Tag Archives: The Malaysian Insider

Can we create equal opportunities for social mobility?


A child from Kampung Bukit Malut, Langkawi. (Photo by Zan Azlee)
A child from Kampung Bukit Malut, Langkawi. (Photo by Zan Azlee)

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Can we create equal opportunities for social mobility
By Zan Azlee

I come from a comfortable middle-class family. Not wealthy, but comfortable. We had enough good food and could afford nice toys and regular holidays in the country as well as overseas.

I was taught to be confident and self-assured. If I wanted to achieve something, I was shown that there would always be a chance if we worked hard enough and used a little bit of thinking ability.

Everyone in my family, from my parents to my uncles and aunties, had at least a tertiary education. And so we knew that education was very important and opportunities for it were accessible.

So I have all that to thank for whatever modest achievements I have acquired in my 37 years of living. It is really the realisation and confidence that the world is my oyster that has helped.

And for some time, I thought my situation was the same for everyone else. I thought, if only they were more confident and just grabbed the opportunities in front of them.

Then I began to learn that although it was true that anyone could make equal attempts to grab opportunities and work hard to improve their lives, that realisation wasn’t easy to come by.

You see, I was lucky enough to have parents and family around me who also had the realisation and exposure to all of this. And they were lucky enough to have had parents who were the same.

This put me in a unique position that was an advantage. It is different for someone who comes from a family that isn’t so lucky. He or she would have to work harder to gain that realisation.

He or she would be lucky to gain it. Many don’t because they see the hardships that they go through as just a natural part of their lives that they have to accept and can’t change.

I’m not trying to show off here and say that I am better than the majority of people around me because I can afford to go on holidays and buy nice toys. Far from it.

The point I’m trying to make is that it would be tremendously difficult for someone who did not have much access to what I had to realise that he or she can also achieve the things that I can.

For someone who, growing up, did not have access to books and intellectual discussions, or even a clear vision of different education opportunities, things would definitely be harder.

There shouldn’t be any judgment because there could be many reasons for this, from lack of financial resources to lack of knowledge or exposure.

Whereas I had the time and opportunity to study, read books and go for music lessons, etc when I was younger, others may not have had that opportunity.

So I believe that there should be equality in opportunities. I don’t support affirmative action in which a particular racial group gets an advantage over others.

But I do support efforts by the system and institutions to ensure that opportunities are given fairly for the underprivileged, regardless of race or religion.

Just having the opportunity to go to school isn’t enough. There needs to be affirmative action to ensure that the financial and economical situation of the underprivileged is improved.

As much as we like to believe that a person’s life can be turned around through his or her own will, most of the time reality doesn’t work that way.

There needs to be a conducive environment that will allow for this to happen. There needs to be an indicator that social mobility is a very accessible possibility and not a difficult one.

So who do you think has the responsibility to create such an environment?

[This article appeared originally at The Malaysian Insider]

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]

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]

A matter of public interest and public office


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A matter of public interest and public office
By Zan Azlee

When one gets elected to public office, it means that nothing is personal or private anymore, especially things that are considered conflicts of interest.

These are all matters of public interest because the public has the right to know if the person they elected into public office is abusing his or her powers or not.

What can be considered matters of public interest? Several things like those related to honesty, integrity, responsibility, transparency – well, you get the picture.
So when the public calls for transparency by an elected government official, say for example, to declare his or her cash and assets, it should be allowed.

The reason it should be allowed is because due to public interest, people deserve the right to know if a person in public office has abused his or her power to earn wealth undeservingly.

A person in public office would be given a salary to do his or her work. However, being in public office would put a person in a privileged decision-making position.

Bribery and corruption can be a very tempting vice if someone is in public office. And there should be a good check and balance system to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Hence, we have the media, the opposition and independent bodies that monitor those in public office so that the public will be duly informed if any wrongdoing takes place.

The reason for making the assets of a person in public office public is so that if there are exorbitant amounts of money being made that don’t tally with the income, it would be a cause for investigation.

Of course, having an exorbitant amount of money doesn’t make a person a criminal. There are many ways to make a lot of money legitimately.

If it were made legitimately, like a business income, inheritance or any kind of investment, then it would be no problem at all. It’s the abuse of power that shouldn’t be the way.

Money in exchange for favours and advantages would be considered wrong and a form of bribery. But of course, we do understand the existence of lobbying and political donations.

Technically, forms of revenue like that are considered legal and allowed. However, transparency should still play a main role so that the public is clear.

From an ethical point of view, it can be argued that who the donors are and how much they each contributed would be in the interest of the public.

Then at least we would know the stand of the party and also the issues that they support. That would give us enough information to make adequate decisions.

This is how I see it anyway. I don’t know how the rest of Malaysians feel. Is the way democracy practised in Malaysia and also the matter of public interest different in this country?

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]