Building a legacy in the city

In local happenings lately, we have read about a man who fell into the drain in Farlim and has caused serious injury to him. And apparently, this is not the first case in Penang. This has brought to our attention that what the Gerakan have raised and voiced out before is indeed important. Not only that we have raised bigger issues like Penang Transport Master Plan and Undersea Tunnel; but we have always felt the importance of local issues like drainage, cleanliness and so on that the DAP probably felt that it is not important.

If it is important to them, I believe these matters could have been solved by now; which probably we do not have the opportunity to bring up the issues.

Just about a week ago, a local activist with the name of Andrew, recorded a video on how a normal citizen in Penang would face daily being a pedestrian. He shared the video on social media and within a few hours, it was shared by more than 100 other people. It literally shows how concerned the people are regarding the matter.

Andrew has shown how problematic Penangite’s life would be as a pedestrian especially for those who depends on public transport. He took 1 hour and 20 minutes to travel from Farlim to Gurney Paragon by a public bus. There is lack of zebra crossings and it is very difficult to cross the roads. The walkway for the people was blocked by objects like plants, and he has to walk on the roads full of vehicles instead. These are among the few problems that pedestrian faces in Penang daily. The MBPP has boasted about their ‘Pedestrian is King’ campaign, so much so we wonder whether it is just rhetorical?

These issues may not seem as big as terrorism or corruption, but to me it is an issue of utmost importance as it involves the lives of the people, daily. Particularly, in a city where we have a growing number of population and incoming tourists. City design is not something new, but we’re still behind compared to many other cities.

Such issues of the city has been deliberately discussed, debated, and studied in many cities already. The questions of walkability, city design, placemaking, livability and similar issues which revolves around building a quality city.

With the current internet technology, we do not have to look far to learn from others.

30 years ago in Copenhagen, Denmark, wastewater from sewers and industrial companies has horribly polluted the water of its harbour. The city’s authorities then decided that it should be cleaned and serious efforts were taken up. Today, the harbour is a place where the citizens gather. People now interact, have paddleboats and even swim in the harbour now. Imagine if it could be done in our very own Sungai Pinang today.

In another city in Europe, Freiburg, the city was planned towards a strong bicycle infrastructure. That city has a comprehensive network of cycling routes. Ease of biking access was made throughout the city with many considerations that gives priorities towards biking. In Penang, we have only seen a controversially painted ‘inconvenient bicycle lane’ at an exceptionally high cost. With only that, the authorities claimed that Penang is a ‘bike-friendly’ city.

Not so far away to the south of us, Singapore has been one exemplary city that has created open, public space and improving outdoor comfort through the introduction of greenery. It is done through the government’s placemaking efforts which capitalizes on the local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and well being.

Back to our lovely Penang today, throughout the 8 years of DAP leadership, we have witnessed rapid developments; many high end properties rising up, being built by big time developers. The state government of today has shown that they allow free markets to flow, which is technically not wrong. But with no proper development guidelines, regulations and city planning, then problems arises. It seems that certain developers were waived from certain regulations under ‘special projects’. Although we may have seen many new, cool looking developments in Penang, but it does not necessarily shows a sign of a quality city being built.

What worries us now is that the free market is being left to freely shape our cities. We have to keep in mind that the Government should always be driven by addressing challenges and creating liveable space for the people. And private developers are driven by profit, which is common.

That is why one of the ideology of Gerakan is ‘Belief in free markets, but with state protection for the poor’. Today, ‘the poor’ does not only reflects the people, but also public spaces in Penang where has been exploited and many have been sold off to private developers.

As I have read in an interesting article about legacy, we as Penangites must make sure that our state government and city council builds a legacy that lasts in the city, and not build a legacy of developers.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 18th November 2016.





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读完前副首相敦慕沙希淡的新书《畅所欲言》, 促使我想进一步了解这位前副首相。 我在互联网上找到了一些有关自由主义与宗教的他的有趣访谈。

虽然是一位虔诚的教徒,但敦慕沙希淡在施政方面采取自由主义, 我认为这对马来西亚人民而言更为实际。

敦慕沙希淡大力抨击那些煽动种族和宗教情绪的政治人物。 他直言不讳,只有“破产的政治人物” 才利用种族和宗教课题捞取政治筹码。 我相信他指的是空洞的政治人物, 只能以来煽动种族和宗教情绪的手段。

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Race and religion shouldn’t be used as a tool to gain political power

After finish reading former Deputy Minister Tun Musa Hitam’s book ‘Frankly Speaking’, it creates more curiosity upon me to search more about him. I happen to found some interesting interviews on the internet particularly on liberalism and religion.

While being a religious person, Tun Musa is generally liberal when it comes to governance, which I think many Malaysians should be more practical about it.

Tun Musa does not hold back when it comes to hitting out at politicians who incite racial and religious tension. He states bluntly that only “bankrupt politicians” use race and religion to gain political mileage and in trying to get political support. I believe that he is referring that politicians who do not have anything else to campaign will result to using racial and religious agenda.

Although the former deputy PM has resigned for about three decades now, the trend of using race and religion for political mileage still exists in our community.

From the top of the leadership where we see leaders championing for the rights of certain race and religion. And to the normal rakyat where we see the people have stereotypes or certain perceptions towards the people of other races or religion.

The recent Deepavali commercial by Petronas is a reminder on how the general public perceived our Malaysian Indians as someone who steals or robs.

Racialism is such a useful weapon to any politician who cares to use it, that anything can be interpreted in racialist ‘gain or loss’ terms. One can use any number of examples in the everyday activities of the community and interpret those as racially discriminatory.

As much as I respect the faith of others, I believe that there should be a clear line between religion and government. Without a doubt, religion plays an important role in maintaining and promoting good and effective government. Many problems that we face today can only be solved perhaps, spiritually such as violence, racism, hatred, social issues.

Despite that we should have a clear line between religion and governance, both are interdependent with each other in order to have a prosperous nation.

All great religions offer spiritual guidance in understanding this life and the purpose of our existence. These conceptual ideas can be used to revitalise societies generally by providing ethical frameworks.

As a Buddhist, I never thought that Buddhism should be integrated in law or government, technically. But the universal values and teachings should be brought into any government, such as honesty, not harming living things, and many more. I believe these are also the teachings of many religions.

Civility in society is achieved when the majority of people do what is moral because they believe they should, not because they are compelled by law or the authorities.

Government oversees the conduct of its citizens. It tries to get them to behave in a decent and moral way. Religion, on the other hand, tries to get them to desire to behave in a decent and moral way.

However, as Tun Musa has said, “Too many politicians want to become religious leaders and too many religious leaders want to be politicians.”

During campaigning or political speeches, many politicians adds in religious words or quoted religious sentences to make them sound more religiously intellectual, and hence, to put them in a ‘higher status’ to a certain extent. That is when the politicians are out of constructive points of material progress and development to talk about.

“I have been seeing a very strange phenomena where many, in order to project an image of religiousness, start learning quotations from the Quran and making themselves sound to be very learned. Whereas they only learn these few sentences in order to impress people.” – Tun Musa

And many religious leaders tried to endorse certain politicians or political party in their sermons or preaching. Yes, religious leaders have their rights to their opinions of who they would like to support, but their political opinions should only be voiced in unofficial discourses. Religious leaders are respected and influential people, in which they should not use their influence on wide and vague topic such as politics. They have to guide the people on the teachings of universal values such as honesty and good leadership; and let the people decide on who are the better leaders.

Good government need not take sides. It should allow all religions to foster by itself. Its representatives must be free to believe and practice according to their own conscience. And good religion should neither endorse nor oppose any political party or politician. Its believers must be free and even encouraged to participate in the political progress and to support whichever party or politician they think best.

Let us be clear and not confused with how religion and politics should be mixed up with each other. Religion shouldn’t be used as a tool to gain political power.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 4th November 2016.