Category Archives: writing

The Malays shouldn’t be a violent bunch


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The Malays shouldn’t be a violent bunch
By Zan Azlee

I don’t want to generalise, but there is this perception that Malays are a group of people who seem to be inclined to violence.

I am a Malay too because my father is one and it says so on my birth certificate, even though on my maternal side, I’m Chinese.

I don’t mean to criticise the ethnic group that I belong to. But I need to call out and say something is wrong when I see it. I take it as my responsibility (so self-righteous!).

And who else better to criticise the Malays if not a Malay himself (although technically, a half-breed!)? If anyone else from another ethnic group does so, he would be called a racist.

Now that I’m done with the disclaimers, let’s refocus on the point I am trying to make.

On Tuesday, a coalition of Malay NGOs led by one Datuk Jamal Md Yunos dressed up in red and started beating themselves up in front of the Sogo shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur.

It was a sight to be seen! Men were hitting each other with pieces of wood and smashing heavy roof tiles on their heads and backs to show how strong and tough they are.

It was like a big kungfu demonstration by Shaolin monks to show off their strength and mental abilities. Alamak! Wait a minute! Shaolin monks aren’t Malay!

The group’s leader reportedly stated that they are anti-Bersih, referring to the Bersih 4.0 rally this weekend.

The reason for the violent display of strength is to show that they will be ready to ‘defend’ themselves if any ‘problems’ were to arise between them and Bersih 4.0 participants.

I find it absolutely funny how this group of Malay NGOs can quickly jump to the assumption that problems would equate to violence. What would be their reasoning?

Bersih is led by a middle-aged woman and it’s icons are an old lady who walks around holding flowers (aka Aunty Bersih), and an elderly man who likes to write poetry (Pak Samad).

And this makes me wonder who is leading in the game of positive perception here? The saying goes, ‘fight fire with fire’. Not fight elderly people with pieces wood and huge roof tiles!

This is just one example of why I can’t help but entertain the thought that Malays are inclined to violence. Remember the Low Yat incident? The first people to arrive were Malay thugs.

And whenever Malay politicians talk about fighting and preserving Malay rights, they always seem to choose a weapon (the keris) to wave around for maximum effect.

As a member of the Malay community, I would like to say “Come on lah wei!”. What is wrong with you people? Can’t you learn to be more dignified and refined?

Bak kata orang tua-tua, “Buat malu aje!”.

[This article originally appeared at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Firechat away during Bersih 4


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Firechat away during Bersih 4
By Zan Azlee

I am all for people power because I believe that those who are in authoritative positions would naturally already have more power than an ordinary citizen.

Like that quote by Haruki Murakami: “If there is hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg.”

So, anything that empowers the people will have my support. Be it a proper democratic government system, or even tools such as crowdsourcing platforms and social media.

I have attended as a citizen and covered as a journalist, all the rallies organised by Bersih from the first one in 2011, and hopefully, the fourth one this Merdeka weekend.
One of the key challenges for participants and journalists covering to ensure that they can all operate smoothly and safely is good and clear communication.

A crowd that can grow into the tens of thousands can get overwhelming for the organisers to control, and difficult for the people to feel calm and relaxed.

Keeping in constant contact with others becomes difficult because of the huge number of people who attend using smartphones which clog up the phone reception.

Also, from my observations, there will be vehicles stationed around the area with big antennae and dishes that, I can only assume, are signal jammers.

That’s why I got excited when I started hearing about Firechat, a chatting app for smartphones that allow users to communicate with each other even without Internet connection.

How it works is that it can seamlessly change its mode of communication from the Internet to Bluetooth or even local WiFi connections without interruption.

So even if you lose Internet, as long as you have your Bluetooth or WiFi function on, you will still be in communication. But, the people you talk to need to be in your group of followers.

Technically, your range will start increasing as long as more people continue to join the network, from different but connecting geographical locations.

This is pretty cool, and if you study the credentials of this app, you will learn that it was used successfully by the participants of the 2014 Hong Kong sit-in protest.

Although it is a good tool to allow people to stay in touch in situations where communication is difficult, one must still be cautious about the information.

Firechat allows users to also communicate and spread information anonymously if they choose to. And that could be a problem – the issue of credible and legit information. As is with all social media platforms, as much as it empowers people and allows them to organise themselves, it is still open to abuse and manipulation.

So be mindful when you are communicating. Always be aware of who you are communicating with and best of all is to remain with people you know and trust.

Good luck and stay safe.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

What is a ‘back-door’ plot to overthrow the government?


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What is a ‘back-door’ plot to overthrow the government?
By Zan Azlee

In many countries, conspiracies and plots to overthrow the government are serious crimes. I agree because it is undemocratic to overthrow an elected government.

Depending on what is involved, a group of people (or an individual) could be charged with treason for doing something like that.

So when the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said a group of members of parliament were plotting to overthrow the government, I took it seriously.

I thought that things were getting dangerous and I imagined all kinds of scenarios, including violent coup d’etat the likes of those in South America and Middle East.

What scary “back-door” tactics were going to be used by this gang of rogue MPs? To be honest, I was afraid how this would affect the lives of all Malaysians.

Then I heard the accusation of what this “back-door” tactic was. Apparently, a group of MPs were planning to sign a statutory declaration (SD).

They were going to declare in the SDs that they would had no confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

This took me by surprise. How did Zahid equate this to being an undemocratic and a “back-door” conspiracy or plot to overthrow the government?

Several Cabinet members have even been vocal that this is undemocratic because the only way to change the government is through a general election.

But isn’t it stated quite clearly in the Federal Constitution that MPs have a right to hold a vote for no-confidence in the prime minister’s leadership?

And with that vote of no-confidence, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong can remove the prime minister or dissolve Parliament and call for fresh elections. That is quite constitutional, to say the least.

And if we’re already looking at the legalities of it, isn’t the legal system in Malaysia based on precedence through previous court cases?

Remember the 2009 Perak assembly saga? After the elections, there was a flip-flopping of assemblymen defecting and crossing over from one party to another.

This resulted in the Pakatan Rakyat-led state government to call for a dissolution of the assembly. But, the opposition Barisan Nasional fought its claim for the government in court.

And the court ruled that the defections and crossovers would hold. Hence BN grabbed the state government from Pakatan Rakyat.

Would that not mean that there is already a precedence that a claim for the government could be made through legal means instead of through a general election?

Now I’m thankful that this “back-door” conspiracy or plot to overthrow the government does not involve violent means and I am no longer afraid.

But, I’m still unsure of how this intention to sign an SD to declare no confidence in the prime minister may be considered undemocratic and a “back-door” plot to overthrow the government.

Oh well.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

Why is the Ministry of Education de-prioritising English again?


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Why is the Ministry of Education de-prioritising English again?
By Zan Azlee

I do not support the postponement of English being a mandatory pass for the SPM examination by the Ministry of Education which was announced on Wednesday.

The reason given by the Board of Examination for the postponement is to give the teachers, students and all other parties involved to better prepare for it.

This baffles me because it seemed that everything was already in place to strengthen English in schools all around the country.

Under the Education Blueprint, steps had been taken such as giving training to English language teachers, having native speakers as teaching assistants, and more.

It sounded like everything was fine and dandy and moving along well. The English language was being given the importance that it deserved in our education system. But not anymore, I guess.

I can’t understand why this is being delayed. As it is, Malaysians are already so far behind because of the lack of proficiency in the main lingua franca of the world.

I am very passionate about education and have quite significant experience teaching undergraduates in both public and private universities and colleges.

In the public universities that I have taught in, I would roughly say that 70 percent of the students do not have even a basic level of English skills.

And although the medium of education is English, I would have to resort to speaking Bahasa Malaysia for most of the time I lectured so they would understand.

I have a few problems with this.

Firstly, a majority of new information, research material and data are in the English language. It is only natural because it s the main language medium of the world.

And when students do now have the necessary language skills to understand this material, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to their education.

Their world becomes so many times smaller than everyone else because their exposure to information and knowledge is so much more limited.

Yes, one can argue that there are countries and cultures that are weak in English but yet very advanced and knowledge such as South Korea and Japan.

But these are countries that have, for decades, been aggressively pursuing their own research and studies that they have even become leaders in certain fields of studies.

So much so that people from other countries are even clamouring and struggling to learn their languages so they can gain the knowledge. Has Malaysia achieved that level yet? I doubt it.

Then there is the issue with religion as perceived in Malaysia, in particularly Islam (another aspect of life that I am very passionate about).

Malaysians are so obsessed with the rituals of the religion such as how much area of the skin touches water during ablution or if the index finger moves too much during prayers.

If you notice, a lot of the local Islamic books in Bahasa Malaysia deal with topics like these.

This is a big difference compared to the rest of the progressive Muslim world who are discussing and debating much more significant and holistic issues of the religion.

They are having intellectual discourse on issues such as how best to interpret and adapt the religion to the current times which is so different than the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

And intellectual Muslim thinkers who are leading the way in this discourse, such as Tariq Ramadan and Ziauddin Sardar, are all using English as the language of communication.

So for Malaysians to move forward in the world, wouldn’t it be the wiser decision to empower Malaysians with English skills as soon as possible rather than later?

[This article originally appeared at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Can’t we think of a better Malay name for Low Yat 2?


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Can’t we think of a better Malay name for Low Yat 2?
By Zan Azlee

So, one of our many beloved ministers has made a grand suggestion to solve the problem that was caused by the recent Low Yat brawl that happened in Kuala Lumpur.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the minister of rural and regional development, said that it would be a good idea to have a Low Yat 2 for Malay traders to do business.

Because his new Cabinet portfolio now has Mara (Majlis Amanah Rakyat) under its umbrella, Ismail is suggesting that this new place be located at the 3rd floor of the agency’s building.

I guess this is because he feels that the current Low Yat Plaza is being dominated by Chinese traders, so much so that the Malays are being oppressed (hence the brawl?).
As a little bit of reminder for those who might have forgotten, a shoplifting incident caused a racial scuffle outside of Low Yat Plaza on July 12.

Chinese retailers had apprehended the alleged shoplifter, a Malay, and turned him over to the police. Around 200 people, including Malay groups, gathered to protest.

There were strong racial sentiments that night. However, the police downplayed the racial element and insisted that it had nothing to do with race.

But back to the issue of Low Yat 2.

I can see the advantages of having a Malay-only Low Yat Plaza. First, it would mean that the Malays will finally have the opportunity to do business.

As we all know, the New Economic Policy (NEP) that has been implemented in Malaysia for the past 44 years did nothing for the Malays in terms of developing their entrepreneurial skills.

Name me one Malay or bumiputera company that is in operation in the country. See! Even I can’t come up with any. Looks like NEP has not done much.

Second, this initiative will disprove the popular urban myth that the Chinese are only good at conning customers when they do business of any kind.

When Low Yat 2 opens, we can look at it as a social experiment to observe if Malay businessmen will or will not con customers like how they claim their Chinese counterparts do.

But I bet they won’t. As we all know, Malays are subjected to being shariah compliant. Conning and cheating customers in business is definitely not Islamic.

And, since by being Malay you are automatically considered a Muslim, the non-shariah compliance issue logically will not exist.

Third, it would create healthy competition between the two Low Yat Plazas. Then we can really pit the two races against each other and see which is the better race.

So it really would be a good idea to have a Malay-only Low Yat Plaza at the Mara building. I can only see good things happening as a result if this comes into fruition.

The only problem that I see with this idea is that Ismail is referring it as Low Yat 2.

As we all know Low Yat is a very distinctive Chinese name. Can’t he think of a better Malay name?

[This article appeared originally at The Malaysian Insider]