August 20, 2008
So I apparently came out in this month’s edition of Style Magazine. Yes, fancy picture and all. It was featured under “Freedom Fighters: The Nation’s Best Minds” or something to that effect. I was more interested in the answers that were given by all. It was good to have a mixture of individuals chosen – all working colleagues.
Here were the answers I provided to them in full…
What do you believe in?
I have always seen the direct link between seeking social justice in the public sphere, and the ultimate will God intends for the nation, being a Christian myself. I believe in a mature Malaysia that recognises the rights of all its inhabitants – bestowing human dignity and honour upon the marginalised and oppressed in society, the poor and those needing to be spoken out for. I believe in a shared nation, one that all Malaysians must affirm their ownership to; I look forward to the day Malaysia can rid itself of fears to speak publicly about “sensitive issues”, so that open and rational discourse can clear society from old historical cobwebs that still haunt us today.
What issues/passions drive you when it comes to Malaysia?
A multitude of issues drives me. I believe in a society in which no citizen is made to feel unequal relative to the other. I am driven by the ideals of social justice, equality, and non-discrimination on account of race, religion, gender, region and class. Only a utopian society can achieve these in totality, but to have baby-steps in that direction means supporting the principles of mutual respect and inclusivity. I believe that transparency and accountability are the benchmarks necessary in achieving a society that practices good governance. Ultimately of course, I am driven by the desire for national unity – creating an environment every Malaysian feels he or she belongs to and is treated likewise.
What do you love about the country?
Malaysian food! I also love the abundance of natural beauty the country offers, ranging from mountains, caves, beaches, to dense jungles and waterfalls. But more seriously, I treasure the diversity and colour of the country. The variety of people groups, languages, religions, cultures and backgrounds provides for a rich mix that one can never get bored of. We must guard this preciously and learn to embrace multiculturalism
What issues do you think should get more attention from our government and why?
Numerous issues come to mind, but two of the most important are: First, the need to better manage the country’s resources in a way that develops all Malaysians. The country is too heavily reliant on revenues from the oil and gas industry, most of which have contributed to mega-projects. We will become a net oil importer by 2010, and a significant chunk of our revenues will trickle down slowly. Policies need to reflect a sound mechanism to respond to this reduction in Malaysia’s coffers. Where are alternative sources of revenue? Are we channelling the money to the right places until then? These resources have been endowed to Malaysians and should be invested wisely for the sake of future generations.
Second, the Government needs to urgently address the issue of race-based policies. Race is so entrenched in the system that it has permeated every aspect of both private and public life. Growing inter-ethnic polarity is attributable to specific policies within education, economic, and other spheres of life. The Government should take the lead in removing race-based elements from the consciousness of society. This can be done through addressing policies impinging on national unity, acting on the principles of equality before the law as set out in the Constitution, and ending the use of the political race card to gain popular votes. Whilst “race” will always exist, Government should no longer rely on race to determine who is deserving of help.
Who are your political heroes (either in Malaysia or international icons)?
Martin Luther King Jr., for fighting discrimination against a minority group against all odds. William Wilberforce, for working to abolish slavery in England and finally succeeding after many years. Nelson Mandela, for the intensity and passion for which he fought for his country.
If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would you do for the better of the country?
I would do three things immediately. First, call for a review of all national policies that negatively affect national unity in economic, education, corporate and other aspects of public life, to consider replacing them with policies that provide for social justice, equal access and opportunity for all irrespective of race – with provisions for the poor and needy communities. This includes beginning the process to dismantle the race-based political party structure that currently exists.
Second, ensure transparency and availability of information for public consumption in real terms, ensuring that reports and financial accounts are made publicly available as far as possible. In particular, there should be full transparency of revenues and expenditures at national, state and local government level to avoid corruption and wastage. A Freedom of Information Act would serve this purpose.
Third, ratify several key international human rights instruments namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention Against Torture (CAT) because Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world that still has not ratified these essential instruments despite sitting on the Human Rights Council internationally. I would then consequently repeal either in part or in whole what I consider regressive laws such as the Official Secrets Act, the Internal Security Act, the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Universities and University Colleges Act.
What do you think Malaysians lack when it comes to political knowledge?
Malaysians continue to exercise a communal mindset with regards to politics, preferring to entertain hot gossip of the day. Instead, Malaysians need to equip themselves with concrete facts, figures and data to have informed opinions and decisions. People prefer a personality game as opposed to a policy oriented one, the latter of which is more accurate. More in-depth political analysis is needed, beyond the surface talk that invades many a coffee-shop these days. Most Malaysians need to inculcate the culture of inquisitiveness, not afraid to ask the right questions to receive the right answers – educating the mind with as much information as possible. Finally, although interested in politics, they must break the habit of retreating into communal mindsets and instead learn to emphathise with the “other” (identity of race, religion or otherwise).
Complete this sentence: Harmony, to you, means ………
Embracing each person’s unique individual differences whilst affirming all persons’ status as being irrevocably equal.
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