Thursday, November 20, 2008

Race Relation Act

I had a chance to interview Professor Kevin Boyle from Essex University UK Human Rights Centre when he came to Malaysia on the 11th Nov, to talk about Race Relation Act in UK and anti discrimination initiatives in other countries.

Although he mentioned that he didn't know well about the real situation in Malaysia, but drawing from his experience and extensive research, he shared some important point about what a Race Relation Act is about.

Firstly, the Race Relation Act that the Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar mentioned should be to fight all form of racial discrimination, which means the whole public and private institution have to follow the principle of no race discrimination.

Secondly, the Act will make discrimination an offence, people couldn't discriminate anyone base on their race or religious.

Thirdly, the Act provides remedy for those who had been subjected to unlawful discrimination. As in UK, they had an Equality and Human Rights Commission, it has the power to receive and investigate any complaint.

Professor Bolye suggested that the Malaysian government should ratify the UN's International Convention Against all form of Race Discrimination, so that Malaysia can open up to other country's experience, because Malaysia is not the only country which has a pluralism society. Besides, the Convention also provides a legal framework for the government to draft the Race Relation Bill.

I personally doubtful of this Bill, when the minister said the ministry has done consultation, I wonder to which extend the consultation has been made. My collegue Weisee voices her worry, she afraids this will be another weapon of the Home Ministry to strangle or suppress the discussion of racial issue in Malaysia.

I remember a quote from Prof Boyle that sounds like this, "in a democratic society, the government need to tell their people why did they take such measures, why the continue or change that policy. You have to involve people and doesn't make it a taboo subject to discuss,then you'll have a more integrated society, because the people will have no conflict. "

Prof Boyle also opined that, the aforementioned Convention actually allows a country to draw up some special measures base on positive discrimination to help the race which had been excluded by the counrty in order to help them catch up with the majorities. But, the measures has to be review reegularly and gradually phase out.

When I told him about the NEP we had here, which was launched 30 years ago, he replied that, it is a long period. He draw an example from his homeland North Ireland which suffer from religious discrimination among the Protestant and Catholic, the government starts a restructuring of police force nine years ago, to meet the target of 50% police force from each group. The government retired the old police officer with generous terms, and recruits the new policemen with 1:1 ratio from each group, after nine years they meet a target of 7:3(Protestant:Catholic); the main point here is, the measures will be phase out once they reach the target.

Well, I guess if we talk about NEP, we are not sure whether the 30% equity target has meet or not. With the lack of transparency of the review system we have here(we are not even sure whether it had been reviewed before), we can hardly know the truth.

Another problem will be, NEP has become a weapon for the politician to gain their political chips. Those Malay who said we should abolish NEP will immediately play up by Utusan Malaysia and being accused as a Malay traitor, and the non-malay will be seen as anti malay. It become a taboo subject in Malaysia.

Professor Boyle opined that, if the special measures has equipped the next generation of the minority to have a more equal competative ground to compete with the majority, the special measures ought to phase out.

I'll quote his words to end this piece. He said that,"the whole idea is to try to achieve equality in law and in fact, and it's also to create an equality of respect."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Back To Reading

When I 'm falling into some kind of book-buying fever, that indicates that I am bored and feel like shut down from the outside world again. I don't know why, all I can think of is buying book to fill up the black hole inside me.

Called this book fetish if you like. Or Shopaholic.

It has been like this for almost two weeks. I bought books, pile them up within my reach, gaze at them, touch them, smell them and read them, one by one. Of course reading always takes time. I was only able to finished two books so far. Not bad for a new year, huh.

I finished Imre Kertesz's Liquidation and Fatelessness on a row. I think Fatelessness is straight forward and easy to understand, but I like Liquidation better. It's more eloquent and in depth. The plot of the book is easy but the way it reveal itself is memorable. I don't think I can review the book now, I still need some time to digest it.

I started to dig out my other book regarding Auschwitz, Nazi concentration camp, some books by Primo Levi, the book regarding history of Auschwitz by a French historian(forgot about her name) and other books by different European author. It always has been my interest to read about that part of the history, sometimes I felt bored too, because there are too much books written about this, what make a book stand out among the others? But this will be something the author need to think about, not me.

I just took up a challenge by Sharon Bakar to read a book a week, which makes 52 books a year. My initial plan is to read 40 books this year. But I'm willing to give it a try. What is your reading goal this year?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Fear Had Swept Her Sense Away

She gripped my arm tightly, I felt her fear from her grip.

I met her around Masjid Jamek, when both LRT stations closed to block the people from going there and away from there. She didn't know anything about what happen that day. She took her ordinary path to the station to take LRT back to Wangsa Maju, that's the only way to home she knew.

When she sensed the tension in the air, with policemen guarding the entrance of the road, and a lot of people gathered along the road in front of the station, she panicked.

I didn't know why she singled me out from the crowd and came to talk to me, asking me what had happened, I told her that the policemen tried to stop the people from gathering and the use of water cannon, the LRT station was closed and she need to take bus home, I can sensed her fear as she listened to me.

I gazed into her fearful eyes. She asked me to assist her to the bus station. I was not supposed to leave the area because I must based there and observed if there is anything happen. Yet, I felt her helplessness, her body was shaking with fear.

I accompanied her to the bus station, as she gripped my arm, we passed a few policemen who stood at the entrance of the road. I kept telling her that everything is ok, she need not fear the policemen. But I knew my words carried not enough weight to soothed her. The fear that welled up inside her had swept her sense away.

I realized then, the fear is so real for those who felt it. We couldn't simply break that with a few soothing words. What can we do to do away with the fear of people? How can we even tell them not to be afraid and be brave?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Water Canon Put out the Light in the Darkness

Some 300 people participated in a solidarity Vigil that held at Dataran Merdeka last night, though the crowd gathered peacefully, police took harsh action to dispersed the crowd by using the water cannon.

The vigil was held by Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA to tender support to the ISA detainees in Kamunting detention centre, Perak. including the Hindraf 5. The police had warned the public not to participate the vigil as this is an "illegal assembly".

Initially, the vigil was supposed to hold at 22nd December last year, the police labeled the vigil as illegal assembly, GMI then made a decision by changing the date of the vigil so that they can apply a permit from the police, yet the police rejected the permit application.

Since yesterday, the police had block the entrance to Dataran Merdeka with barricades.

When people started to walk from Bar Council to Dataran Merdeka and gathered there with each and everyone of them holding a candle in their hand, passing the light of the candle, the police and the FRU starting to ask the people to disperse.

After the organizer negotiated with the police in charge of the operation, the people are only allowed to gather for another 10 minutes until 8.30pm.

When the public started to disperse under the pressure of the police, back towards Bar Council, some of them still linger around there with the candle in their hand. You can see the lights of the candle along the road.

Suddenly, there came the water cannon truck and urged the public to disperse, there are so many policeman, it is almost 300 of them, and most of the crowd had went home with only some 50 of them, the police then fired the water cannon towards them.

According to an eye-witness account by some of the lawyer-as-observers, the police actually fired the water cannon to no one! Some of the photojournalist who were doing their duty to take photo became the target of the police.

It seemed ridiculous to me. Isn't that the people's money the police was spending, with so many police force to handle such a small and peaceful crowd? If only we had them to solve the crime , we won't be living in the fear of the rising crime rate.

The water cannon had put out the lights of the candle that shine so brightly in the darkness last night, but there will always be lights in the heart of people. It's high time for us to support the police reform and free them from this kind of absurd and boring job.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Vibrant Year 2008 Ahead

I was away for quite a long period of time since my last post. I took a break and went back to my little reading pleasure as another new year approaches.

I guess I've reach a point of time when I would like to catch up with some reading again, although my working life consumes most of my time nowadays. I finished Anita Amirrezvani's The Blood of Flower before New Year and am reading Imre Kertesz's Liquitation now.

Reading is my way of slowing down my pace and ponder about things. And Kertesz's book surely provides something to ponder about. It's a small book but huge in a way that attracts you immediately when you read the first line. It's about the trauma life of people who survived Auschwitz. There is so much to learn from his writing style too.

After the stormy and busy first week of the year 2008 with former Health Minister Chua Soi Lek's resignation after the expose of a sex DVD, and the undercurrent that runs through MCA that seems to surface after the incident, I still wish to take some time to reflect on what I had been through last year and my wishes for the year ahead.

I had a fruitful year 2007. Most of it came from my decision to join Merdekareview, a decision that brought a sea change to my life. Come to think of it, the decision had pulled me out of my comfort zone which I felt so cozy to dwell in.

I worked for ODN for three years as a feature writer. I liked my job very much, that was my first job with a daily press. Without any working experience in General News line before when I joined, yet I fitted in the environment quite well and learned a great deal on how to write feature and analyze issues ranging from human rights to history and culture. I like the slow working pace that provides you with (almost) enough time to think and read in order to write an article. I also learned how to arrange for interview and dig something out of my interviewee.

I favor literature, culture and history, politics especially party politics seldom interest me. The three years with ODN had give me more free time to read and write.

I must say, joining Merdeka Reveiw is a turning point in my life, that made me shed my old skin and generate a new way to understand the society we are living in.

I have to learn most of the things over again, the most difficult part is to adapt with the busy lifestyle that a journalist lead, which left me little free time to delve into my reading pleasure.

I was anxious when I start, the job is demanding and without proper training in General News, it is harder for me to do it as fast and good as possible. I'm learning. Even though I hate to admit it, working hard doesn't mean you are good.

As a journalist, I joined the three rally that held last year. The Walk for Justice was memorable, as I was one of the person who marched from the entrance with all the lawyer and civil society and reached the Palace of Justice and amazed by the huge turn out. What a day which started with sunshine and end up in rain.

The Bersih and Hindraf Rally are good experiences too, which I learned about people's power and how to dodge water cannon. I need more practice for the later because I was soaked from the chemical-laced water at both rally.

Last but not least, the Ijok By-election was my first by-election, which I witnessed a lot of fraud and flaw, violence etc. I felt strongly that we should continue to press electoral reform and also independence of judiciary which affects our daily life deeply. Those will be my wishes for year 2008.

May we had a vibrant year ahead, with more silence majority speak their mind and heart not only through polls, and also through peaceful assembly, internet, sms or whatever platform they feel safe to express their view.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fear is in the Air

Another week had passed. It's Yellow Saturday again. I haven't blog about the solidarity vigil I hold at my house last Saturday. Well, nobody turned up. Neither my friend nor my brother's friend turned up. My brother told me, they are afraid. Again, fear is in the air with the arrest of people who participate in assembly.

It never occurred to me people shadow by a cloud of fear even to participate a vigil that held at a small house. I wasn't even organizing a rally to ask people out to walk on the street, it was only a small vigil at my house with drinks, like any party we had at our friend's house.

I wonder if I need to apply permit to hold a vigil at my house.

Maybe It's my fault, I shouldn't have told them the vigil was in support for ISA detainees. After all what should I told them? It's just some friendly little chat? Nothing political?

I was disappointed but somehow had predicted so.

Despite of that, I had a good chat with my father and eldest brother. My father told me he never vote for BN because he didn't feel like voting for them. He knew the issues happen around the nation and also our small town. He is angry with our incompetence MP Ng Yen Yen, and wanted to sack her.

I talked to my eldest brother as well, he had been boycotting the MSM for a few years now, he got information from internet, he reads from Malaysiakini and, and the best thing he does is, he prints out the news and information and disseminates it to his friends.

This is the first time I ever had such a dialogue with my family. Apparently, my family members are political conscious, I'm the one who has been avoiding politics for so long. I'm grateful that I made a decision by joining, the decision had pull me out of my comfort zone. I'm involved now, for better or worse.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm not giving up. Not yet.

Oh, I missed out an important point. The attempted charge itself is already a political gesture and a purely punitive one. The gov is trying to tell the Indians and Chinese: look, you don't walk on the street, or we charge you attempted murder, and you'll end up in jail.

The mass arrests and charged them in court is also an effort to comfort the Malay, that the gov had worked hard to restore the public security. Of course the public referred here is not you and me, I don't think people walk on the street will cause any insecurity, it's the police and the FRU who caused the chaos.

To me, the arrests of the 31 are random and arbitrary, how could the AG proves that this 31 have a same motive and attempted to kill the cop who injured by the bricks? No, he couldn't prove it, they have to release this people sooner or later. Even he admitted yesterday that he couldn't pinpoint who is the one who threw the bricks.

But what about the life of this 31? Some of them have lost their jobs, and suffered in the lock-up, their family members had to run up and down to help them. Did the AG see the tears of the family member when he walked away with his so-called victory 2 weeks ago when the judge denied bail? No, he didn't see the tears. He had a broad smile on his face.

When the gov try to use justice as a weapon to intimidate the public, can we still trust the gov will protest our interest? No, I don't think so. When the gov only think of their own interest, do we still need them in office?

My answer will also be NO.

Now that the 31 are free from attempted murder charge, after the Hindraf 5 been detained under ISA. I guess this is the reason the AG was being so kind yesterday. The arrests of the Hindraf 5 had serve the purpose of easing the anger of the Malay community. BN actully don't give a damn about the non-Malay, because they managed to delineate 65% of the parliamentary constituencies which have more than 60% of Malays, they can win the next election without the other ethnic group.

I have try very hard not to look at things racially, but due to the racial politics that rooted in Malaysia political spectrum, we have to admit that it's all about geography and demographic. But I'm not giving up. Not yet.