English: There, here and over there. Basically, in a sense, to mean restless. A collection of thoughts, musings and ramblings...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How I decided to jump on the #BERSIH bandwagon

An obedient child is a good child.

Children should be seen and not heard.

I've always been the good child. The child that is told what to do. All the way through school I have followed rules to the book. Well, I've had my moments, which was reciprocated with small punishments, like being made to do squats, or stand on chair, given a slap on the wrist etc.

From young we have been programmed to obey. In Malaysian schools especially, we were trained to sit in class quietly, and just listen. Never to contradict. Never to question.

What the teacher says is equal to law. Or to that effect. If you question, or say 'no, Sir / Miss, I disagree', or 'why should we do that?', immediately we would be branded as the troublemaker, or even stupid. Punishable.

Come to a Malaysian classroom, most non-Asian foreigners would be amazed at the quietness and apparent disciplined behaviour of our students.

We call it 'hardworking' or 'studious'. I'd say we are robots. Devoid of independent thought.

This is how I see the government of today. Citizens of Malaysia are expected to just sit and swallow the treatment, laws and such doled out to us without question. Like candy to a child, we are supposed to skip around happily with our dosage of sugary treats a.k.a. the BR1M funds and such. And be overcome with thankfulness for such great treatment.

If we asked why they did certain things, we were treated as if we were too dumb and therefore not needed a proper explanation. Just to trust what they say, because they know best. For our opinions do not matter. Million dollar projects do. Case in point: Lynas

Once upon a time, I too was a complacent citizen of Malaysia. I knew we had issues, but I never felt particularly bothered about it. Or personally affected. My first encounter of #BERSIH was last year on the 9th of July, when roads were blocked and police stood together in troops to guard against potential invaders to the Padang Merdeka in KK.

Honestly, I was annoyed. For on that day, I had organised a workshop on beauty, which had been planned for months and months ahead. And the location was at Kinabalu Club, right next to the Padang Merdeka, which was under heavy surveillance. People found it hard to get in, but luckily the event still managed to pull through in spite of the difficulties we had to face. Thanks to the participants who braved their way through the roadblocks.

But there was no #BERSIH gathering happening in Padang Merdeka that day. A lot of fuss for nothing.

Back then I was afraid to even consider wearing yellow. For all the negative connotations attached to it. Yellow. We were brainwashed. How is a yellow t-shirt a threat to public safety? (but of course, I didn't think about it that way back then).

Things started changing for me when I joined the Fiesta Feminista in November. I hadn't realised that it was actually a gathering of a group of activists, some hard-core. It certainly an eye-opener on the many problems plaguing our society today. It was just about women's issues, but took on a more holistic view of how all problems are related.

It was also a moment of realisation on how much we complain without having anything concrete done. We complain, from the backseat or from the comfort of our armchair, which doesn't help matters because we are not addressing the root of the problem. Even less helpful is that our so-called leaders are not willing to listen to the people, instead choosing to propagate their own agendas.

Idealists may argue with me and say that the leaders will do so-and-so, if we talk to them, but I am sorry to burst their bubble. I have worked in a number of charitable events, where the invited guests of honor would promise the moon and the stars to look good for the media, but a few weeks later the promises would just had fizzled away to nothingness.

From someone who didn't understand the full depth and reasoning for #BERSIH a mere 9-10 months ago, I find it kind of funny that now I am one of the people who is strongly advocating it. The mindset does evolve with the people you associate with.

I think the main problem of getting support from public is how this movement has been stigmatised as a way of 'punishing government' and is unlawful. What has been reported in media has not exactly been helpful in dispersing the idea that being involved in #BERSIH somehow guarantees you some time away in jail.

But we are a democratic country, are we not? From the current situation, I would say we live in an authoritarian government. Crack the proverbial whips and make us obey. Blindly.

I'm sorry. I did not attend university to obtain a mindset not capable of critical thought. Neither did millions of other Malaysians.

Definition of Democracy 
a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority
b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
Do you think the above definition is what we have in Malaysia today? Honestly, NO.


Ok, so let's think about your everyday life. You go to work, and there you have a boss. Or a supervisor. Why do we need a supervisor?

While I am sure there are lots of honest, hardworking people out there... I am sure we all have times when we love to slack off when the boss is not watching. We play games, Facebook, etc at work. Not good for the company, but hey, it's fun!

Companies too, have auditors to keep them on their toes. So who is the independent watchdog for the Election Commission? #BERSIH is.

Yes, #BERSIH is keeping an eye on Election Commission. A non-partisan movement fighting for free and fair elections. No mention about bringing down government. Yet, for some reason, that idea has some people's panties in a twist.

That is the main point why I don't understand why certain quarters are against #BERSIH. Unless they have something to hide. Because in their hearts of hearts, they know only too well they will lose in the next General Election if they play by the Free and Fair rules.

But the thing is this. If this was a true democracy where people have the power to decide their future, we can easily vote in PR for the next GE, and as easily vote them out if they don't live up to our expectations. That is really what it is about. Knowing that our vote matters.

The Election Commission is supposed to independent from influence by the government, and have all these powers to regulate the manner in which elections are conducted. They should also be serving the needs and rights of Malaysian citizens. But unfortunately that is just a fairy tale that was confirmed with the amendments to the Elections Offences Act that was bulldozed through Parliament at the wee hours of 3a.m. in the morning.

Is this the behaviour of a just, equitable and transparent government? The answer is again, a resounding NO!

The Election Commission have failed at their job. Miserably. Therefore we should all call upon them to resign.

I will say no more, other than I feel even more motivated than ever to come out this 28th April 2012 as a show of my resentment to how we have been treated. Like children on a playground fed with candy and all kinds of fairytales.

Join me and the rest of concerned citizens of Malaysia this 28th April 2012 and DUDUK BANTAH!

And by the way, don't be afraid.  

For your information, Article 10 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia (the highest law!) guarantees Malaysian citizens the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.

So, what are you waiting for? Reclaim your rights!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Undi M'sia Gameshop

Busy weekends are here to stay, it seems.

The weekend of 24th - 25th March was no exception as I went to not one, but two workshops. It is one of my new interests - to gain more knowledge especially on voter education, upholding democratic principles, blah blah blah.

As an activist (or what I claim myself to be), I am always on the lookout for opportunities to educate myself, and then to spread the awareness to others. Maybe spark an interest in others as well? Hopefully.

The first ever #IdolaDemokrasi in KK, the facilitators - Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar and Edmund Bon had flown down from KL especially for these two days. The first session on Saturday was conducted at the Youth-PREP Centre, and was attended by very young participants. A contrast to the more seasoned group that came on Sunday, the one I went to.

First thing that was handed to me at the workshop - a questionnaire to fill out in our own time. The Laporan Rakyat.

My thoughts: "Geez! There is like soooooo much I don't know! And why didn't I bother to know before this??" Seriously, I felt like a Barbie. Or dingbat. Seriously failed big time. Can't answer 99% of the questions. And they are important questions!

Questions like who is your ADUN (Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri) and MP (Member of Parliament), how long they have been in their position, description, had me completely stumped.

Ok, so I am new to this whole thing. But I felt dumb.

Check out the full list of questions here http://max-cdn.undimsia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Scorecard2.pdf and test your knowledge.

It is sort of an awakening - if I, who is actively involved in activism, imagine how many other people not in activism who are in that sort of position. Just vote (or not vote) without really knowing who you are voting for, and how your vote can actually impact a society's well-being

I felt that the facilitators were really great and entertaining, which really helped in getting the message across. It sure didn't feel like some boring workshop where the facilitators just try to drum the information into your head. It is all very hands-on and participative. The hours just flew away. Just like they do when you're having fun.

#IDOLADEMOKRASI is a first-of-its-kind 4 hour interactive GameShop that engages citizens to analyse local/national problems, find solutions, and take effective and impactful action to deal with the same.

Why? #IdolaDemokrasi is typically energetic and fun as it challenges citizens to act, and take real and tangible action regarding problems that affect them or those that affect others. For the action to be accesible and effective, we provide guidance through our unique D-I-Y ToolKit and our platform of numerous Youth Action Groups (YAGs) around the country.

The session started with a few ice-breaking games to get participants a feel for what democracy is about, and realise that everyone places a different perspective on issues of today. For example, some may view undocumented migrants as a pressing problem that needs to be resolved immediately, while some may take a more relaxed approach, or not care at all.

But the objective is just to get everyone relaxed around each other.

The first activity we did was called SPACESHIP. If you found out that planet Earth was about to be destroyed, and you have found an inhabitable planet not too far away, what are the 5 things you will bring with you on the spaceship?

At first we each made our own list individually. Then we shared our ideas with a partner and made another list. Then finally into a group of 5 or more.

Then you realise that with more people, it becomes more of a task deciding what is truly important. Some had pretty out-of-the-world ideas, for example the 'Doraemon pocket' which definitely was a source of amusement, especially for me!

The second activity we did was to create a 'Problem Tree'. For every problem that we encounter, there is always a root, and the consequences (branches).

It was pretty interesting to see the process of how you can tackle a problem, by analysing the root causes and the impact of the problem. Criticise the issue, and not the leaders / personal attacks.

Address the problem by referring to the correct measures, rather than being an armchair critic. This is the main message of the activity.

Our pretty tree ;-p on addressing the income gap.

Later on we discussed plans on how to take action as per the problem tree we created. A rally? A strike? and who to target.

I came away feeling a little bit more enlightened. I am still far from being any sort of expert, but taking the initiative to start is way better than not at all. I definitely recommend this GameShop for everyone. It is totally non-partisan, and focuses on overcoming issues.

Fun pic after. Those of us in front had no idea what was going on behind :p


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Restaurant review - Fullhouse

Finally I gave in to my curiosity and went to see what the fuss is about with one of the newest restaurants in town. It is time for a treat, when I have a little bit more moolah to spend.

I've been hearing so much about this restaurant, lot of rave reviews, so naturally I was excited to try it out for myself. From what I hear, it sounds like a mini Wonderland inside!

Fullhouse is a franchise from KL, with many other branches including Sunway, Penang and Kuching.

A water fountain and a mint green mini cooper. That was the first sight that greeted our eyes as we stepped into the restaurant from the 1st floor. A replica of an English garden? Maybe.

Natural sunlight streams into the restaurant from the high glass windows, white curtains billowing gently in the wind, and blue flowery wallpaper adorn the walls of this interesting themed restaurant. Befitting of its name, Fullhouse Lifestyle Store & Cafe, indeed it feels like we are visiting some English mansion for lunch. You'd have to forgive me if I feel like dressing up in fancy hats and long dresses as if I was attending the Royal Ascot horse races, but that was how I felt... so elegant.

The menu looked like some sort of a comic book, so colourful and fun. I was interested to see the prices, expecting that it would be a little pricey.

The first thing that I saw on the menu, was a picture of the salmon salad. I love smoked salmon, and combined with the sweetness of mango, I couldn't resist. Priced at RM16.90, the dish came with 3 generous servings of smoked salmon, a few slices of mango and rocket salad. Verdict: a refreshing appetiser. I would definitely order this again!

Ashley ordered the oven roasted chicken parcel (stuffed with mushrooms), which is also priced at RM16.90, quite reasonable considering the size of the portion and generosity of the mashed potatoes. Sauce is flavorful, makes the milky, creamy mashed potatoes even more delectable.

Wok fried chicken chop, also priced at RM16.90, also comes with a generous portion of creamy mashed potatoes and a serving of black pepper raisin jus. Sweet and peppery, I like!

For drinks, we ordered the lime juice, which came in a big jug. Definitely more than enough for me!

After the lunch, we decided to take a look around. Fullhouse is more than just a restaurant. It also brings it's own selection of women's apparel and accessories. I noted that some of the dresses are imported from Korea.

I really found this place a very fun and interesting place to visit. A little girlish though, in terms of decor... perfect for a girls' day out?

Prices are generally ok. Noticed that they also do have special lunch sets and reasonable prices on normal working days. Makes me wish I worked closer.

Fullhouse Lifestyle Store & Cafe is located in Suria Sabah Shopping Mall and is open 11.30am - 10.00pm (last call at 9.30pm) daily.


Sandcastle - a play by Green Leaf Theatre House

Saturday! At last, some time off work!

But what is the best way to unwind on a Saturday night? I am not exactly known to be a fan of clubbing and such, so today I decided to go to the premier show of Sandcastle, the newest play by Green Leaf Theatre House.

Yes, KK actually has a theatre group. I have been to a couple of their shows already, for example 'Rojak show', 'Girl in Boy's Skin' and '2012: The World is Ending', and I just absolutely love their work. There is just something so thought-provoking about their plays, at times presenting some controversial current issues, but in a way that is comedic and fun. There's nothing like the use of humour to help loosen up, and break barriers that stop people from delving deeper into sensitive issues.

So who are they?

Green Leaf Theatre House of Creative Inspiration in the Performing Art is a platform for youths to express ideas, trends of thoughts and creative works using performing arts as a medium, especially for those who lives in Sabah, Malaysia. Basically their main mission is to promote theatre in Sabahan community.

The founder of GLTH is Mr Hazli Ali Zapar, a creative and talented extraordinaire, fueled by passion and supported by his other equally talented friends. Says this impressed loyal fan.

Held modestly in the Penampang Library's small but decent multipurpose hall,  "Sandcastle", (according to the description on the Facebook event page) is a self written play by Green Leaf Theatre House which attempts to challenge the base of human relationship in a Malaysian setting. It is an exploration on racial identity in a pluralistic young and developing nation through the friendship of 3 boys. “Sandcastle” is a provocative play that questions issues of friendship, maturity and belonging. 

The play is inspired by “Parah”, a play by the Instant CafĂ© Theatre first staged in Singapore and the final movie by Yasmin Ahmad, “Talentime”. Organised by a team of young talents, the play is produced by Tracy Deborah Egol (she also appeared in 2 scenes of the play), written by Hazli himself and Production Manager is Rendall Ian Thaddeus.

The play opens with a scene of three childhood friends sitting together and studying for their upcoming SPM examinations. Each of them of a different ethnicity - Dinesh (played by Raul Manisin James) is Indian, Hisham (played by Hazli Ali Zapar) is Malay and Max (played by Valentine Joibi) is Chinese (The three main races in Malaysia.. or as far as Peninsula Malaysia is concerned).

As close as brothers related by blood, the three were inseparable; going on trips together, play sports together, just basically always hanging out with each other. I noted that there were some typical stereotypes in the play - like Hisham, as the Malay, would be the laziest one, or that Max, being of Chinese descent, is well-off and calculative when it comes to money.

Trouble started brewing after the results of their exams came out, and each of them started looking for a scholarship to further their studies. Dinesh had the best scores of all the three of them, while Hisham, although he scored well, did not score as well as Dinesh. And surprise surprise, no prizes in guessing who was successful in obtaining a scholarship. Find out what happens, by attending one of their next shows as follows:-

Date : 13th (Fri), 14th (Sat) & 15th (Sun) April 2012
Time : 8.00pm - 9.30pm
Venue: Penampang Library Hall

Tickets : RM15 (Adults)
RM10 (Students)
RM 5 (Members)

I felt that the play was a little bit sombre compared to previous plays by GLTH. I felt that the actors did a really great job in being each of their characters, and conveyed emotions perfectly, especially in one of the fight scenes during the play.

The issue touched on is quite relevant, considering that there has been several issues where top students (who are also non-Malay) are unable to obtain scholarships in spite of having straight As. One of the matters voiced out is why do they have to work so hard to achieve As, when at the end of the day, it seems worthless. Especially when other, less hardworking students are the ones securing scholarships.

And this seems to be the basis of the racial divide that has been plaguing West Malaysia, and the mindset is creeping slowly into East Malaysia.

I have always no problem mixing with people of different ethnicity and religions,  all the way back from my school days, much to the horror of some of my West Malaysian teachers. As much as I would like to deny, I am reminded of when my daughter was born and the issue of her surname came up. She could have followed in the footsteps of her dad and have the surname 'Fung'. But no. Her paternal grandparents insisted instead that she use her father's name as her surname to emphasize that she is Sino-Kadazan and 'easier to get scholarships'. 

And as much as we talk about the 1Malaysia concept, many incidents have happened, and have been top news, where it is evident some certain parties still support racial barriers, and that some are just 'migrants' in spite of being an essential part in the forming of Malaysia.

Well, not going to say more. Come and see for yourself "Sandcastles" happening next weekend! Support local young talents!

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