Yesterday, Present Tense Media was involved in documenting a forum held in Bangsar.
Right after, The Malaysian Insider posted an article with the headlines:
Najib’s Bumi agenda is unconstitutional, says law professor
Excerpt from the organizers page:
On 16 September 2013, the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR), in collaboration with LB Training will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia with a forum entitled, “Fifty Years of Democracy: Has It Weakened or Strengthened Our Federal Constitution?” The event is part of the Malaysiaku — Celebrating 50 Years of Malaysia Festival.
The forum will take a closer look at how the courts have interpreted the Federal Constitution and how the Federal Constitution, in the past 50 years, has affected the balance of powers in Malaysia. As we reflect on the past, we will also discuss and look forward, with hope, to the progressive vision of the Federal Constitution in the next 50 years.
The event will feature well-known speakers such as Azmi Sharom, Associate Professor of Law, University of Malaya; Tommy Thomas, Advocate and Solicitor, High Court of Malaya; and Wan Saiful Wan Jan, CEO of IDEAS; and moderated by Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, former Malaysian Bar Council President.
The young chap seated right in front of me was clearly unsettled from the start. He kept shuffling in his chair and when it was time for the members of the audience to field questions, he jumped at it. He questioned the role and position of East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) in bringing change to Malaysia and how the rural parts of the states are ‘unexposed’.
A young journalist at the back asked about what else people could do about the state of things since rallying on the streets produced limited results. He singled out the recent rise in petrol prices as an example. How Malaysian developed such short-sightedness I will never understand.
Another young journalist in the media section raised her hand numerous times to get the attention of the moderator and when she finally got the chance to speak, started off with a disclaimer that she has not been living in the country for the past few years and wants to know how else we can engage those living in the rural areas.
Rural areas. Who exactly are we talking about when we use the term rural areas? Very liberally we keep mentioning the gap between the urban and rural areas with the implication that those living outside of Kuala Lumpur and Penang are less-informed, underexposed. On what basis are we making such a distinction is anyone’s guess. From my personal experience in research and fieldworks in the furthest reaches of the country, these ‘rural’ people are not so uninformed as we make them to be. Just because they don’t blog, Tweet and attend forums a million miles away from them, we should never assume that they don’t have the ability to reason, analyze and form opinions.
What we have today is a manufactured perception of ‘the rest of the country’ created by the centralisation of media and news reporting in Kuala Lumpur. We live and work in the city, with such limited knowledge and understanding of the rest of the country; the green areas on the map. Come election time, we start hearing chants of ‘mobilizing and empowering the rural folks’.
The atmosphere in the small space seems to be screaming, “Yes, yes, enough talking already, what do we do next?”. And nobody really had an answer.
It was a room full of echo as the same statements were being repeated many, many times. Special rights for the Bumiputeras are unconstitutional, Malaysians need to be patient, do their best to educate the uneducated and wait for the next general elections.
Bangsar is where the money lives and it shows. The forum was organized in a bid to raise funds for the operations of LoyarBurok. Where else if not in a swanky restaurant with nasi tumpang served on a platter and a glass of wine. The waiter who was charged with carrying the cocktail food dropped a spoon of carefully placed meatball on his way out and you could see the strain in his eyes for the grave mistake. Not surprising since he earns less in a month in the restaurant than most people spend on a table on a single night. Just outside, stalls were set up selling local delicacies (cendol, Malay kuihs etc) at Bangsar prices.
Welcome to Bangsar, where everything is branded, hip and expensive. Even your humble kuih.
In related news, Sept 16 also marked the passing of former public enemy no.1,Ong Boon Hua or better known as Chin Peng, at the age of 90 in Thailand.
He fought alongside the British during the Japanese occupation of Malaya, but in 1948 began a struggle to establish an independent Communist state.
The Najib’s government has reiterated that requests from any member of Chin Peng’s family for him to be buried in Malaysia will not be entertained. Towards the end of his life, Chin Peng made numerous requests for him to be allowed to return to his homeland, Malaysia. His last request was rejected in 2009 when the court demanded proof of his Malayan citizenship, to which he replied that documents were seized by the police during a raid in 1948.
He died in exile when his only wish was to die in the only country he knew, Malaysia.
Happy Malaysia Day