Does the CM know?

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between KXP Airport City Holdings and Aeroport de Paris Ingenierie (ADPI) in preparation to build the Kulim International Airport (KXP). 

On that specific event, the Kedah Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir was present. During the MOU signing event, it was announced that the groundbreaking will take place in the coming November. The plan to acquire 3,982 hectares of land for the mammoth project has also been finalised. The state government has also enforced the Section 4 of Land Acquisition Act 1960 to prevent any transfer or sale of the involved land and the negotiation with landowners will begin soon. The Kulim International Airport is expected to have their first flight as early as January 2024.

The two companies who signed the MOU looks legit. KXP Airport City Holdings, which has been entrusted by the Kedah state government to manage the development of the airport, has been in serious planning and negotiations. They have opened up tender for consultants to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Social Impact  Assessment (SIA) and Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) August last year. Needless to say for Aeroport de Paris Ingenierie, they have been the airport experts with various experiences of building and upgrading airports all around the world.

With all those hype, negotiations and discussions surrounding the development of the KXP, it is a surprise that the Penang Chief Minister, Chow Kon Yeow said that the Penang state government is unaware of the MOU.

I remember well that the Economic Affairs Minister, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali has mentioned that the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority (NCIA), which is under the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) is the organisation responsible to look through the proposal of the development of KXP. And our Penang Chief Minister is a council member of the NCER. 

Development of an airport must have also involved the Federal Government’s Transport Ministry, which is under the leadership of Anthony Loke. I wonder if Chow’s comrade ever discussed the KXP updates with him.

Even as the state’s CEO, they attend meetings with the Prime Minister and every respective state’s Menteri Besars and Chief Minister. Access to  the Prime Minister and the Federal Government must have not been difficult for Chow especially when they are from the same coalition. 

And I really wonder, with all the connections, how can the Penang Chief Minister be ignorant of the updates of the Kulim International Airport? 

In an article in Invest Kedah magazine, it stated that three independent studies, about 20% of cargo load and 30% of passengers that travel via Penang International Airport comes from the main towns of Kedah and Northern Perak. That numbers are huge enough to impact the economy of Penang.

While the Penang Chief Minister might not be able to do much to influence the development of KXP as it is not  “terpulang kepada dia”, he should be focusing on things that are under his control, or maybe “not”?

The feasibility studies of the Penang Undersea Tunnel that was last said will be completed by September 2019, I wonder whether it is complete yet or not. The last time the Chief Minister mentioned it, it was 90% complete. How long do they need to study the other 10%?

Penang Transport Master Plan which was initiated by the DAP government about a decade ago, is still only on paper? Traffic issues and population does not wait for the government to work on the proposal, it will keep growing no matter what. Whatever challenges there are to implement the PTMP, the government has to solve it for the benefit of the people.

While it is not the rainy season yet, we may not know whether it will still flood in Penang, has the state government implemented the flood mitigation project which has been mentioned for so long?

It is not about criticising the current government, but it really does seem that these proposed ideas have been pending for way too long. Wondering what is the real problem at hand.

These are just a few of the main things that have been dragging on since years ago. If these are not the priorities of the state government, then I wonder what they are. Or is the CM just as ignorant of the development of the state as he is towards the development of the KXP?

Perhaps the only fast moving pace projects are the developments of luxury residential projects.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 24th February 2020.

A nation building lesson from Kobe

In the end of 1990s, the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan was at their peak, dominating and winning championships in NBA. That was when I started to play and got interested in basketball, but Michael Jordan was retiring during that period. Although he was one of the greatest basketball players in the world, he wasn’t the one that I paid much attention to. During the time when I was so fascinated with basketball, Kobe Bryant was the inspirational one to my friends and I. We grew up watching his whole career in the NBA.

Kobe Bryant, a legend

As I was writing to complete my bi-weekly article two weeks ago, it was devastating to receive news from friends from my basketball circle that the inspirational Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash.

I may have not met him before, I would have never imagined that I would have the opportunity to meet him ever as well. But he remained as an inspirational person to me, not only on the basketball court, but his character of developing himself as well as advocating for sports among youth and women.

He won five championships, was an 18-time All-Star, and countless NBA records in history. And he is the one and only basketball player who has won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Winner of Academy award for Best Animated Short Film

Having achieved such a high stature, in the basketball world, among sports lovers, and to people who might not be interested in sports at all; he played a major influence throughout the world. 

5x Champion

Politicians have a lot to learn from Kobe.

As politicians, it is natural to contest in the general elections to win. Nobody wants to lose in any contest that we participate in. But although general elections are important to politicians, we should not make it a priority; in which it is a priority to many. Most of the political parties and politicians first goal is to win in the elections, and then only plan on how to build the nation. Which I think the mentality and the priority should be changed. We must first have our ideas of developing our nation, then as we advocate for better policies, ultimately, we will be given the victory in the elections.

If basketball is a nation, Kobe has his idea on how to build his ‘nation’, he makes sure he understands his ‘nation’, gets to know the people across his ‘nation’. Winning championships may be certainly a goal for him, but he had used the influences he won from the championships to execute his ‘nation building’ ideas to make it a reality.

Many typical NBA players who retired from professional basketball will probably continue to earn from the fame that they have built, but it is different for Kobe.

At the end of his professional basketball career, he went back to the court to inspire and teach even more players to develop their successes, and that is what he does to build his ‘nation’.

If he is there only to win championships, he wouldn’t have continued his advocacy after he retired professionally. Similarly to politicians, if one has real concerns and is true to his words of building the nation, the priority is not about winning elections then. Building a nation is not only reserved for the winners, everyone and anyone can play their role in it.

There are numerous lessons and experiences that we can learn from Kobe, but specifically for politicians, I think it is his mentality of building his ‘nation’, his love and loyalty for his ‘nation’.

No. 24 was the jersey number that I will take lesson from; coincidentally N24 was the seat that I contested in 2018.

KB 24

His first phase of success ended in 2016 when he retired as a professional player from NBA. His second phase of life is just beginning and was poised for even more success. I was expecting to learn even more from him. It is such a waste that his life has to be ended. Rest in Peace, Kobe, Gianna and to all others who were on board the helicopter.


This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 11th February 2020.

A major change of our electoral system?

In a short span of 18 months, we have had 10 by-elections in our country. And the latest one at Kimanis, Sabah whereby the previous results were nullified for election process discrepancies. I am not writing about the details of the Kimanis by-election, but rather about our political system in Malaysia.

Throughout the 10 by-elections, the focus has only been on two major political coalitions in our country, as everyone knows, Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan. In fact, most of the time it has been the contest between these two forces. There might be some changes of the member organization in the political coalition or changes of name throughout, but more or less, it is still the similar political groups.

A third force or an independent political party hardly grows into a major force.

Other than the general political mindset of Malaysians, I believe that the Westminster political system in some way has prevented a new political party to grow in a major force.

The Westminster system is a parliamentary system that was developed in England that is now practiced in many former British Empire colonies. Since Malaysia earned its independence in 1957, we have since then used the Westminster model.

Traditionally, the Parliament members are elected using first-past-the-post from single-member districts. Some new hopeful political parties may garner significant support from the voters, but probably not enough to past-the-post to win in the constituencies. In the end, despite getting votes, they are still nothing if they couldn’t win any seats.

Even if they do win, the amount of seats that these smaller parties obtain may not be significant to make an impact in the Parliament. With such difficulties, the political parties do not have the stamina or resources to survive, and they end up joining forces with either one of the coalitions.

In many parts of the world that practices Westminster or similar model of elections, there will only be two major parties struggling for power.

Malaysian politics has been a struggle between Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional, while in the United Kingdom, it is between the Conservatives and Labour. 

Couple of months back, I heard about the Malaysian election commission putting into discussion the possibility of making major changes in our election system. One of them is to introduce the idea of proportional representation.

For those who are hearing proportional representation for the first time, it is an electoral system in which an electorate is reflected proportionately in the elected body. It can be elected through a party-list, single transferable vote or mixed-member proportional representation.

In short, a voter will vote for an individual candidate in his or her constituency and also another vote for a political party. 

The members of Bundestag, the Parliament of Germany is a nation that uses mixed systems. 

598 of them are elected from party lists proportional representation. 

In Germany’s proportional representation, parties that gain more than 5% of the votes are allocated seats in the Bundestag, with the number of seats depending on the votes that the party gains. For example, if the party gains 10% of the votes, that means the party will have 60 members in the Bundestag.

I would say it is a good initiative by the Election Commission to bring up the idea, although I still have doubts that it will happen anytime soon.

To see it happen will need a huge political will, as if it is implemented, the two big coalitions will have to risk their seats being taken by smaller parties.

To move the nation forward is not only about the change of government policies, but perhaps our political and electoral system.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 28th January 2020.

Our privacy in a new Malaysia?

Smartphones, social media and technology have become part of our lives. I simply cannot imagine any of us able to live a day without using any gadgets. Imagine what was the first thing that we do when we wake up in the morning, we check our smartphones and social media. When we drive out from home and we forgot our smartphone, even the charger or power bank, we will definitely turn around and get it. Smartphones have changed our lives. That is our lives in the current era. 

But there are always trade-offs with things that we love. For smartphones and social media, we are giving away our personal data and information. Everytime we use it, it collects data from us. The phone numbers that we call or receive from; our text messages; our locations; what have we browsed in the internet; our photos, videos and depending on what apps we are using, our private information such as financial data, passwords, schedules could be accessible to certain people.

Privacy has been a worldwide concern which many tech companies were created to protect more personal privacy. Even the iPhone is using privacy as its unique selling point in their latest model.

But it seems this privacy issues has just recently grabbed the attention of Malaysians last week when the MACC commissioner, Latheefa Koya released a so-called wiretapped phone conversation that is assumed to be the former Prime Minister, his wife and other government officials.

This creates a question on how secure our privacy is. Bear in mind that this wiretapped phone conversation is deemed to be five years ago. Either there are a lot of wiretapped data being kept knowingly or the government has the ability to retrieve such data even if it is years back. And yet many of us are criticising China for their lack of privacy. Is our government protecting the privacy of its citizens? China is known for the government’s implementation of mass surveillance which is a network of monitoring systems to ‘supervise’ the lives of their citizens. While Malaysia may not be as advanced as that, to what extent is the government monitoring our lives?

Some may argue that this is important for the case. Yes, I agree that it could be a clue to the investigation of cases related to the former Prime Minister.

But what if this happens to you? I do believe that you are not a criminal or against any laws. So what if it was a private conversation between you and your business partners discussing business strategies being wiretapped and being released to your competitors? What if your intimate conversation between you and your spouse were released unknowingly? What if you were sending your bank pincode to your wife or husband?

Let’s say if you have nothing to hide and you have no issue of your phone calls being wiretapped. You’re innocent, so what are you afraid of? But why is this information being released now?

The former PM was arrested by the MACC on July 2018, trials and investigations have begun since then. Why didn’t the MACC find such information back then? Does MACC need such a long period to obtain the information? Is MACC that inefficient?

Even if they have found a clue now, why does the MACC commissioner, Latheefa Koya have to release it publicly in a press conference? What is the motive? She graduated with a Bachelor of Law in 1997. For so many decades she has earned a degree in law, and doesn’t she understand the term sub judice? Isn’t the case under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere? Or is she bringing the case to the court of public opinion?

Making me question the motive even more is the fact that she is also famous for being a human rights activist. For those who know about Article 12 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

For someone who has fought so much for human rights, doesn’t she know about this declaration? I have doubts. Isn’t she going against human rights now?

Oh, and so happened it is the beginning of the Kimanis by-election, and it made everyone discuss it. Whether what is the motive, you think about it.

The timing, our privacy, a new Malaysia? We have to figure it out.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 14th January 2020.

We failed Vision 2020

It is just a couple of days before we approach the new decade. 

It is also the year that probably every Malaysian was looking forward during the 1990s. 

If we can remember well, it was in 1991 that Tun Dr Mahathir introduced the Wawasan 2020 during the tabling of the Sixth Malaysia Plan. There were several goals and objectives that has been laid down which is to be achieved by the year 2020.

I was in my early years of primary school back then. I vividly still can recall the whole Wawasan 2020 vibes when it was introduced. I would say the whole branding and marketing of the Wawasan 2020 is pretty effective, or perhaps for a kid like me back then. It was on the newspapers, televisions, radio, government events, government offices, and promoted in schools as well. The one that I remember the most is that almost every colouring and drawing competition during that time was about Wawasan 2020.

30 years have passed since then, and the year 2020 is finally approaching. Have we actually achieved the goals of the Vision? Let us look back at each one specifically.

The first one is to establish a united Malaysian nation made up of one Bangsa Malaysia. It is easy for me to judge this. I’d say we have failed this totally. Up until today, we are still talking about protecting and fighting for the rights of our respectives races, and not Bangsa Malaysia. We had a Malay congress, and now the Chinese wants to have their own congress. So are we saying that in every couple of months, there will be other races having their own congress as well? Why haven’t any leaders in the country thought of holding a true Malaysian congress instead? It will be 2020 in just a few years and we are far from achieving this first challenge of Wawasan 2020.

Then we are looking at fostering and develop a mature democratic society. The last parliament session saw one Member of Parliament making fun of a religious practice over the ashes of Chin Peng. There were a couple of times the session was suspended for the lack of quorums and empty seats in the block of Government MPs. An MP watching a football match in the august hall of the Parliament. MPs arguing and debating due to partisanship, and not based on the issues raised. Now tell me, when are we able to foster a matured democratic society, if the nation’s leaders are of such attitude?

And we also wanted to establish a scientific and progressive society. Perhaps the flying car prototype might help? Or not? Although I have confidence in our own people to advance in this field, but I still believe in the leverage of working together with other nation to move forward in a quicker pace. For instance, the involvement of a China company in Proton is helping us instead of waiting for the company to die down slowly. We have great people in the tech industry. Grab is a good example, but unfortunately, the company has moved its base to Singapore. Why? I think we should refer to the policies of the Government in the tech industry.

As kids, we have lots of imagination back then in the 1990s. Thanks to the blockbuster scientific movies like The Matrix, Terminator, Men in Black and Stargate; it has fueled wonderful imaginations for kids like me of the year 2020. Modern transportation and buildings, robots, flying cars and many sophisticated devices was imagined. But, now?  

I don’t want to sound too negative though as I think we have positive vibes to be happy about though.

I think the Malaysian community is not all that bad. If it is not for irresponsible politicians trying to fan racial sentiments, we have a fairly harmonious society. People don’t have issues of other race and religion observing their celebrations. All of us have friends or neighbours from different background, but we do not have any serious confrontational issues. 

Overall, I think we did not achieve as what was depicted in the Wawasan 2020, particularly when it is about race and religion. 

I wouldn’t say that the leaders and politicians are the sole ones responsible for it, but they played a key role in it. I reiterate again that our politics have been too focused on power and money, which makes Wawasan 2020 a failure. 

I hope this coming new decade and hopefully in another 30 years to come, we would have an impactful positive change, and it should begin with a healthier politics and governance.

Let’s hope for a best one ahead, and Happy New Year to everyone.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 31st December 2019.

The indication of Tanjung Piai

After a gruelling three weeks or so of battling in the Tanjung Piai by-elections, finally we are back to our day-to-day works again. It was a devastating results for Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, only managing to obtain only 1,707 votes from the Tanjung Piai voters. Nevertheless there was much lesson to experience from this by-election and learn about the current political scenario of Malaysia.

Based on the results of Tanjung Piai, we can see that the Malaysian political system, political style will remain for quite some time.

The way politics were conducted by political parties will still be the same especially in times of elections. Identity politics will still be used, particularly in terms of ethnicity when it comes to campaigning for votes. It seems that there are certain community that feels that Muslims are to be protected with special privileges. It is still as though that only a person with the same ethnicity will only protect one of their own. Why haven’t we really thought that even Malays can protect Chinese and Indians; or Chinese can also protect the Malay and Indians? Or why don’t we have that mindset that whoever is elected, is a Malaysian, and to entrust his or her ability to protect every Malaysian?

During the by-election campaign, we still notice Ministers, Deputy Ministers and government officials “turun padang” to the constituency to make announcements of development projects be it major or minor. Re-tarring roads are so common that it is a “must-thing” to do in every elections. Despite that, we surely welcome such developments, but why now? Why does it only happens during by-elections? Do we only need by-elections to happen so that the respective constituencies to be given attention? What has the elected representatives been doing?

Negative politics, criticism, and attacking is such a norm in elections that it is as though people vote based on who is the lesser devil. We are focusing so less on who can deliver better progress, who have the better capability to represent the people.

As far as I have read about politics about 20 years ago, politics were played that way back then, and it is still now.

The Tanjung Piai by-election results is also giving a clear indication that a third force, independent party or independent candidate will not strive in Malaysian politics for quite some time. The total number of votes combined among the independent parties and candidates, couldn’t even secure the deposit.

The battle within the two major coalition, Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan will continue until Malaysian voters can accept the rise of a third force, but when?

Based on the campaign and response from the voters of Tanjung Piai, building a third force that really matters in Malaysia will require a huge effort and political education among the public.

It makes us ponder, how does the Tanjung Piai voters voted in this by-election? Are they voting because Barisan Nasional can bring them development? Or are they voting because they are angry towards the rule of Pakatan Harapan? Did any of them ponder if there is an alternative choice that can voice out for them?

I think we still have a long way to go to achieve an effective and matured democractic country.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 19th November 2019.

The ninth by-election. A different feeling. A different thought.

Last Saturday was the nomination day for the Tanjung Piai by-election. The feeling was different. There were no supporters that come from another political party. We only come from different places; but from the same political party which was formed since 1968.

Frankly, I was feeling anxious on the night before the nomination day although I am not the candidate. Feeling worried yet excited. Worried of ourselves not being able to garner the morale and momentum needed for the two weeks campaign. There were even some members who were feeling doubtful of us even developing the campaign mood for the by-elections.

But that Saturday was totally different and motivating. We woke up as early as 5am to get things prepared for our candidate to be nominated. The morning started with a little quiet and sober moment; more like a gathering of party members. 

As our crowd begin to swell with more and more members, small chats developed into members motivating each other; and further continued with small chants. When our candidate, Wendy Subramaniam arrives, the group gets even more excited and soon each of us leading our members into shouting war cries. 

“Satu Hati, Undi Wendy, Satu Hati, Undi Wendy”

Before that, we have the strength and voices of coalition partners shouting together. But we have never tested our own strength before, individually. That Saturday, we have seen our own strength, ourselves. Members standing under the hot sun for three hours at least, not moving away; continued cheering until the candidate was successfully nominated. That Saturday, it was simply exhilarating and motivating.

Weeks before that, I have been actively getting involved in the preparation for the by-election.

Although most of the operational structure is similar, there is a sense of distinct in this one’s.

Obviously, it is the first time in 50 years, we are using our own triangular logo once again for elections.

We are no longer working together in a coalition party this time around. Despite not having the benefit of coalition parties assisting us in the elections, I do see several benefits though.

We do not have to go through the hassle of negotiating with coalition partners anymore. It could sometimes be problematic with partners who do not go along with what you believe in, and those who are demanding can be troublesome.

We are also forcing ourselves to move forward with a truly Malaysian ideology. Previously, we depend on race-based parties to campaign within their own respective racial community. Today, we have to go to the ground despite which race our campaigners are, we campaign as Malaysians. We need to prove that we do not need a leader from a race to fight for the rights of the same race. Similarly goes to religion. That is because we are advocating for the benefit of all Malaysians regardless of race, religion or gender.

We were definitely taking a huge risk and challenge to contest in this by-election as an alternative force. But I feel that it should be a risk that should be taken. 

We have to introduce the idea of a viable alternative choice for the people. The two huge coalitions has been fighting and politicking too much in the country that I think many important agendas for the people have been forsaken. 

Both coalition has been striving and arguing for the sake of toppling the other and gain power. That is when I thought we need a stronger alternative choice to be developed, and not only Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia.

Even if Pakatan Harapan retains the seat or Barisan Nasional manage to swing the seat, it wouldn’t make any difference in the Government. Pakatan Harapan will still be the Government, and Barisan Nasional will still be the Opposition.

But if an alternative force is given the mandate, it will give another viable voice of the people in the Parliament. It also serves as a warning to politicians not to politicised matters and focus too much on power struggle.

I believe Malaysians need to make a difference in our nation’s political scenario, we need to push the politicians to fight for the people, and not fighting over power. And that is when an alternative choice is needed.

That Saturday, changed our morale and momentum. Next Saturday, we will depend on Malaysians to change the mentality of our politicians.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 5th November 2019.

A third choice?

Decisions are one of the things that we do most everyday, whether we notice it or not. From very small decisions like what to wear and what to eat; to huge decisions such as which job to apply, which car or house to buy.

Whether it is making simple day-to-day decisions or big decisions in life, we make decisions based on valid reasons.

When we make decision on what time to take a shower very much depending on what time we have to go to work or what time is our appointment. 

When we are to decide what to eat for lunch, depends on what is available at that time, what does our tastebuds love or maybe when it is during the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, then we have to take vegetarian food.

These are much simpler decisions that we make daily, but it still has a valid reason and choices out there.

Making bigger decisions might require longer and more in-depth process though, for example when we buy a car.

The first thought is usually the budget, how much can we afford the car. Then we consider the practicality of it, whether how big our family is, what kind of terrain to we usually drive by, do we carry a lot of things daily, or how efficient is the after-sales service of the company?

We will also look into the technical aspects; how fast can the car go, is it cost-efficient when it comes to petrol, is it environmental-friendly, does it connects to my handheld-device, and many other things.

Or some may decide more on the aesthetic part of it, such as the design, the colour, the type of the rim or the lights.

This of course, comes with a lot of choices. 

But when we decide on who is our representative in the Parliament and State Assembly; and who to govern our country, do we have choices?

Since the first general election in 1955, there is only one coalition that won the majority of the Parliament seats in the country and rules the Government, which is the Alliance, and subsequently formed the Barisan Nasional.

There was a sudden shock for the ruling party in 1969 where they lost a significant number of seats although they still remain as the Government; until in the 1990s that we see a stronger opposition coalition beginning to start-up. Then, it was the Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah and Gagasan Rakyat that came out to contest against Barisan Nasional. The coalition subsequently breaks up though and some of the parties came up with Barisan Alternatif to run against the ruling party in the 1999 and 2004 general elections.

The opposition coalition kept evolving and grew into Pakatan Rakyat; then Pakatan Harapan, and as we all knew it, they won in the 2018 general elections.

Since the 2008 general elections, Malaysians made a two-party system came true, whereby we have a significant strength among the opposition Member of Parliaments.

Despite all the scandals, corruption and negativity in politics; I think the political scenario gives a good hope for democracy in Malaysia. From having only one significant choice of a political party; we have grown to a two stronger choices of political parties.

But are we able to grow even further in democracy by having more stronger political parties in Malaysia? Do we have more choices when it comes to choosing who to represent us in the Dewan Rakyat? Do we really want just a two party system where we are forced to vote either one of the two which may not be suitable?

A third choice may sound ideal, but is it able to grow in our country? 

Usually, third parties face an uphill battle in terms of electoral success due to political system in a democratic country like Malaysia. Even in instances where the potential supporter may align themselves most with a certain third party, in the face of overwhelming odds against impacting an election, it makes more sense just to stay home or back a coalition party in compromise.

Growing into a stronger two-party system has also created more political bickering than ever in our country. Politicians are quarreling and criticizing each other just because they are not from the same party. Due to the strength of both coalition, the petty bickering seems non-stopping. The Government has forgotten about their responsibility of ruling, and the opposition has forgotten about their role of monitoring. What these two huge coalition focuses is to topple each other in the next general elections. 

Probably it is high time that we advocate for a stronger third party to arise. A third choice to remind the roles of the Government and the opposition. A third choice to remind that we have to make the country better, and not the political party better.

When we choose to buy a car and a house, we consider with so much details and choices. I think the same should be done when we choose who to govern our country.

What truly matters is not which party controls the government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 8th October 2019.

Haze, haze go away

It is that time of the year again.

It is hot, dry and the schools are closed as though it is the summer holidays.

The Westerners equipped themselves with bikinis and trunks while the Southeast Asians are prepared with breathing masks.

The lowlands looks like it is shrouded with mist; except that it is shrouded with haze.

The haze crisis in Malaysia and Southeast Asia is not something new.

The first appearance of haze in Malaysia was probably decades ago.

In recent years, the crisis has gotten more often with the problem happening almost every year, just a matter of different degrees of seriousness. It does not happen only in one country. It is a transboundary issue mainly across Southeast Asia.

The major haze crisis began in 1997, when the haze covered most parts of Southeast Asia, whereby Kuching recorded an Air Pollutant Index (API) of 860 during that period.

2006 recorded another round of a major haze issue when the effects can be felt as far as South Korea. The occurrences of El Nino made the problem worse during that year.

The 2013 haze was considered one of the worst that Southeast Asians have experienced. That year was notable as the haze caused record high levels of pollution in several cities. The API in Singapore reached a record high of 401 on 21 June 2013. On 23 June 2013, the API in Muar increased to 746 which caused the declaration of emergency in that city in the south of Malaysia.

We faced another year of crisis in 2015 when a serious level of haze hits again. Flights were disrupted, education institutions were closed, many have to seek medical assistance for respiratory issues. That year alone, the Indonesian Government estimated that the haze crisis would cost about US$35-47 billion to mitigate.

What makes the matter important and should be highlighted is that it is not a natural disaster. It is caused by humans. The haze is largely caused by illegal agricultural fires due to industrial-scale slash and burn practices in Southeast Asia particularly Indonesia and Malaysia. Apparently burned land can be sold at a higher price illegally, and eventually used for activities including palm oil and pulpwood production. Burning is also cheaper and faster compared to cutting and clearing manually.

Despite losing billions of dollars annually due to the haze crisis; despite having talks and discussions every time the haze appears; we still couldn’t solve the issue. Haze still keeps coming up every year, because of human greed.

Lack of action and political will to tackle the cause of the haze especially towards the planters that uses the slash and burn techniques to clear the forests has been causing the unstoppable issue.

It is time for the Southeast Asian countries to collaborate together with the Indonesian Government to act against the culprit of the companies that are causing fires across the region. One obvious action that perhaps we are not tough enough against the Indonesian Government and companies that are causing the fires and pollution.

Although the Southeast Asian countries has ratified the ASEAN agreement on transboundary haze pollution, it was criticised for not being effective.

The agreement was deemed as lacking enforcement mechanisms. This is due to the official system of rules that informs this agreement is the ‘ASEAN way’ of diplomatic conduct. This basically means that the countries in ASEAN shall not interfere with another country and are expected to act in their own self-interest respectively.

Furthermore, by looking at the commitment of the ratification of the agreement, Indonesia which is the main contributor of the haze is the last country to ratify in 2014; 12 years after it was first introduced in 2002. We should be proud that Malaysia is the first country to ratify the agreement.

But with the haze crisis remains despite the agreement, perhaps our Malaysian Government must take the act to another level. A law must be set to take action against the culprits of the pollution. A good example is the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act which is implemented by the Singaporean Parliament that criminalizes conduct which causes or contributes to haze pollution in Singapore.

If there is still lack of awareness and will in our region, maybe we will need a Greta Thunberg of Southeast Asia to remind people to make history and stop haze from happening again.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 24th September 2019.

Mat Rempit to GoJek?

Do we remember since when did the conflict between the taxi drivers and Grab began? It was long enough to witness the change of Government. Although regulations of e-hailing were implemented, there are still issues facing between both stakeholders. Since then, there were also many other e-hailing startups were developed. 

Even before we solve the issues between taxi drivers and Grab, the Government decided to bring in another. There were many questions that came into my mind when the news broke out.

Just last week, our Youth and Sports Minister, Syed Saddiq was so proud to announce that GoJek from Indonesia will be coming to operate in Malaysia. Very similar to Grab, but instead of cars, GoJek’s provides ride-hailing services using motorcycles.

Before we go into local startups, competition and the transportation system of our country, we should look back at what the current Transport Minister has mentioned last year.

In September last year, Anthony Loke as the Transport Minister said, “The Ministry maintains its stance against motorcycle ride-hailing services mainly for safety reasons. In Malaysia, there are too many accidents involving bikes that we just can’t take the risk.”

That is when Dego Ride, a local motorcycle ride-hailing startup was banned in Malaysia. Less than a year after that, the idea was booted back again, and it wasn’t Dego Ride who gets to ride at it.

As we all know, the safety of riding a motorcycle in Malaysia has always been a concern. The high number of accidents involving motorcycles, and the issues of Mat Rempit has to be of concern before we even consider such services. According to a research of Global Status Report on Road Safety, Malaysia has the third highest fatality rate from road traffic accidents. More than half of the road traffic deaths are motorcyclists. How many more are we expecting if the number of bike trips increases with the ride-hailing services?

Even if assuming that the traffic safety has improved, aren’t we supposed to first support our local players before bringing in the big regional companies? Before Dego Ride was banned by the Government, it has already build a foundation to begin with. Why don’t the Government create flexibility and encourage investors to fund this local startup instead? Bring back the local startup before we get in big players such as GoJek.

Syed Saddiq has always proudly claims that he supports the growth of Industrial Revolution 4.0 in Malaysia. He even tweeted that he wants the world to know that the Malaysian Government is committed in preparing Malaysia for the future when he was about to speak in the World Economic Forum.

So what does he mean by preparing Malaysia for the future? By bringing in other country’s startups to Malaysia? Or by just focusing on e-sports and playing games? We should be confident of our own local talents. If they are not good enough, provide them with platforms to learn and develop their skills. Our country has a good existing platform to assist in building startups such as the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre. 

The Youth and Sports Minister even supported his case of bringing in GoJek which will help create jobs for the local youth in Malaysia. So much so of his ideas of developing bright talents in the country. I wonder does he mean bright talents in riding bikes then?

It does not solve the underlying problems of the youth. Why do we need to create this kind of job opportunities at the first place? Are we encouraging the youth just to earn an income by being bikers? Are our youth not competitive enough to face the Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the corporate world? Or are we not generating enough jobs?

What has the Government done for the youth to embrace the Industrial Revolution 4.0? We have been raising about all the wrong issues recently and we forgot about the important ones. Khat, Zakir Naik and questioning’s people’s loyalty towards the nation wouldn’t help that. 

Knowing the social issues of Mat Rempit that Malaysia sees, are we ready to ride with a Mat Rempit?

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 27th August 2019.Mat Rempit to GoJek?