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Kampung Pictures Tale in Ten Harapan, really
Harapan, really PDF Print E-mail
Written by straits-mongrel   
Monday, 05 April 2010 23:52

For a Sunday morning, in slow-to-wake KL, 9am would be a very cruel time to start deep discussions. But a group of young Malaysians had the cheek to think otherwise and even convinced some of the country's most radical and progressive minds to come participate. Sigh...the things people do for a good cause.



Hello New York! Webcam transmission of the audience at Columbia University.

These youths are from Malaysia Forum, "a global community that seeks to engage each other in 'civil conversation' on Malaysian issues". What's interesting is the group was founded by Malaysian students studying abroad, and the succeeding batches remain the main engine today. Malaysia Forum organises a conference each year; this year's theme is Harapan, and the conference was held at Columbia University, New York. The plan was to have live internet broadcast from KL - hence the unkind hour - so that anyone keen on the issues discussed could tune in.

The venue: Rumah Anak Bangsa Malaysia. Yep, our home.




Two sessions were planned for the morning. The first - Arts, Literature and Education - involved personalities who needed no introduction. Fahmi Fadzil was the moderator with two guests, Sharon Bakar and Pete Teo. The trio seemed quite fresh and ready, and plunged straight into the discussion with zeal and good humour.

All three stated with conviction that there is no shortage of talent in Malaysia. Said Pete Teo: "It's common knowledge in the international scene that when people talk about the Top 3 regions for young independent film-makers, Malaysia is mentioned as being one of them."

Yes, you read that right.

All this despite minimal government support for the arts and its education. "Perhaps it's a good thing," added Pete. "What we see instead is the democratisation of technology to promote the arts and its messaging. It's potent stuff."


Sharon Bakar agreed: "We see new writers emerging often, and they're good. For example, there's Brian Gomez... Devil's Place is a really fun read and it's set in KL. And who would've thought that people in Malaysia would care to listen to poetry and prose, but we actually have a lively community here.

"Resources remain the stumbling block. We have to remember that Brian had to self-publish his novel."


But perhaps the thing that gets to Sharon is the nurturing of creativity. "I don't quite buy the segmentation of arts and science in schools. I'd rather encourage creativity. It helps with basic survival and it helps broadens perspectives."


Pete chipped in: "Yeah, it's hard to categorise Steve Jobs as being a person of the sciences or the arts. But he's certainly creative and that's what matters. Education involves a lot of critical thinking too."



To which the hilarious Fahmi recalled: "I have to quote Noraini from Sisters in Islam - she once said at a forum that the Malaysian education system was giving birth to a society with the intellectual capacity of plankton."


The dialogue covered many more topics, too many to detail in this picture essay. But at one point during the QnA session, a classic Malaysian episode took place. A grunge-y pickup passed by the Rumah. "Old newspaper... Old newspaper... Surat khabar lama..." blared the loudspeaker, drowning out the discussion for a minute. Bet you, there were a lot of nostalgic sighs over at Columbia U then :).


All too soon, the session came to a close. Huge applause and a short break.


And in stepped the civil society heavyweights.



Haris Ibrahim and Wong Chin Huat, with moderator Khairy Jamaluddin. The topic - Racial and Religious Harmony: Understanding the ‘Allah’ Issue. If you imagined this to be a treat, well, it was.


The discussion was fast and furious with lots of incisive points raised, yet all the while not a single raised voice nor threat. This is the nature of dialogues we need. Now why can't Parliament take a cue from this?



On the topic of how the kalimah Allah issue can be resolved, Haris went on the offensive. "The Federal Constitution is clear on all this. What we have failed to do is to uphold the Constitution in a dignified, unbiased manner."


With regards to Islamic matters, Haris added "it has never been in the government's interest to nurture a mature and enlightened Muslim community"; the proof is all around us.


Wong Chin Huat believes the issue is made more complicated because "religion has been appropriated to define the ethnic boundary of the Malays". At the end of the day, he added, it is less about Islam than it is about this ethnic boundary - what's inside and what's outside of it. Why is this boundary made sacrosanct is the more interesting question, he proposed.



UMNO Youth chief Khairy was a skilled moderator, totally at ease with the civil society audience. The controversial figure threw hard questions at the panelists, pulled up with well-timed humour, shared his own difficulties at constituency level, and involved the audience very well. "Many of these counter-arguments I'm making are the very responses I get when I'm in Rembau - they ask me, "Why do they have to use Allah? Why can't they see we're hurt?"


"Funny, because in Pahang, I experienced the opposite," replied Haris. "I've met with Muslim farmers there in the ladang and kebun... explained to them that the Bahasa-speaking Christians - without invoking Allah in their rituals as they've done for generations - they feared their prayers would be nullified, as in Islam. Their reply: 'Molek.' Beautiful. See, those I have met have no issues.


"It's about how it is presented. The Utusan way isn't the way."


In rapidfire banter, the two men decided that Haris follow KJ the next time the MP explains such issues to the people of Rembau.



The biggest laughter came with the final question from Khairy, who asked half-farcically: "Now, tell me, is 1Malaysia the best thing that ever happened since Merdeka?"


Chin Huat: "Well, I generally don't trust politicians. For me, the public needs to view them like pets. You have to train them or they will go wild on you. It's just like having a dog, you know. Put it through a training regime, then it will serve you well." (Ouch... the man can bite!)


Haris: "Where's the sincerity? You say 1Malaysia, but the nation is still divided into bumiputra and non-bumiputra."


Khairy: "But Haris, aren't you a bumiputra yourself?"


Haris: "I'm not a bumiputra. I'm an Anak Bangsa Malaysia."



And who said the young are uninformed? The audience too had a field day giving responses and asking questions. It seemed time zipped by in a flash despite the muggy heat building up in the late morning. The broadcast had to stop. Many continued to mingle and talk around the refreshment table and in clusters.


By any measure, Sunday's event was a wonderful coming together of people with interesting perspectives. It brought up the issues many want to understand, yet few get the chance. Malaysia Forum showed that forums of this nature in a 'safe space' can and must happen if we want to be more than "plankton". We look forward to seeing more of this.


SABM had a little souvenir for KJ just before he left - our T-shirt which says Semua Anak Kita. 'Ngapa Harus Beza? That's Mila there posing with the man who said, during the forum, he's staying with UMNO to help in its reforms. We wish you well. Thanks for being a good sport.


And to the Malaysia Forum's KL chapter, our message to you: We want more!


But not so early on a Sunday morning, can?

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Only registered users can write comments!
Penang  - Hmm ... |2010-04-06 09:11:55
Darn it ! I totally missed the event !!!
luxmi gmk |2010-04-06 11:59:40
....this cannot exist,I don't see it happening until the older Bumiputra are no more...God bless them.
These paciks are morbidly scared of losing their identity, personal as well as economically.
Until such time we'll have to live with this disparity.
I say,everybody's GOD is sweet and cares not how you address THE SUPREME.
The important aspect is that YOUR HEART PRAYS SINCERELY.
I rest my case !!!!!
luxmi  - Ulterior Motive |2010-04-06 12:18:03


I like you Khairy but is there anything else going ...!
How sincere are you....?
Give me more time.
... damn proud to be Malaysian...
joehancl  - Yes |2010-04-06 12:52:17
Yes, we need to come together to talk in civil manner. This is one good way.
kepalaotakkamu  - kepalaotakkamu |2010-04-06 14:02:07


all in the picture are like shit... skunk and from ape zone
ong |2010-04-06 14:58:00
The article mentioned that "The discussion was fast and furious with lots of incisive points raised, yet all the while not a single raised voice nor threat." Amazingly, the discussion for the topic was held with Khairy Jamaluddin as the moderator. Is it possible KJ suffers from "Multiple personality disorder"? Sorry-lah! Those of you who are not aware of KJ's behaviour back home here in Malaysia will not understand my question.

The article also posed the question: "Now why can't Parliament take a cue from this?"

My question: "Was this same question posed to KJ?"

Or is it possible that the KJ at the Malaysia Forum Conference was not the real KJ but an imposter?
Kum Seng Wong |2010-04-06 17:46:42
Would be great if this kind of event are given more publicity for more malaysian youth to get involve
Sokong siapa yang buat betul  - Haris this UMNO's function? |2010-04-06 20:20:00


Seemed Haris made some disparaging remarks at the recent lawyers protest at Bukit Aman recently because of the presence of some PKR personalities. May I also ask, is this an UMNO organized function because of the presence of KJ. If Haris is so strongly "non-partisan" why did he invite KJ? Not that I object to KJ's presence. Just trying to make a point.
Nan  - Sokong siapa yang betul - Dan Bacalah artikel tu b |2010-04-06 20:53:45


As written clearly in the article, the forum was organised by a group of young people going by the name of Malaysia Forum in SABM's premise and Malaysia Forum invited KJ to be the moderator. What exactly is the problem with that?

Apart from Khairy, there were so many other personalities and individuals who participated in the forum as shown in the pictures and the write-up. So, again, what's the problem?

Non partisanship doesn't mean you turn away an opportunity for discourse and debate in order to further the aspirations of the people, does it?
Sivin Kit  - Yeah lor ... |2010-04-06 22:50:06
so early on EASTER morning. As a card carrying reverend, I had to be in church! :-) But looks like it was a great time. Well done. I thought it was a good thing for Khairy to show up ...

I agree we need more. But not so early, and especially not on Easter okay? :-)
Anak Kampung |2010-04-06 22:36:56
<img src=illy:' title='


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Don't have to be Malaysian youth to participate lah. Malaysia Forum is not age-ist.

ANYONE can take part, as long as they love Malaysia and are sincerely interested in understanding the issues facing the country today.
angel  - Vote everybody |2010-04-07 00:34:53
Engaging politicians is a good thing as most times they are living in their own separate world and they need to discuss with the people,to understand and be sensitive to our needs and aspirations.

In this country there is a divide between us and them. There is no tradition as for example, in Britain, where you can just talk on even terms with him or her.

Over here the YB title artificially separates you from another ordinary human being who you helped with your powerful vote, to prop to public office.

Khairy Jamaluddin's remark about "You are also a bumiputra" alludes to something personal and should never have been a point to even mention.

But then it came from Khairy Jamaluddin, who has a reputation for being disorderly, whenever he wants to.

It should appear quite clear to KJ that Haris is using his status as one and as an Anak Bangsa Malaysia, to bring about the changes that Malaysians themselves are clamouring after and are being denied.

Unlike KJ who feels secure in the status quo and is part of a gang which is deliberately denying non-Malay Malaysians, our constitutional rights.

Because he is part of the machinery of Governance that is using fear and force to stop the natural advancement of Malaysians to become true and loyal citizens of this country.

Do hope the SABM T-shirt will act as a history lesson and a reminder to him and his cohorts that we are all,excepting the Orang Asli.. each and everyone of us... PENDATANGS to this country.

And that Malaysians have come to the level of knowledge that they are a potent force in the country.

And are gearing themselves, first and foremost slowly but surely, to exercie their vote wisely.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 April 2010 03:24

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