a life worth saving in any circumstances?

I believe that every human being makes mistakes, some bigger than others. And as human beings, we have a right to learn from our mistakes in order to be better.

Sure, we have laws and punishment for crimes, whether petty or serious. Nobody is saying that guilty criminals go unpunished. But putting someone to death for a crime is just wrong.

As society has developed and matured, we understand human behaviour much better and numerous studies have been made to show that criminals can be rehabilitated.

Sure, many people also have the opinion that when you have strict punishments like the death sentence, it could act as a deterrent to crime because people would be scared.

However, statistics in Malaysia and Indonesia (where there is capital punishment) shows that the number of people caught for the related offences have never really gone down.

Instead, Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway, where people are rehabilitated rather than punished, have some of the lowest crime rates in the world.

And come to think of it, what about the risk of mistakes happening in the judiciary process? Many a times, people have had their convictions overturned through new evidence and the such.

But once you have been killed, how do you overturn death? I doubt it would be sufficient to just declare a post-humous declaration of innocence. What’s the point, right?

Crime will happen because of many factors no matter what the legal consequences are. Criminals are willing to risk it because of much bigger environmental, psychological and societal factors.

And that is where we need to emphasise on and study, to look at closer at these factors that causes crime if we want to fight and eliminate it.

That is why I am also against punishments under hudud which involve dismemberments of limbs and what not. And yes, I am against stoning to death too.

It’s true what the saying goes – an eye for an eye would eventually leave the whole world blind. Or would limbless be more accurate?

[This article originally appeared on The Malaysian Insider]