June 25, 2010

Understanding Federalism

Posted in Selangor, The Cause at 11:43 pm by egalitaria

I am not sure Malaysians are familiar with the concept of federalism. When the 10th Malaysia Plan referred to the word “Federalism”, I had to stifle a laugh because they simply did not seem to get it right. Instead of recognising the autonomy of States (like Selangor, Perak, Penang and so on) to have their legitimate control over areas that are defined constitutionally… they used the term to refer to the transfer of power from state to the Federal Government. Authors of the document, wake up! What you refer to is actually centralisation of power. Not a very healthy trend of democracy, if I may say so myself.

But it’s alright. You guys can go ahead and centralise solid waste management. People may end up paying higher fees if the one private company you choose eventually has to hire other sub-contractors, creating greater layers and in effect making people pay more. You’re probably going to get people to be more dissatisfied.

But hey, not everyone on our side understands Federalism too. There is an interesting post by a friend entitled “Khalid Ibrahim and his enemies” here. His two points raised are interesting, which are below, followed by my thoughts on his points.

  1. The practice of separating party and state is indicative of a healthy democracy.

When I was doing research for the Integrity Index, one of the key indicators of a healthy integrity score is exactly this: the separation between party and state. Maybe I am being too idealistic. Am I? In our context, there are already those from the party who are nominated in positions representing an interest in the state government and given a decision-making role.

The culture, however, is for the state to provide other recognition to the party. If it is finances, I think the answer is pretty clear: there ought to be separation. If it is nominated positions in state GLCs: this should be done only if the people are professionals, competent and possess the necessary skill sets required. Even so, preference shouldn’t be given purely on the basis of one’s party affiliation, should it? It should be based on whether the person is able to deliver. If the persons are excellent and able and happen to be affiliated to a party, then fine, by all means. The key determinant of being selected into a position is the ability to deliver and make wise, informed decisions.

2.  Parliamentarians and state assemblymen have separate and distinct functions.

In our country, we also have to accept the reality that people are not educated on the varying roles of MPs, State assemblypersons and local councillors. Whenever there is a problem of longkang tersumbat or botched-up roads, people will turn to whichever representative they can get access to. So, because MPs get called on to solve state-related problems, they therefore feel they have a stake in the governing of the State. This is an unfortunate reality. MPs should actually be focusing their attention on national-level affairs, the drafting and debating and passing of Bills into Acts.

Having said that, the principle of federalism also calls for there to be a separation of jurisdictions. So ultimately, it should legitimately fall on State Assemblymen to make the call for matters relating to the state. But there should always be the culture of openness, consultation, participative discussion, inclusiveness of all who have concerns and recommendations. MPs have access to people because of the multitude of people they meet. They too are the eyes and ears, and have valid perspectives that are valuable to the state administration. So, i) State Assemblymen have a legitimate State function; and ii) There must be room for MPs to express their valid views.

Having weighed all the concerns, let us remind ourselves the reason we are fighting this fight. Let’s go beyond the farcical sandiwara, the games, the lobs made between different sides whether internally or externally. What are the principles upon which we stand?

There are lots of problems and issues that we must continue to iron out. And this is true. So much to change. So much work to do. In the meantime, this is a painful but necessary process of educating ourselves on how to “do” democracy. Living so many years under one government, we have to be re-educated. Mistakes will be made. But we must do this together. Call it cliched, but a rope with many cords is much stronger than a rope of only one.

But on this count, on the count of relying on state for the interest of anything non-state, let us be alert. And err on the side of caution, because without caution, we run the risk of sliding down the slippery slope… which would then bring us to the pits of UMNO. And who wants that, really? 😉

Found in Malaysia

Posted in Malaysia, Personal, Reflections at 12:35 am by egalitaria

The Nut Graph was kind enough to interview me for their section on “Found in Malaysia“, where they interview public personalities about their paths and histories. (I thought, hmm, am I one?) Anyways, here is the interview. Enjoy!

Precisely Malaysian

Posted on 24 June 2010 By Ding Jo-Ann.

(All pics courtesy of Tricia Yeoh)(All pics courtesy of Tricia Yeoh)

is not one to shy away from a challenge. Despite being warned that joining the state government would not be smooth sailing, the 28-year-old took on the job of research officer to Selangor’s Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim in January 2009.

Yeoh has been at the forefront of public policy discourse since completing her Masters and joining Asli’s Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) in 2006 as a research analyst. She has become a familiar face at public forums, often speaking about the need for national unity, good governance and better implementation of democratic principles. Yeoh was appointed CPPS director in 2008, filling the shoes of former director Dr Lim Teck Ghee, who resigned in 2006 in protest over a corporate equity ownership report. She remains on CPPS’s advisory panel.

Yeoh says despite the challenges in her current job, she has learnt a lot about how government works from the inside. “Having written and analysed policy issues from the outside for a while, taking up the job with the Selangor government allowed me an opportunity to put those ideas into action. It gives me a chance to be part of demonstrating an alternative to running the country, that good governance is possible,” Yeoh says in an 8 June 2010 interview at her office in Shah Alam.

TNG: Where were you born and where did you grow up?

Tricia Yeoh: I was born in Singapore in 1982. I grew up in different parts of Petaling Jaya – SS2, Taman Megah. I still live in Petaling Jaya now, so I guess I’m very much a Selangor citizen. I went to primary school in Sekolah Rendah Taman Megah and then to Sri Aman Girls’ School in secondary school.

With her parentsWith her parents

What are some of your strongest memories of the place where you grew up?

I remember the neighbourhood playground in Taman Megah well. It’s where all of us who lived nearby would come together, even those from different schools. We had a lot of social activities there – playing with candles and lanterns during the mooncake festival, for example. There were really huge trees with big roots, so whenever it rained, we would splash around in the puddles formed by the roots.

Everything centred around the neighbourhood – there was an ethos of sharing, knowing each other well. There were many different races … it was very communitarian. Every evening, we would congregate. We would play on the streets, play badminton, go cycling, play basketball, five stones or getah. I don’t know whether children do these sorts of things nowadays.

I think it’s important to create such public spaces. At the end of the day, neighbourhoods and communities are where social interaction takes place. Where people draw their perceptions about different races and religions. If friendship and interaction doesn’t start at a young age, then once you grow up into teenage and adulthood, certain impressions would already be formed.

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June 8, 2010

Governing Selangor: Policies, Programmes & Facts

Posted in Selangor, The Cause at 10:21 pm by egalitaria

One of the successful projects we did at the Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) in 2008 was an electronic compilation of Policy Factsheets, putting everything one needed to know about the country’s policies into bite-sizes. These became easy reference material for voters to judge for themselves the successes (or failures) of the Government in delivering upon things like Healthcare, Crime Rates, Poverty, Education, the Economy, and so on. Condensed into 2-3 pages, some politicians and campaigners even used them at their various ceramahs. 

At the Selangor Government, one project my team and I worked on was to compile all of Selangor’s policies and programmes accomplished over the past two years into a booklet. This gives a complete overview of ALL the Pakatan Rakyat policies and programmes that we have been working hard on. This covers all the portfolios that the State Executive Council (Exco) is in charge of, namely, the list below: 

You can also download the files available in both Malay and English here.

  1. Merakyatkan Ekonomi Selangor (People-Based Economy)
  2. Economic Stimulus Package
  3. Transparent and Accountable Government
  4. State Finances
  5. Trade, Industry and Investment
  6. Tourism
  7. Islamic Affairs and Malay Customs
  8. Non-Muslim Affairs
  9. Local Government
  10. Poverty Eradication and Caring Government
  11. Environment
  12. Consumer Affairs and Orang Asli
  13. Land
  14. Gender and Women’s Issues
  15. Youth Issues
  16. Entrepreneurial Development
  17. Science, Technology and Innovation
  18. Holistic Development
  19. Education
  20. Culture
  21. Agriculture
  22. Plantation Workers
  23. Housing
  24. New Villages and Illegal Factories
  25. Healthcare

As you can see, there has been quite a bit of work done to deliver upon all the various portfolios. Sometimes it is just that the Selangor State Government has lacked the communication tools necessary to ensure these policies and programmes’ information is filtered to the ground, to people like you and me! Us netizens deserve a lot of info and trust me, we are working hard at this. 

Again, you can download it from my makeshift google site here.

Share the document far and wide if you can!

Safety in the Cities

Posted in Malaysia, Selangor, Tricia's Writings at 9:17 pm by egalitaria

As usual I have been very undisciplined in keeping my blog active. Sorry, peeps. Well here is my column from the Penang Economic Monthly 🙂 This time, on safety in the cities… They’ve also put it up on The Malaysian Insider here

Safety In The Cities

A horrific incident occurred in April in Shah Alam, Selangor, that will sadly be merely an additional statistic in the growing list of police shootings recorded in recent times.

Fifteen-year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah was shot to death by police manning a roadblock. He was driving without a licence at 2am and, to avoid the police check, he reportedly backed into several policemen instead. He was shot dead whilst a passenger in the car managed to escape. The death of this teenager sent shockwaves throughout the country.

Whilst it is true that the public has been clamouring for greater police surveillance to improve safety and security in the cities, the “trigger-happy” behaviour by our men in blue is not helping to combat crime. In fact, it hurts further public confidence in our law enforcers.

In a survey conducted by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research released in January 2010, “crime and public safety” was listed as one of the top five concerns in Peninsular Malaysia. In November 2009, the Home Ministry’s website opinion polls showed that 97 per cent or 9,729 out of 10,060 respondents felt unsafe because of the high crime rate, and 95 per cent felt that their safety was not guaranteed. This has been a consistent concern, corresponding to the alarming rise in crime figures over the last 10 years. For example, violent crime increased by 8.7 per cent in the first five months of 2007 compared with the same period the previous year. Violent crime increased by 85 per cent between 2003 and 2006. Rape cases increased by 95 per cent in 2009. Selangor records the highest crime rates for both petty and violent crimes.

There is also a worrying increase in house burglaries in 2009, a year that recorded a relative jump of such crimes taking place in broad daylight compared to night-time.

The “Crime Index”, a measure kept by the Royal Malaysian Police, rose by 45 per cent between 2003 and 2007 from 156,315 to 224,298 cases. (Note: It was not possible to obtain more recent crime index figures). Crimes that are reported with sufficient regularity and given sufficient significance are considered meaningful to the index. An occurrence is considered a crime when it is reported either by the victim or a witness, or on the initiative of the police upon discovery of a criminal activity. The index describes two categories of crime, namely violent and property crime, with snatch thefts being considered a separate and unique category due to its frequency. Although this index is the only possible means of measuring crime in the country, the police also recognise “dark figures”, which is the gap between reported and unreported crime.

The government’s efforts

Given our dire situation, how should policies be shaped to ensure safety in our cities?

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