A hope for 2019, a positive politics

2018 has been a roller coaster ride in the political arena. Pakatan Harapan taking over the government; political frogs; high profile politicians charged to court; by-elections; nasty and funny statements by ministers; u-turn of decisions has been highlighting the news.

It was also a year that most Malaysians have never been so hopeful for our nation. ‘Malaysia Baru’ as they said. Being a Malaysian, I too have put my hopes on positive changes not only by the Government, but by the nation as a whole.

As we look forward towards the new year, many of us would commit resolutions of our own. Besides personal resolutions, I have put down a list of political resolution that I wanted to share with fellow Malaysians.


1) Positive Politics

We have had too much of negative politics through the past decade. Character assassination, political gossips, baseless arguments and personal attacks are all too common. Whether it is in the Parliament, the media, social media or even a discussion in a coffee shop could turn into negative vibes. Looking at the relationship between Member of Parliaments (MP) despite from different political party makes no sense that the political arena looks so negative. The lunch of Khairy, Nurul and Rafizi; and the meet up of Hishamuddin and Azmin’s families in Morocco signifies that politics is indeed positive. It is the irresponsible politicians and people that are causing chaos among Malaysians.

2) Put an end to the politics of race and religion

Race and religion has been a trouble for Malaysia since decades ago. The issue of Sri Maha Mariamman temple and ICERD are cases that implied the problem still exists; and probably getting worse. We cannot deny that there are problems of poverty, financial constraints, unemployment, education, and other social issues among the people. And these issues are blind towards race or religion. It happens in each race, religion or community. What we need is an economic policy on the basis of income and the inequality between social classes, regardless of race and religion. As we are facing a globalised world, we need to compete with other nations as one; and not causing internal conflicts within.

3) Drown the voice of extremists

We have no room for extremists that threaten a lady promoting beer legally; kills a firefighter who is on duty; or people who simply threaten others simply because their needs are not fulfilled. We have so much to build, develop and work together for the nation that we don’t have time to solve the unnecessary problems of extremists. The moderates must come together and drown the voices of the extremists.

4) Political knowledge and awareness

With due credit to many young Malaysians, we have seen an increase of concern about politics and government. Thanks to social media, the youth have started to discuss and take part in the political process, which is voting in the elections. As much as the political awareness brought by social media; it has also impeded the political maturity in the same process. Fake news and half truths particularly in social media has caused many misunderstandings about politics. We must play a role to share the knowledge about politics and the truth.

5) Youth empowerment and participation

Although I have mentioned that the youth is now more concerned about politics than ever; but there is still lack of empowerment and participation. I believe youth should be encouraged and allowed not only to vote in the elections, but to participate actively in the government’s decision making process. Public policies and ideas can be formulated through the views of the young people. They should also be given the opportunity to participate in the governance process so that more would understand clearer about government. Not only that fresher ideas will be formulated; but the young people will also make better and informed decisions in the elections when they get more involved.

6) A Green Economy

When many nations have started worrying about environment, it is sad but the truth that many Malaysians are not aware of the threats. Probably it is due to the efforts of protecting the Mother Nature has a cost to it, and it is taking convenience away of from the people. Paying 20 cents for plastic bags or no-plastics day; banning of smoking in public areas; reducing usage of straws; non-usage of polystyrene products. These are all positive measures, but it may seem like a trouble to some. Our current priority is too focused on development that is causing harm to the green.

Imagine if we can create a ‘green economy’ where we can protect the environment and at the same time generating economic benefits. We should start a conversation about it and begin implementing practical ideas.

An article is definitely not enough to raise my agenda and concerns for the nation. All I can put down are my thoughts of what is critical and important at the moment. Largely, what we need is a brand new politics, a positive politics.

If you share my thoughts, do spend some time and we can brainstorm more ideas and actions.

For the next 365 days, it is up to us on how to write the history of our nation. It is our call whether we are taking action to make things better or just sit and worry what might happen to us.

Well, to me, action is a must, and we should do it together.

Let us look forward 2019, and wish you a Happy New Year.

Garden in the city

As I was watering and pruning my plants while making sure it is healthy in my small garden at my Pulau Tikus office, I was thinking of the possibility of Garden Cities in our lovely Penang state.

The ‘Garden City’ was initially introduced in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom which contains proportionate areas of residences, industry, agriculture, open spaces and public parks.

Howard believes that overcrowding and deterioration of cities was one of the troubling issues of their time and therefore it is important to provide the people an alternative to ‘crowded, unhealthy cities’. Despite his ideas that were more than a century old, it has proven that is still relevant today as we are still facing such a situation.

Many of the cities in western countries still adopt Howard’s idea of garden city as of today. As a matter of fact, it is so important that his writings has become a basic text for town planning students.

While the urban planning method of Howard may go into very details in his book, ‘Garden Cities of Tomorrow’, let us not look too far within yet.

Looing at the reality of Penang, despite the state government’s slogan ‘Cleaner, Greener Penang’, I believe it is still far from the ideas of Ebenezer Howard’s ‘Garden Cities’.

Trees were removed to build and widen the roads; hill slopes were destroyed for developments, beaches and the nearby waters reclaimed for unsustainable developments, traffic jams, flash floods, unsanitary conditions, haphazard developments: these are all failing signs of ‘Cleaner, Greener, Penang’.

Allocating budgets for greeneries may be one way to actively develop an environment-friendly city, but there are many simpler ways in looking at encouraging a ‘garden city’. It is not just about spending huge amounts of government budget in opening up massive parks with huge publicity. At times it is the small public areas that make up a real green city. There are many areas such as sidewalks, below an overhead bridge, pedestrian bridge and many more which can be a good place to make up as areas for the greens.

Authorities can also opt to implement the ‘reward or punish factor’ to push for the green movement. Incentives can be rewarded to the private sector or private property owners who take the effort to create a garden within their area. Rooftops and walls of buildings are the areas that are practically nothing on it and it can be used as a garden. There are indeed many countries that have took the initiative to promote rooftop or vertical gardening. In relation to that, if the private sector doesn’t comply with certain ‘green regulations’, they will have to oblige to pay ‘green tax’.

Farming in Penang may not seem to be a lucrative industry in Penang due to many known reasons, but I think urban-farming should be promoted in the state. Urban farming not only creates a place with greeneries; but it also reconnects urban-dwellers with the origin of food. Besides that, the people could have save some of their living costs by planting and farming for their own vegetables.

Environment and the greens may not be seen as attractive as other sectors which have more benefits in terms of economic value; but they do provide the values that give the people a quality, healthier and happier life.

As I have mentioned in my previous article of leaving a legacy in the city; today I want to reiterate that preserving and creating green spaces in the city is very urgent to leave behind a positive legacy for generations to come.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 2nd December 2016.

Pimples in Penang

During everyone’s teenage years, we experience puberty. All of us went through the process of physical changes through which we begin to mature. The hormonal changes in our body are causing our body to mature physically. The hormones is also a cause of one of the major problems faced during our puberty years; pimples!

When pimples are out of control and grew excessively, many would get embarrassed. Many would just hide in their homes and refuse to come out to meet people. Not exaggerating, but I believe some of us may have known some schoolmates may have refused to leave their homes because one pimple may have grown on their face.

We all know that our face is our main outlook when we meet people. Our face may be just a small part of our whole body, but it largely represents the whole of us. Of course, most people do not “depend on their face” or outlook to earn a living, unlike models and celebrities. Although we can do nothing much on our physical features, we would like to keep it look neat & look healthy.

As our face represents us largely; we, Penangites represents the state as whole. How the state is being developed, how the state is being managed, how the traffic and environment is being managed, what kind of leaders that we elect into positions; largely represents the mindset of the Penangites; despite every Penangites may have different views.

Recently as being reported in the news, our “Penang face” has grown a lot of pimples. If we look at the whole state using Google Map or Google Earth, we can see brown patches everywhere. “Pimples” have grown in around Penang Hills, Teluk Bahang, Paya Terubong, Relau and Balik Pulau. The mainland was not spared with the “facial problems” too. The “pimples” that I meant here are deforestation that has occurred on the hills either for property developments or farming.

Last year alone, this issue has been brought up by several NGOs, politicians and even residents. The state government has also stated that there were stop work orders issued on the hill clearings and mitigation efforts were taken on the issue. Unfortunately, today, not only that the projects then were not being stopped, but even more hill clearings were conducted.

In the report by Free Malaysia Today, the Penang Hill Land Working Committee Chairman Farizan Darus has stated that more than 100 hectares of land within the Penang Hill range have been cleared; about 90 hectares were cleared within Relau and Paya Terubong; another 14 hectares of clearing were also carried out in Bukit Kukus while the Star reported that about 30 hectares of land were being cleared in Teluk Bahang. If this is true, this brings to a total of approximately 234 hectares of land which is equivalent to 328 Old Trafford football fields of the Manchester United.

“Pimples” of such level is a serious “health condition” for the Penang. Such problems cannot be accepted and must be cured immediately.

Penangites have called and decided for change in 2008 and 2013. But they are certainly not calling for a “hormonal change” that brings “pimple issues” to the face of Penang. We do not want to have a day when we have to hide because of the “pimples”.

As I have said, Penangites represents the state as a whole. Whatever happens to Penang today is due to our actions. “Hormonal changes” are important for our maturity; but we must also prevent the negative effects of the “hormones”.

We have destroyed enough greens and nature. We already have to pay entrance fees to watch birds and butterflies. Do we want to have one day when we have to pay an entrance fee to watch trees?

Are we warming or warning ourselves?

HOT! No, it is not the political situation. It’s the weather, literally.

Since few weeks ago, we have experienced hot weather throughout the country. The heatwave is causing uneasiness towards everyone. Plants are dying due to the heat and dehydration. Fields of green have turned into fields of brown. After shower, we aren’t even sure whether the drips of water are pipe water or it is our sweat. This is how serious the heat is in Malaysia.

According to the Meteorological Department, it’s the El Nino phenomenon that has struck us which was very similar to what has happened in the year 1997-1998. Some has argued that this is caused by the change of the Earth’s climate system or better known as global warming. Either causes of the heatwave that is warming us up, studies have suggested that both El Nino and global warming are linked with each other.

Last Saturday, many were excited over the annual event of switching off the lights for an hour. Earth Hour, which it is. For those who are not aware, it is an event where people switch off non-essential lights for an hour to create an awareness of not wasting power for the sake of preventing global warming. The awareness itself is not only about urging us to turn off non-essential lights when it is not in used. It shows how important and urgent it is for us to show concern for our environment.

Greenhouse gasses, fossil fuel burning, deforestation, tree-cutting and over-development have been the few major causes of global warming. 185 nations have signed the declaration and committed towards the prevention of global warming in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris last year. Major cities have been taking actionable steps to prevent global warming.

Studies have been made and it is a common fact that developing a city causes global warming. The factories release toxic wastes and greenhouse gases. Forests have to be destroyed to make way for development of industrial areas, residential buildings and high rise towers. The influx of people into a city increases the need of faster transportation which emits more carbon monoxide.

Many developed cities have given us lessons and taught us on the effects of over-development. By taking developed cities as case studies, we should know what we must not do to prevent global warming and destruction of the environment.

Despite the ‘Cleaner, Greener Penang’ slogan, unfortunately, it seems that Penang is not learning from experiences of the others.

Deforestation and vanishing of hills is happening in many places in Penang to make way for developments. It is an obvious scene that anyone can witness brown patches of the earth in many parts of the hills.

Trees with the age of more than a century are being chopped off to widen the road. Some may argue that trees can be planted. But how long do we need to grow a tree in such a size to be an effective carbon sink, to provide shelter and clean air for the people. Furthermore, it is not easy to make sure that young trees survive in the long term in our environment today.

Without a doubt, I believe everyone craves for development in the city that they live in. But we ought to remember that development must be made to give us comfort and a better place to live in. If development causes us the heatwave as we are suffering today, then probably we should think twice on the state’s development planning. Is it for a better place to live in or is it purely for monetary gains?

However, there are proven ways that we can enjoy the luxury of development and at the same time protecting the environment. Sustainable development has been a main agenda in many parts of the world. We must not neglect the environment for the sake of development.

Sustainable development is not only the responsibility of the government or the corporates. It is the responsibility of every single one of us in ensuring it. We can take small steps to protect the environment as urged in the Earth Hour; play a role in community efforts; put pressure and making sure that the government makes the right decision. There are certainly many ways to inspire a better place for us to live in.

Let us ask, are we warming or warning ourselves?

Cleaner, Greener Penang – Merely a Slogan or Action?

Last week, the world witnessed a historic moment when probably the biggest deal of the 21st century happened in Paris. 195 nations ratified the climate agreement in the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference or known as COP21.

Cheers and tears were seen Le Bourget, Paris when all the nations committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will limit the global average temperature to a rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius in the 12-page document.

Despite hopes given to the whole world by the international conference, many still holds back their positivity towards the agreement. After all, it is all talk for now, action will be the one which determines the outcome.

And if we talk about action, it rarely happens at the international level or event. Actions on environmental sustainability particularly on preventing climate change will have to be at local levels, especially when it needs a long-term commitment towards it.

This makes me think of my lovely hometown island. There have been interesting plans by the State Government through its Cleaner, Greener Penang initiative. When the initiative was launched back in 2010, it was a hit among Penangites. Everyone was looking forward for a more liveable Penang in terms of cleanliness and environment. In just a couple of months, many claimed that the state has been a lot cleaner and greener compared to the past. I have even heard a comment saying that the Penang Hill has become cooler since the initiative has taken effect. Seriously, I think that person who commented on that might have been up to Penang Hill for the first time. As a person who have been up to the hill for so many times and living in Penang, I think the weather has deteriorated since decades ago.

Talking back about the Cleaner, Greener Penang initiative; it has been 5 years since it was initiated, but what has really improved? Has the initiative made Penang any cleaner or greener? Is it merely a slogan and a publicity stunt to make the people feel it is cleaner and greener?

I guess I have many valid points when it comes to the debate on the effectiveness of Cleaner, Greener Penang.

The illegal logging and hillside clearing has been obvious especially during this year. Hills in Bukit Laksamana, Bukit Kecil Sungai Pinang, Bukit Gambir, Bukit Relau and certain parts of Gelugor has been cleared for unknown reasons. If we look into the Google Maps or Google Earth into the Penang island, we can obviously see brown patches on it. The view is even clearer when we drive along Penang bridge, we can see hills that are cleared whether legally or illegally. Towards the Penang island, we can see a clear brown strip on the hills. While towards mainland, we can see a huge brown patch on the hills. Greener Penang? I don’t think so.

In the recent months, we have also heard about land reclamations that will be implemented in Penang. No matter who is responsible for the approval, Pakatan Harapan or Barisan Nasional; the current state government must bear the responsibility in handling the issues. Whether we like it or not, land reclamations will definitely bring effect to the environment and the ecosystem.

In the middle of the year, State Executive Councillor YB Chow Kon Yeow said for himself that 8 of Penang’s rivers are categorised as critically polluted. The rivers are Sungai Pinang, Sungai Batu Feringghi, Sungai Mas, Sungai Satu, Sungai Kechil, Sungai Pertama and Sungai Jawi.

When we look at the cleanliness level of Penang; we do not actually have to argue that much. We just have to spent time looking around our neighbourhood. Places like roadsides, drains, rivers or beaches and even at the bottom of the “No Throwing Rubbish” sign. Rubbishes are still thrown everywhere. In fact, just early this week, I was visiting a friend’s high rise home just right opposite to Bukit Kukus in Paya Terubong. I saw three men throwing aquariums and furniture down from the hill. Although it may not be the cause of the Government, I would say that the initiative has not been successful to educate the public.

Last year, YB Phee Boon Poh announced a Cigarette Smoke-Free Penang by gazetting smoke-free zones in the public by targeting the core and buffer zones in the heritage city. Unfortunately today, everyone still smokes at anywhere as they wish to. Worst, some irresponsible smokers even threw the cigarette butts everywhere.

The Government plays a role to make sure its initiative takes effect and at the same time the people must also be committed at the local level to co-operate with the government.

In the meantime, Illegal hill clearing, polluted rivers, land reclamation, ineffective smoking ban and rubbishes – that is what Penangites have been facing right now. Cleaner and Greener Penang – you judge it for yourself.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 18th December 2015.

KITA BERSAMA

Manifesto Kita Bersama

Salam sejahtera, rakan-rakan belia,

Belia Kita, belia Malaysia telah menjadi lebih kuat lagi, lebih berupaya sejak belia-belia yang terdahulu;

Ini merupakan jasa YB Khairy Jamaluddin dengan pasukannya di dalam Kementerian Belia dan Sukan. Idea Parlimen Belia dan pelaksanaannya telah mencapai suatu peristiwa, satu tahap di mana ia adalah berbaloi untuk anak-anak muda di seluruh negara untuk menyambut pencapaiannya.

Akan tetapi, sebesar mana kekuatan dan keupayaan diberikan kepada kita; sebagai Belia, kita tidak haruslah menyalahgunakan kekuatan tersebut. Kita mestilah menggunakan kekuatan tersebut demi manfaat dan kebaikan kepada komuniti belia di Malaysia.

Apabila Parlimen Belia bergerak dan dilaksanakan, ia memerlukan satu pasukan dan kerjasama yang kuat yang mewakili suara hati anak muda. Seseorang wakil yang boleh membawa isu-isu belia ke peringkat yang lebih tinggi. Seseorang wakil yang boleh menggerakkan dan merapatkan perhubungan di dalam Parlimen Belia dan seterusnya menguatkan organisasi tersebut sebagai suatu platform untuk mendidik, membangun dan mengilhamkan anak-anak muda.

Dengan rasa rendah hati, saya yakin yang saya mempunyai persefahaman di dalam komuniti belia ini, idea-idea bernas, dan semangat yang mendalam untuk membangunkan komuniti belia ini sebagai seorang wakil; jika dipilih.

Di dalam artikel-artikel dan infografik yang akan diterbitkan dalam sosial media saya sepanjang tempoh kempen, saya akan terangkan tiga teras utama dan lima tumpuan utama dalam manifesto saya sebagai calon ahli Parlimen Belia.

Tiga Teras Utama

  • Perpaduan Malaysia
  • Memperupayakan Belia
  • Pembangunan Belia

Lima Tumpuan Utama

  • Kos Sara Hidup yang Tinggi
  • Perumahan dan Kehidupan Bandar
  • Pendidikan
  • Pengangkutan dan Infrastruktur
  • Kemampanan Alam Sekitar

Tiga Teras Utama tersebut adalah tindakan-tindakan praktikal yang akan dicadangkan dan dilaksanakan secara kerjasama dengan wakil-wakil Parlimen Belia yang akan dipilih, dan juga bersama belia yang bersemangat dalam program-program pembangunan belia.

Manakala, Lima Tumpuan Utama merupakan suara hati dan isu-isu yang berkaitan dengan belia yang akan saya sampaikan kepada pihak kerajaan melalui Parlimen Belia.

Parlimen Belia bukanlah mengenai atau menjadi satu fokus kepada mana-mana satu individu, ia haruslah menjadi satu kerjasama di antara wakil-wakil yang dipilih bersama dengan setiap orang anak muda di negara kita. Dan anak-anak muda itu adalah KITA, BERSAMA!

Yang benar,

Ooi Zhi Yi

WE TOGETHER

Manifesto Kita Bersama

Dear You(th),

Our Youth, Malaysian Youth is stronger than ever, empowered than ever;

Thanks to the leadership of YB Khairy Jamaluddin and his team in the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The Youth Parliament idea and its implementation have achieved a milestone, a point for all Malaysian youth to celebrate our empowerment.

But as much as the power is given to us, youth, must not misuse the power. We must use the power for the benefit and the betterment for our youth community.

As the Youth Parliament moves forward and commence, it will need a team of collaborative and to represent the voice of the youth community. A representative who can bring the concerns of the youth up to the next level. A representative who can mobilize everyone connected to the Youth Parliament and strengthen the organization and to utilize the platform as a means for educating, developing and inspiring youth.

I am confident that I have the understanding of the youth community, the ideas and the deep passion to develop the youth community that qualifies me as one of the representative.

In my articles and inforgraphics that follows up through the campaigning period, I will explain the three pillars and five concerns of my candidacy for the Member of Youth Parliament.

Three Key Pillars

  • Malaysian Unity
  • Youth Empowerment
  • Youth Development

Five Key Concerns

  • High Cost of Living
  • Housing & Urban Living
  • Education
  • Transport & Infrastructure
  • Environment Sustainability

The Three Key Pillars are the practical action steps that I will propose and take collaboratively with fellow representatives together with a team of passionate Malaysian youth.

Meanwhile, the Five Key Concerns are voices and issues concerning the youth that I will highlight to the Government through the advocacy campaigns.

The Youth Parliament has never been about any particular individual, it should be a collaboration of the representatives and also every single youth in the country working together. And it is WE, TOGETHER.

Yours sincerely,

Ooi Zhi Yi