Tag Archives: The Malaysian Insider

Less apathy and more empathy for fellow human beings

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


Less apathy and more empathy for fellow human beings
By Zan Azlee

If all this while Malaysians have always been apathetic to the plight of people different than them, then what has happened in Wang Kelian, Perlis, just strengthens that even more.

The mass graves and human trafficking camps that have been discovered in the jungle along the Malaysian-Thai border shows massive torture and disregard for human life.

People were caged like animals and treated so inhumanely that they were left to die in horrible conditions, by these human traffickers, who happen to be people too.

And now with the arrests that have been made of the two police officers (previously reported as twelve) who are suspected of being involved, the plot just seems more twisted and perverted.

I know that we have to presume everyone innocent before proven guilty, by let’s say that the investigations have a little inkling of validity to it, then I am sad for Malaysia and Malaysians.

Minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim was reported to have mentioned to the press that the police officers involved probably didn’t know about the killings and the torture.

Apparently they were more motivated by monetary gains than anything else and this is particularly disturbing because they failed to realise the serious implications of their actions.

They fail to realise that these people who were being trafficked are human beings just like themselves, despite being from a different ethnic group.

The apathy it puts on display is similar to what the consumption for news during the Banting boat capsize last year which involved illegal immigrants from Indonesia showed as well.

People showed so much interest in the incident before it was discovered that the victims were illegal immigrants from Indonesia. It waned when everyone knew.

It was basically saying, ‘Oh, it’s just Indonesians. Let them be then. At least it wasn’t any one of us’. But the fact of the matter is that they are no different than us – they are human beings.

These officers also failed to realise that although they might have not been involved nor realise that people were tortured and killed, they still had a hand in it.

Take for example a paedophile who consumed child ponography online without every molesting or touching a child himself. What would the implications be?

Sure, he did not indulge in the physical harming of any children, but his actions still meant that children were physically hurt for that pornographic content to be consumed by him.

The only hope that can come out of this tragic incident is that more awareness should have now been created to the plight of the Rohingya and also towards human trafficking.

These are serious issues that involves more than just a few people from a different country who need a job and are willing to pay a few extra thousand ringgit to get one.

These are people faced with a bleak future that although they know of the terrible risks they have to take, are willing to do so anyway because that is the only preferable choice they have.

It is also a realisation that the exploiting, kidnapping and extortion of these desperate people needs to be stopped.

So I do hope that the minister is right when he said that although these officers may have initially thought their role was small, they are now probably having difficulty sleeping and having nightmares instead.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

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



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]

Second chances are what makes us human



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?



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]

The POTA and Sedition Act issue is a deja vu of Malaysia in 2007

Lawyers against the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011
Photo for illustration purposes only

We have been making progress (however little and slow) in the department of freedom of speech and expression in Malaysia over the years. Then, the government had to reverse all that with the new POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and amendment of the Sedition Act (which was suppose to be abolished, by the way).

I remember back in 2007 when two bloggers, Jeff Ooi (who is now a DAP member and the MP of Jelutong) and Rocky Bru AKA Datuk Ahirudin Attan, were bullied and hauled up to court for blogging their thoughts and opinions.

I was young, energetic and full of idealism then. I even went to court with them and made several video stories on the issue.



Listen to The Fat Bidin Podcast where we discuss POTA and the Sedition Act:

Read several of my columns regarding POTA and the Sedition Act:
Do MPs vote according to their consciences? (The Malaysian Insider)
Give us affordable Internet but take away our freedom to use it (The Malaysian Insider)
Should we be worried about POTA? (Astro AWANI)