October 11, 2010

I Have Moved!

Posted in Malaysia, Personal, Reflections, The Cause at 6:24 pm by egalitaria

Thanks to everyone who for one reason or other has chanced upon my blog.

I have now moved!

Please visit www.triciayeoh.com to continue following my thoughts, writings, and observations as I ruminate about Malaysia and its future.

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July 10, 2010

Democratising Women

Posted in Malaysia, Selangor, Tricia's Writings at 3:16 pm by egalitaria

The July edition of the Penang Economic Monthly is out! This time I co-author a piece with gender expert Dr. Cecilia Ng on the issue of Democratising Women. Gender and politics in Malaysia is changing rapidly with the Pakatan Rakyat having a significant number of women representatives. What have the Selangor and Penang state governments done to advance the gender reform agenda?

Democratising Women

Tricia Yeoh and Cecilia Ng

Part of the excitement associated with the post-political tsunami of March 8th 2008 when Pakatan Rakyat (PR) took over four (now three) state governments was that it signalled a greater democratisation of the country’s polity. This process certainly includes the transition towards making the practice of deeply entrenched public power more transparent and accountable, the debates of which have indeed since flourished at both Federal and State levels. Today, we have both the Barisan Nasional and PR component parties championing the labels of transparency and accountability in a political market competition of sorts, the evaluation of which is at the public’s disposal, and the results of which are tabulated at elections – or so the process ought to be.

That said, another fundamental aspect of this process of ‘greater democratisation’ is that of inclusive citizenship, where all individuals in society should be empowered to contribute to the formation and practice of public policy – the drawing upon private citizens into public spheres so to speak. Academics have argued that although democracy is premised on the idea of universal citizenship where everyone has the right to be treated equally under the law, it tends to reflect the male and heterosexual citizen. The redefinition of politics is therefore necessary to challenge the practice of it being essentially male-dominated and heteronormative.

And Malaysia?

The same is true of Malaysia, whose male-dominant political representation has resulted in gender-skewed policies and practices. Who can forget, for example, one Parliamentarian’s brash remarks referring to a fellow woman Member of Parliament’s menstrual cycle in utterly distasteful humour? More serious, however, are the impacts of such similar strains of thought upon the laws that govern the country, and in turn, the implications of those on women. One of the solutions has been through a model of ‘fast-tracking’ to redress the historic exclusion of women, where more and more countries are adopting quotas, as temporary measures, for increased political representation for women. The goal is to ensure both descriptive and substantive representation of women in the political arena.

There are 13.9 million women in the country, making up % of the national population. The participation rate of women in the Malaysian labour force increased from 44.7% in 1995 to 46.4% in 2009, which is relatively low compared to neighbouring countries like Thailand (70%), Singapore (60.2%) and Indonesia (51.8%). In positions of decision-making, the number of female Members of Parliament increased from 5.3% to 10.4% between 1990 and 2009. Women now account for 30.5% of top public sector management positions in 2010, a rise from 6.9% in 1995. However, in the private sector women only make up 6.1% of Malaysia’s corporate directors.

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July 4, 2010

World Cup Project: Gol?

Posted in Malaysia, Outside Malaysia, Tricia's Writings at 4:39 pm by egalitaria

Amir Muhammad and team always seem to have some project or other up their sleeve. I appreciate their creativity in a Malaysian society that is just too willing to go with the flow, without any initiative on new and fresh ideas. So their project Gol? is yet another addition, a breath of fresh air to the stale rot, I mean, political condition, of Malaysia. They’ve gathered authors to write on their experiences and thoughts whilst watching the 2010 World Cup being staged in South Africa, from local mamak stalls and such. It’s been interesting to observe the variety of writing styles and content of each author.

I was invited to contribute a piece on the last Quarter Final match, between Paraguay and Spain. Yes, Spain won. And yes, my piece lacks football punditry (I am not a football pundit), and is bone-dry as it analyses history and policy somewhat. But here it is for your consumption.

Paraguay vs. Spain

by Tricia Yeoh

The world is flat, and so is the football field. But the international flavour of any World Cup offers other historical sub-themes that are unseen at face value. Here you have the gathering of once-upon-a-time colonisers and their former colonies, put together in the spirit of apparent sporting unity and brotherhood. Never mind that their forefathers once had you under their thumb for centuries, putting you in a position of subordination. No, the World Cup erases all national memory. Come to the pitch and think about the game. Nothing else matters.

Or does it?

This psychological love-hate relationship of coloniser-colony is something Malaysians have equally struggled with. The British left us with infrastructure, schools, language, and a legal and constitutional framework of governance, which were positive contributions. But they also initiated a divide-and-rule system, conveniently classifying our wide variety of ethnicities into categories of ‘race’, which we have inherited today, causing us to think of Malaysians as largely homogeneous definitions of “Malay, Chinese, Indian”. We have not been able to rise above this particular negative effect the British left behind. In fact, this tragedy and its political consequences may be the singular cause for all other problems faced, including Malaysia’s inability to shine in international football.

This quarter-finals pitted Spain against its former colony, Paraguay. Although Paraguay achieved its independence relatively early compared to other Spanish conquests in South America, almost 300 years of authoritarian Spanish rule had a detrimental effect on their people, in terms of poverty, lack of access to education and undemocratic practices. Paraguay would thereafter succumb to dictatorship and civil unrest, leading it to a struggling economy which still exists today, with about 60% of its people living in poverty.

But their fighting spirit at Ellis Park tonight bore no resemblance to these conditions. Although the first half ended with no goals on either side, Paraguay showed its brute confidence and bravado in pushing forward, never giving up despite their disadvantaged position. They were, after all, up against the team that topped the bookmakers’ odds in winning the World Cup (that is, before Spain’s first game).

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June 25, 2010

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)


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

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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April 29, 2010

Locating the Demos in Democracy

Posted in Malaysia, Selangor, Tricia's Writings at 9:12 am by egalitaria

Hot off the press, the latest Penang Economic Monthly has my take on Local Council Elections. Go grab one off the stands today! 

Locating the Demos in Democracy

Local government elections were abolished by the Malaysian federal government in 1976 despite suggestions to the contrary by the body set up to study them. Thirty-five years later, the State governments of Penang and Selangor are asking for federal support in reintroducing them. If local councillors were elected instead of appointed, a mature electorate would be able to hold them accountable. 

Both the state governments and Penang and Selangor announced in March this year that they had written separate letters to the Election Commission asking for local government elections to be conducted in their respective states. Their reasons for doing so were to strengthen democracy by having local representatives elected and not appointed, as they are now. This would enhance accountability in public administration.

In an immediate reaction, Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak rejected this, stating that such a move would not necessarily improve services to the people. According to him, local council elections would focus upon campaigning and politicking instead. If indeed “campaigning and politicking” are impediments to good governance, then by his very own argument both federal and state elections should equally be abolished in order for the executive to concentrate on “better service delivery”.

Local Government Elections: Looking Back

In fact, it is ironic for any party to vehemently oppose local government elections since although they may seem alien today, they were in fact a common enough practice of Malaya in the past. The first partial election was held in the Municipal Commission of George Town in 1857, but this was short-lived as they were abolished in 1913. It was only much later when the Local Authorities Election Ordinance of 1950 was enacted that allowed for local government elections, as well as participation of political parties.

Thus, the Municipal Council of George Town held its elections in 1951, but the more significant event was in 1952, when elections were held for first time for the Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council. As the capital of the Federation, this would set the trend for elections at the state and federal government levels at a later stage. Following Kuala Lumpur, local elections were then held in Kuantan, Kota Bahru, Seremban, Ipoh and Malacca all the way up to 1960. Such elections were the practice for representatives at city councils, municipal councils, town councils, town boards, rural district councils and local councils.

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April 26, 2010

The Beautyful Ones Are (still) Not Yet Born

Posted in Literature, Malaysia, Reflections, The Cause at 9:40 pm by egalitaria

When I started this blog more than four years ago (as a young, fresh wide-eyed newcomer into the working world), one of my first posts was titled “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born“. In that particular post, I made reference to the Moorthy case and candlelight vigils, which, I believe, was one of the catalysts in many people’s participation in the vibrant civil society movement of today. But today, I am compelled to write again of this book by Ayi Kwei Armah, which so simply and profoundly describes the nature of a rotting nation – and the decisions that different people choose to make amidst this rottenness.

The book describes the protagonist, named “Man” in an African nation (he is given no other name, most likely to remind us he represents just any one of us citizens), whose country has just been taken over by a new regime, overthrowing an old corrupted government through democratic process. This new regime, however, begins to show signs of adopting the very same culture as did the old one. One of his old buddies, for example, succumbs to the sweetness of a luxurious life complete with huge cars, a posh home and furniture, and modern imports from the Western world. It is obvious the means by which this friend has obtained such wealth. 

On the opposite end, “Man” chugs away at his laborious day job at a railway station, having the opportunity to accept bribes in order to better his livelihood, but makes the most difficult choice of pushing it away. One of the most poignant scenes is when “Man” is scoffed at by his own wife, for he cannot afford to purchase the most basic of necessities of shoes for his children. This is in stark comparison with his friend’s possessions, and at one stage he is forced to weigh the moral costs and benefits of maintaining his “straight as an arrow” stance. Why bother sticking to the moral high ground, when his own children can’t wear shoes? Better to let them wear shoes than to continue resisting temptation, after all, is it not? 

The daily trudgery of “Man” goes on. Until… one day, there are rumours of yet another coup. “Man” hurries home to be with his wife and children. At some point, the rumours become reality, and his friend comes looking for him in desperate fear, as he is being witch-hunted himself. He has lost everything, his wealth, his material possessions, and is being hunted down as he was part of the well-oiled government machinery that was so very much despised, despite having gained its seat through idealist and democratic means. There is an ugly scene in which he is forced to escape through the toilet chute and emerges with faeces upon his body, replete with the most horrible odour. (One can draw parallels to the corrupt politician and all he represents). 

“Man” is eventually vindicated. No richer for his choice made, he walks as a free man. Free from any guilt of having behaved in the same morally corrupt manner as all of his friends in the apparently new democracy. This individual decision, to walk the path most would have otherwise laughed at, is the defining difference. 

The darker side of the story is that (as far as this fictitious African nation was concerned, extendable of course to all countries in the world, including ours) coups are cyclical. The regime change (once, at the beginning of the book and twice, at the end) signified merely the innate nature of humanity to fall into the trap of selfishness and greed. Ayi Kwei Armah was describing his own nation’s downfall, Ghana, and its leader Nkrumah, during its struggle post-independence. 

Perhaps it will take numerous generations before the Beautyful Ones can be born in this country of ours. As it is, too few individual “Men” make that very difficult choice of saying no to any sort of temptation. The pull of money and power is too strong for most. In the January 2010 Economist issue, there was an article describing a Psychological experiment which proved the maxim we all know too well, that power corrupts, and the more you hanger after power the more likely it is you are to be corruptible, whilst the reverse is true. If you do not think you deserve the particular position you are placed in, the less corruptible you are. (The experiment also revealed other interesting things, such as the fact that politicians have a higher moral standard for society, but a lower one for themselves). 

“Man” in this book was one of the rare, beautyful ones who in his simplicity, plodded through life being true and just. Must we remind ourselves of the reasons revolutions are sought after and fought? Is this not what we are slaving away for? 

For, the Beautyful ones are still not yet born.

The Hulu Selangor Saga

Posted in Malaysia, Reflections, The Cause at 12:22 am by egalitaria

A congratulatory note is owed to Barisan Nasional and its candidate, now Hulu Selangor Member of Parliament, Kamalanathan for their victory at today’s momentous by-election. Pakatan Rakyat and its candidate, Zaid Ibrahim, lost by 1,725 votes in the final count. Political scientists are now doing the number crunching, to emerge with analyses on which areas each coalition lost or gained respectively in comparison with the 2008 12th General Election. Long pieces will emerge in tomorrow’s portals and sites, stating reasons – from both sides – for the outcome. Central theme was without a doubt: “buy-election”. Enough said. 

I write as a Pakatan Rakyat supporter, which is clear since I work for, and therefore support, a Pakatan Rakyat government. I also therefore make no apologies for the dejection and disappointment reverberating across all such similar supporters at the moment, those who have been inspired by the cause to better Malaysia directly or indirectly. I write on behalf of those who have spent a significant amount of time and energy, both mentally and emotionally, placing their belief in the possibility of an alternative system and one in place of a Federal coalition government we know to be corrupt and unscrupulous in its thought and practice. 

Where does this dejection stem from? Its source is deeper than just the loss of an important Parliamentary seat and a by-election. It emerges from the sense that not all is well with the solution we thought we had figured out. That, put simply, Pakatan Rakyat would have been the alternative coalition government that would prove no one government (namely, Barisan) could wield such omnipotence with such unapologetic means of outright bribery and childish antics – and worse, get away with it. This, we thought, was easy enough to achieve: Get people to support an alternative, and voila! We obtain a two-party political system. This way, neither coalition can claim to have ultimate say since it is the people who place them into positions of power. 

What we failed to recognise was the possibility of numerous challenges within and without, all of which have threatened this one golden opportunity we had to produce a two-party system. I am not saying this is no longer possible, nor probable, but that perhaps it is time to remind ourselves of why we – all of us – are in this in the first place. Before that, let me add a caveat that I believe some bi-partisanship needs to be activated if either side desires to move forward in the project that is Malaysia. This means people interested in policy and planning from both coalitions agreeing on some common denominator and pushing those forward. I am sure (and I hope) this does happen at the Parliamentary front, but more must flourish: Brainstorming on education policy; youth policy; utilities; local government. 

Why does it matter that Zaid Ibrahim lost? Because it means that Malaysians are still culprit to the mass bribery of cash handouts, announcements of goodies (Najib’s RM3 million for Chinese schools in Rasa “only if BN wins” sticks out like a sore thumb) and under-the-belt (and rather stupid, in my opinion) doctored images of beer-clutching. It tells me that as long as the Big Boss has the world of resources to draw from, and has no hesitation in using, whatever else wrong that is being perpetrated by the government will not count a drop. 

Where do we go from here? Apart from the usual droning on that one could do (have better campaign financing and political funding laws; fairer media exposure; allow independent election monitoring), I believe that Pakatan Rakyat will need to do two things. First, to remind itself of the original cause for which they strive, and second, to act upon this belief and demonstrating to its electorate the same. 

Pakatan is where it is today because of its ability to convince people of its being an alternative to a corrupt, inefficient, unfair system. We must remind ourselves that at no point in our administration can we tolerate behaviour that departs from adherence to a transparent, fair and just system. Demonstrating this equals proactively working towards these ends, even if it means a radical shift from the way in which any part of government and administration run. This requires boldness. Berani kerana benar. This we are indeed doing, and we must continue to do, despite the obstacles that come our way. 

The most common lament, even amongst those who were starry-eyed about the tsunami of the March 8th 2008 election is this: that there is over-politicking, and that neither side is giving them what they expected. This we have to recognise and acknowledge (despite our arguments of justification), for fear that even a greater number of already apathetic youth disengage themselves from political participation. This becomes a failure of both the Barisan and Pakatan, because, in order to propel the country forward (yes, into a high-income nation ala the New Economic Model), you need young people, and you need them physically present to contribute. Hence many plea for some semblance of sanity and temporary suspension of political expediency. 

I am painfully aware of the many issues involved, such as a non-level playing field, and neither am I doing justice not covering them all in this short post. However, for the sake of proving that it is indeed possible to break the backbone of a power-obsessed Federal government (any one such government, for that matter), we must learn to dance to a different tune, and not one which has been provided to us thus far. We are a different animal altogether, and this we must prove. Here’s to Hulu Selangor, all who were involved and those who followed it from afar. Till the next round, and it is back to work – and hope – we go.

April 23, 2010

Sustainable Cities: Environment Issues in Penang and Selangor

Posted in Malaysia, Selangor, Tricia's Writings at 9:36 pm by egalitaria

First Published in the Penang Economic Monthly, hmm.. either the February or March 2010 issue, I forget. One of those 😀 

Sustainable Cities in Penang and Selangor: Are We? 

(On Environmental and Sustainability Issues)

Much has been said about the little that emerged from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen last December 2009. Well, the Copenhagen Accord was finally signed by major economies including the US and China, committing to limit the rise in global temperatures to two degrees Celsius. However, there were no specified caps on emissions to achieve this objective, and neither were there legal conditions to keep this in check. Although much more could and should have been accomplished, the global uproar over its lack thereof reflected the significant shift worldwide towards environmental concerns.

Climate change and environmental issues have been the buzz phrases of the past two years, partly thanks to Hollywood’s documentaries “An Inconvenient Truth” and “The 11th Hour”, which address the growing fears of carbon emissions and climate change. According to the International Energy Agency, Malaysia emitted 6.68 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita in 2007, more than twice the world’s average and ranking it the fourth highest in the region after Brunei, Taipei and Singapore. However, compared to these three countries, Malaysia’s emission per capita percentage change between 1990 and 2007 was the highest, growing by a massive 143%.

Malaysia’s Record

Malaysia’s expanding carbon footprint jolted the Federal Government into including “Green Technology” as part of the Ministry of Energy and Water’s portfolio and in July 2009 launched its National Green Technology Policy, although a plan has not yet been released. More recently, Prime Minister Najib made a bold pledge during the Copenhagen conference to reduce carbon emissions by 40 per cent within the next 10 years, which seems rather bold given increasing emphases on establishing Malaysia as a regional aviation hub and dismal attempts at improving public transportation services.

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Youth Empowerment and Participation

Posted in Malaysia, Reflections, The Cause at 9:31 pm by egalitaria

I was invited to speak at the National Christian Youth Assembly in December 2009, on the theme of “Youth Empowerment and Participation.” You will note that there is nothing religious or theological about my speech, which is in line with my belief that young people of all races and religions ought to be equally empowered and inspired to make a difference in this country – in whichever field they would like, and within whichever group whose cause they ultimately believe in. 

This was to a bunch of eager young people, wanting to do something for their country, Malaysia. The National Assembly was apolitical. 

Youth Empowerment and Participation

National Christian Youth Assembly, Kuala Lumpur

12th December 2009

We all love an inspiring story when we have one. While Malaysia’s story is still unfolding, I’d like to take a page out of another book the world has now come to learn and understand. This is the fairy-tale story of Obama’s ascent to Presidency. I won’t speak about the issues he campaigned on, or the ideological policies of the Democratic Party today, but I do want to focus on the incredible wave of youth participation that contributed significantly to his win.

The reason I cite examples from Obama’s campaign so often – in other public talks and this – is because I was physically present in the United States during the last two weeks leading up to, and including, the actual US Election itself in 2008. The experience was an excellent opportunity to observe and interview the new young generation of Americans so eager to contribute to change in society, country and the world. Let’s use them as a case study today.

Obamania

Were young Americans always this way? It would take days to debate the ebb and flow of youth political participation in the United States over the years, but the answer is: apathy had set in deep during the years of then President-Bush Junior, where any engagement was deemed as futile. For political analysts, this sudden shift and wind of change, the awakening of millions of young people across the country, was a phenomenon indeed.

Authors Winograd and Hais hit the pin on its head in their book “Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics”[1] in their analysis of the generation that caught the political bug. In describing them, they say the following:

A new generation, Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, is coming of age in unprecedented numbers. The Millennials bring with them a facility and comfort with cutting-edge communicaiton and computing technologies that is creating the same kind of bewilderment that parents of television-addicted Baby Boomers felt in the 1950s and 1960s… Recent survey research on the political attitudes of this generation shows a high tolerance for lifestyle and ethnic differences and support for an activist approach by government to societal and economic issues. Millennials are united across gender and race in their desire to find “win-win” solutions to America’s problems.”

Other parts of their analysis described their optimistic attitudes, inclusivist views, and how Millennials think politics can make things better. For example,

“Millennials disagree with their elders in their level of faith in the political process to resolve problems and improve things… and are much more likely than older generations to believe that the government is run for the benefit of all the people.”

The Millennial generation in America, with their unique combination of technological gadgetry and prowess, and their changing attitudes towards systems and institutions, proved a powerful force for the taking. Obama, who had his pulse on the nation, was able to identify with what tugged at their heart-strings, spoke an honest and clear message to them: “Change We Can”. And the rest is history, as they say. Thousands upon thousands of youth volunteers and part-time staff were mobilised, emerging in social phenomenon such as “Obamagirl”, a young 21-year old leading the entire Obama campaign in his home state of Chicago, American-born Chinese (ABCs) and Vietnamese flocking to his service centres. Citizens across the globe contributed to his fund, USD10 or so right from their pockets.

Malaysiaku

I am not saying that Malaysia is in any way comparable to the United States of America. Neither am I claiming that our youth behave in the exact same manner, nor should we be emulating the patterns that followed there. What I am saying, however, is this:

  1. It is important to know what is making our millennial generation tick in order to transmit a message (political or otherwise) to our Malaysian youth.
  2. It is then necessary to take this message in the manner that is most viral and one that captures the imagination of our young to motivate them towards social action.

Malaysians are a social bunch, which stems from our communal nature. This spurs us towards group meetings at the mamak stalls. In fact, we love conferences as a result! Think of the number of forums and events that exist practically daily (and nightly). As of March 2009, there were more than 1 million active users of Facebook[2], with the most active users being between the ages of 18 and 25, followed by that of 26-34. More astoundingly, Malaysia has the highest number of Facebook users in Southeast Asia. Conclusion: we love to talk and get people to listen to us. Youth with Internet access increased from 57% in 2007 to 70% in 2008[3].

What does all this have to do with anything? A lot!

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