Don’t disguise “women empowerment” to grow political power

perspectives of Ooi Zhi Yi

I believe not many knew about Sabah’s political system of allowing appointment of members of the State Assembly (ADUN), until the recent Sabah political fiasco. Terengganu and Pahang has then subsequently followed suit to appoint members into the State Assembly. 

Penang has also recently proposed to appoint representatives into the State Assembly but only limited to women as to increase the participation of women in politics and governance. 

For whatever reason the Government or those who proposed to implement such a system, I think it is not the right move and it is against the principles of democracy. The whole idea of democracy and election is for the people to elect and bring the candidates that they trust in to represent them in the State Assembly. And not some people that they may not have heard of.

It is also not fair for those who have worked hard to campaign, to meet people, to present their ideas on developing the constituency, to serve the people in order to get elected. Now they will have colleagues who can just wait to be appointed?

No matter how different the appointment system may be in different states, it is just merely to further increase the power of those who are in power. I don’t think that those who are in power will allow their opponents to decide on the appointed representatives.

By having additional ADUNs meaning that the government has to bear additional cost of allowances and allocations. The salary of one representative in Penang is about RM135,000 annually. I believe with this amount we can do even more for Penang instead of giving it out as salaries.

With such appointments, does that mean that in the next round of general elections, there are certain people that do not have to go through the hassle of contesting. They just have to make sure that they please the person who has the power to nominate and appoint them into the state assembly. There will be even more political bargaining and lobbying no matter how one tries to prevent it. The only way to prevent it is to not allow such appointments.

If the DAP is so sincere in advocating for the rights of the women and 30% representatives of women, they should have done so way earlier. In the last general elections, they have only fielded 21% female as candidates.

Chow Kon Yeow has also said that the state has approved a 30% requirement for posts for city councillors and state GLCs. But the MBPP and MBSP has 5 women councillors out of 24 which is only 21%. Somebody must have miscalculated. 

How can you guarantee that the appointment of representatives is truly for women empowerment when you cannot even do it at the simplest way in the beginning? The appointment of councillors is in a way solely in the hands of those in power, and you cannot do that. And you try to fix women empowerment in the membership of the State Assembly which can only be decided by the people. Or are you trying to even control the membership of the State Assembly as well? 

Tsai Ing-wen is not up on the Taiwan Presidential chair because there is a women quota for that position. Countries like Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden did not set any women quota for their Parliamentarians, but more than 30% of those elected are women.

In the end, women empowerment is not about quota, but in our own community whether we believe in and truly advocate for gender equality. When we begin to acknowledge the capability of women as similar to the men, there is no need for any quota in any organization. The true empowerment comes from within our attitude towards gender and not through a set quota.

Well, some claim that the appointed ADUN move is not politically motivated, and these ADUN appointments are to enable them to serve the people. If it is not politically motivated, I wonder why those appointments have to come from a political party. Well, Tan Sri Noor Hisham Abdullah doesn’t have to be appointed as ADUN or MP to serve the people, and so are the millions of frontliners in our nation battling the pandemic.

This article is published in Kwong Wah Yit Poh in Chinese dated 2 February 2021.

Are we Babi?

end racism Malaysia

The issue of racism still lingers around us despite being independent for over 60 years. Today, we are still stuck in the mentality of race and ethnicity.

We may not have racial fights or racism in an extreme manner, but we cannot deny that there are racial elements to a certain extent.

Last week, the Perikatan Nasional Federal Territories Youth made a police report against Namewee’s latest movie, entitled Babi which the film poster contains words of ‘Melayu Bodoh’, ‘India Keling’ and ‘Cina Babi’.

If we are not aware of the movie yet, it is a film that highlights the issue of racism that turns into a violent fight in a school. To be frank, I have not watched the movie yet as it is not premiered in Malaysia, but I have viewed the trailer and read the synopsis. 

However the content of the film may be, if we do not have a racist mindset in us, it will not flare up our emotions. Especially if we were to view it objectively as a story.

Even when our nation’s budget was tabled by the Finance Minister, there are still people who view it from the perspective of race. Look at how politicians often commented on it, in every single budget presentation. How much does the Chinese, Indian and Malay community get? Some even do the math of exactly how much each race was given every year.

There is no way of us escaping the racism mentality if ‘we still need to fight for our race’. To me, the only race that we need to fight for is the human race. Afterall, global warming, pandemic and other natural disasters does not kill based on which ethnicity we are.

But I guess that racism is an issue that is very difficult to solve totally. And the problem still appears in every country in the world.

A country which is considered established and one of the biggest powers in the world as the US is still suffering from racism. People are still fighting for the Whites or the Blacks. Ironically, that is more important than curing the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Ironically, racism is simply a problem created by us humans, that comes from a single subspecies, homo sapiens.

About 2.5 million years ago, humans first evolved from East Africa. These groups of apes then left their homeland for a journey and settled down in the areas of North Africa, Europe and Asia. 

The different location, climate, geographical conditions have made that specific species evolve into slightly different ones.

Those who have left for Europe and Western Asia have evolved into Homo Neanderthalensis who are more bulkier and muscular. The eastern regions of Asia were populated by Homo Erectus. On the island of Java, Indonesia, lived Homo soloensis, which underwent a process of dwarfing while there is another species in the island of Flores which is only approximately one metre in height and weight no more than twenty-five kilograms. They are the Homo floresiensis.

Scientists also discovered another species back in 2010 in Siberia, which is the Homo denisova. There are also a few other smaller species such as Homo rudolfensis and Homo ergaster.

Since the birth of the Homo species, science has proven that there are at least 6 subspecies of Homo that have walked on this earth. Subsequently whether it is the interbreeding theory where different Homo subspecies interbreed or whether it is the Replacement theory that suggests the Sapiens have got rid of the other subspecies to a certain extent; the Homo Sapiens remain as the sole survivor of the Homo species, which are us. 

As civilization grows and homo sapiens scattered around the massive globe, we were soon segregated by different languages, religion, urban development, borders and many more factors. And all these are created by homo sapiens, which ultimately is supposed to be from the same species. The differences have then turned into the source of arguments, conflicts and wars.

And today, we are arguing and fighting over something that we have created ourselves. But the homo sapiens just keep blaming each other for the ones causing it.

History is for us to learn and correct ourselves, and yet we are becoming worse off than our ancestors.

If we do not have the courage to face that we are the ones causing the problems, then when on earth are we going to correct it?

By the way, the movie Babi has received nominations from the Berlin International Film Festival, Bangkok International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and also the Golden Horse Awards. Aren’t we supposed to feel proud as a Malaysian instead?

Whether we are Babi or not, or whether we get offended by the word, really depends on our own mentality.

This article is published in Kwong Wah Yit Poh in Chinese dated 24 November 2020.

Too much of anything is good for nothing

Too much of anything is good for nothing. That proverb by the old folks indicates that too much or too little of anything is bad. This has been true all the while as it is proven that we need a balance in everything we do in our life.

We need sugar to provide energy, but extreme consumption of it will cause diabetes.

A lot of Malaysians love Western countries during winter due to its cooling weather, but extreme coldness will cause frostbite and probably death.

Workout at the gym is a healthy thing to do, but extreme workouts will injure and damage the muscles.

Same goes to politics and advocacy; it is the right of the people to fight for the rights of their race and religion, but when it is too much, it is EXTREMISM.

History itself has proven again and again that extremism keeps repeating, despite the fact that many are aware of it.

Biblioclasm or libricide, the practice of burning or destroying books or other written material is one of the methods of extremism that history has known since centuries ago.

In 213 BC, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty of ancient China burned the books and buried Confucian scholars to prohibit all heterodox thinking.

During the siege of Baghdad in 1258, the House of Wisdom along with all the libraries in Baghdad was destroyed by the Ilkhanate Mongol forces. The books from Baghdad libraries were thrown into the Tigris River in such quantities that the river ran black with the ink from the books. Scientists, philosophers and academicians were also killed by the forces.

The German Student Union conducted a book burning campaign in the 1930s to ceremonially burn books in Nazi Germany and Austria by classical liberal, anarchist, socialist, Communist, Jewish and other authors whose writings were viewed as subversive or whose ideologies undermined the National Socialist administration.

Earlier a few months ago, Ibrahim Ali sparked a controversy by suggesting to burn the bibles written in Malay.

And then we have the sex blogger Alvin Tan and her then girlfriend posting their Ramadan bak kut teh on Facebook. Then we have the activist Ali Abd Jalil asking for the royal institution to be abolished and that he was not afraid to die for saying so.

Extremism has existed since the birth of humans when we have certain groups of communities trying to get too many rights for themselves while ignoring others.

I suppose most of us have to agree that the freedom of speech in Malaysia has increased compared to the past decades. Some may argue that it’s due to the government’s inability to control the social media sites which belong to foreign countries. Whether we like it or not, I think we must say that a lot of people have been making criticisms openly without fear or favour.

In the past, the people in our community restricted ourselves from saying sensitive remarks and words especially those from the May 13th generation. That generation has always used the tolerance or avoiding conflict method.

As our country has developed since 1969, so has the mindset of our community. The young generations are not bonded by the May 13th fear or any historical baggage anymore as they have never experienced such bloodshed and conflict. They are more daring to speak out their minds compared to their fathers and grandfathers. But sometimes, they voice out in an overly extreme manner such as the cases of Alvin Tan and Ali Abd Jalil.

Yes, it is their right to speak and voice out. But when a community is in a transitional phase towards a more freedom and democratic society, not everyone is able to accept the criticism of others towards their beliefs and culture. And Malaysia is going through that phase now. Yet, even the people in a country with real freedom can’t accept criticisms that don’t make sense.

I have always heard from a lot of people that they are neutral, unbiased and moderate. These are some of the characteristics that made them look holy or divine. Unfortunately, I have also seen that these people hardly practice what they preach. Being Chinese, I have always heard a lot of friends complaining about the loud azan during the Muslim prayers. But have they ever thought of the loud getai singers during the Hungry Ghost Festivals or any Chinese festival celebrations that last until late night?

Being moderate does not only mean you are considerate for yourself or your own race. It requires huge courage to actually stand up and fight for everybody in a fair manner. And sometimes being moderate, you have to face some extremists claiming that ‘you are selling out your own race.’ In this case, if we want others to be fair to the activities in Chinese celebrations, then we have to be fair to the azan as well.

Every now and then, we have extremists voicing out their biased opinion, and making us wonder whether we can achieve the real racial harmony that we have always dreamed of. Then, there are also voices of the moderates that hit back those extremists. But it is difficult to really determine which is the minority and majority as there are many people who are very opined but remain quiet to themselves.

Nevertheless, there is always hope for a racial harmony as long as the moderates still exist. All we have to do is to keep on educating and spreading the right thoughts of moderation to the people. The transformation will not happen in a few days, few months or few years. It takes a long period and I do believe one day, the Malaysian dream will come true.

“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.” – Robert F. Kennedy