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September 02 2013

Haze Returns to Indonesia

Nearly 500 forest fires were recorded in Sumatra Island last August which caused a thick haze to descend on Riau in Indonesia and even in some parts of Malaysia. The burning of forests is blamed on the operations of oil palm plantations, wood suppliers’ concessions, and pulpwood plantations. Several schools were closed in Riau during the return of the deadly haze last week.

The haze pollution is a recurring problem in the region caused mainly by forest fires in Indonesia. Last June, the haze covered Singapore and many areas in Malaysia.

Forest fire hotspots in Riau, Indonesia. Image from Eyes on the Forest.

Forest fire hotspots in Riau, Indonesia. Yellow areas are palm oil plantations. Image from Eyes on the Forest.

Haze in Sumatra. Photo by @jgblogs

Haze in Sumatra. Photo by @jgblogs

On Twitter, Indonesians expressed their concern about the return of the haze in Sumatra.

SBY refers to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In Penang, Malaysia, the haze affected many residents. Fortunately, the haze was already gone last weekend.

August 31 2013

Crowdsourcing Malaysia’s 2014 Budget

The Malaysian government has put up a special website where citizens can share their ideas on how public funds should be used next year. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak encouraged Malaysians to give suggestions in drafting the 2014 budget which will be tackled by the government on October:

As a government elected by the people, I believe everyone deserves a say on how we as a nation will progress next year.

…we will be providing a platform for the rakyat to come together and share their views on the 2014 Budget. The discussions will focus on several topics including cost of living, housing and urban living, healthcare, public safety and other issues close to the hearts of the people. We will continue collecting your input until the 8th of September, after which they will be sent to the Finance Ministry for consideration.

bajet2014

Aside from making comments, netizens can also vote in favor or against the ideas given by others. For example, the proposal of hazratie to build a casino was rejected by 22 people:

Build a casino with Chinese architecture to attract millions of Chinese tourists to Sabah, this will contribute towards enriching Sabah government from casino tax and tourist expenditures to beat competition from Macau and Singapore, this casino should be complemented with adult entertainment clubs such as the Playboy club and gentlemen club.

There are various categories that people can choose in making suggestions. Under the education category, Nur Syafika Sukuri suggested that student allowances should be provided by the government:

As we know, the living costs are expensive for those full time students who are unemployed. The government should give some allowances to decrease expenses that we spend. By doing this, it will encourage student to do their best without worried about the money.

Meanwhile, Mohd Fadzlan Bin Failul Rahman wanted government ministers to be blood donors:

I am proposing that blood donation is performed by the Ministers of the government including our YAB Datuk Seri Najib Razak. People are accustomed to the phrase; “Follow the Leader”. Thus, it will be a good move in encouraging the people to be a blood donor. When is the last time we see our Ministers supporting blood donation by being a donor themselves? Plus, those who donate regularly will get the advantages of free medical treatment

OTL urged the government to end property speculation:

House price maybe a very very very big burden to those middle and lower income earners. Sometimes its even mission impossible for a layman to own a landed property. A house is one a the most important criteria to build up a happy and healthy family. I would suggest government try whatever ways to stop property speculation, this is for the benefits of rakyat, bankers, government and property developers.

Ayesha Adam has a simple demand: a safe and affordable kindergarten for children:

Is it truly too much to ask for a government kindergarten that is safe, and well maintained? All we working Malaysian parents need is a safe place for our children to learn and to be taken care of while we work. Not everyone can spare thousands to get a maid, or a playschool that cost almost 1k a month. With government assistance, and fees as low as 100 -200 per child a month, i don't think this is a big ask.

Sunny has a proposal on how to increase rice yield in the country:

It is very sad to see Malaysia every year need to import rice from other country while we have plenty of land. It is suggested the government to give subsidies / tax exempted / cheap rental for vacant land around the nation for agriculture purpose. In short run, this might be a burden for the government but in the long run, we will be able to sustain our food supply and perhaps can export as well.

Using the hashtag #bajet2014, here are some ideas given by Twitter users:

July 28 2013

Hazreen Shaik Daud: Malaysia’s First Transgender in Politics

Former NGO worker Hazreen Shaik Daud is Malaysia’s first transgender in politics after being appointed as political secretary to Tanjung Bungah state assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu of the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

A transgender committee was initially approved in the Penang State to address transgender issues:

The transgender committee will be formed in two months, and aims to collect data and alleviate the status and social stigma associated with the transgender community. Some of their activities will include public forums to spread awareness on the issue.

Hazreen will initially work in the committee but she will also be responsible for other issues as well such as politics, economy, culture, education, health, and human rights.

KiniTV, a Malaysian Internet portal, recognized Hazreen as Malaysia’s first transgender in politics:

Hazreen’s appointment generated mixed reactions in Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation. On YouTube, W Chinner hailed the courageous decision to hire Hazreen:

I am glad to know that there are Malaysians who support Hazreen. All the very best to you Hazreen. To DAP's Tanjung Bungah state assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu, I applaud your courage by showing your leadership by example.

And to these bigots who spewed hateful comments, you need to find and create your own little world in the closet.

Kelvin Mah thumbs down discrimination based on sexuality:

this should change, she deserve a chance to show her ability, no one shall be discriminated or hate because of their sexuality.

crossmirage echoed a similar point:

Can transphobes shut up about society falling apart and the world ending already? Humanity survived the black plague, someone presenting as their preferred gender won't hurt you. What a bunch of babies.

But baem mahmud is worried with ‘gender confusion’:

God..help us for we have sinned. Save Malaysia from gender confusions. Save all of us and forgive our past sins.

Sofie Hafiz Ngoo believes Hazreen’s appointment will create problems in the future:

Placing something where is doesn't belong is not how this world works. By you, support in breaking the chain and we all will face a lot of problems in the future.

Abdul Aziz Maaruf thinks Hazreen is confused:

This guy is confused so are the people who supported him.

Americk Sidhu praised DAP:

We are all members of one race….the human race and our differences must not only be tolerated but celebrated. Well done DAP. You are an inspiration. May all those narrow minded bigots bow their heads in eternal shame.

On Malaysiakini, an alternative news website, My4HOPE also recognized the courageous initiative of the Penang State government:

This is by far the most surprisingly courageous, righteous and respectable initiative of Penang State Government after GE13 [General Elections]. Keep this kind of just cause up, to reset the Malaysian Path of Humanity and Dignity.

But Adsertor reminded Malaysian leaders to respect the values of their constituents:

Green YB, are you the MP for the transgender or your constituency? You should represent the values of your constituency and not advocate your personal agenda.

Lynn has mixed feelings over the issue:

While from a religious and personal perspective, I can't support a person's decision to make transgender a lifestyle, its ultimately his or her choice and she or he has to face the consequences. but in this context, if that person is capable and can do the job well, why not.

Carolyn Khor enumerated some issues affecting the transgender community:

Gender is actually not the issue – it is the segregation of gender that makes gender the issue. Gender in our society have, till recently, been plainly categorized as male and female, and though the transgender community have been seeking legal redress in terms of recognition and status, the struggle against age-old conformities are nothing short of an arduous task.

Among the top agendas of the transgender welfare committee are to seek better accessibility for transgender persons in terms of basic needs like accessibilities to healthcare, employment and to provide equal treatment to persons with gender disagreements at public places such as schools, hospitals and detention centres.

Although Malaysia may still be considerably homophobic and reluctant to address the transgender and LGBT issues, the fact remain that such people exist and should be accorded proper and equal rights

There are about ten to fifty thousand transgender persons in Malaysia.

July 23 2013

State of Islam in Southeast Asia

Murray Hunter of the University Malaysia Perlis discusses the situation of Muslim-majority societies in Southeast Asia as well as the issues associated with the rise of Islam in the region.

Poverty, literacy, education, displacement, feudalism, unemployment, suppression, and control is dispossessing Muslims within ASEAN. Government and Ulama are trying to develop theocracies based little social and economic research and knowledge, and promote ritualized conformity instead. Islamic interpretations are patterned into rigid thinking and ideas where new interpretations are frowned upon.

July 15 2013

Riau, Indonesia: ‘Ground Zero’ of Southeast Asia Haze

The deadly haze which swept Singapore and some parts of Malaysia this year was caused by the forest fires in Riau, located west of Indonesia. Naturally, it attracted significant mainstream media attention but there was scant reporting on the situation of Riau citizens who have tremendously suffered and are still suffering from the impact of both the haze and forest fires.

Zul Othman of The New Paper praised Riau firefighters for their heroic efforts to stop the spread of the forest fire:

Politicians can talk and pontificate all they want but, on ground zero in Indonesia’s Riau province, it is the brave and hardy souls who are bearing the brunt of fires that never seem to die.

They are on the front line of the hot spots. And it is a painful, impossible task. Not least of their problems: How to fight fires with no water? How to go on fighting when your lungs are on fire?

The flames were doused, but never completely tamed. Huge patches of scorched peatland were still smouldering, emitting heat and lots of smoke.

Life Story of a Driller visited the site of the ‘smog attack’:

Last night, I stood on the one of grass fire frontier in Bengkalis, Riau (20/06/2013). People called this Smog Attack. Smog means “Smoke+Fog”. In Singapore, it’s just called haze, because it’s not thick enough.

The Center for International Rorestry Research explains why the haze has stayed for so long in the region:

The haze lingers because the fires do too. Fires are in peat around 3–4 m underground. Firefighters have to stick a hose into the peat to douse the fire

Map of Indonesia forest fires from The Center for International Rorestry Research

Map of Indonesia forest fires from The Center for International Rorestry Research

An interactive map was also developed to accurately monitor the spread of haze and forest fires in the country. David Gaveau and Mohammad Agus Salim studied the causes of the haze:

Many of the June 2013 fires are part of the processes of plantation establishment and management. The very short period over which fire incidents peaked, the high proportion of fires occurring on peatlands, typical patterns of plantation management in fire areas….support this hypothesis.

Weather conditions (including wind patterns) exacerbated the haze problem in June 2013 compared with previous fire incidents.

Fidelis E. Satriastanti called the haze affecting Indonesia’s neighbors as ‘transferred pollution’:

…measures such as logging moratorium in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions have been taken by Indonesia to fight forest fires. But it appears as if these measures have been insufficient and have achieved limited success.

The writer also observed that authorities have been arresting small farmers and not plantation owners:

…they were only arresting small crooks but left out bigger companies who were resorting to the cheapest way of clearing land for palm oil plantations: burning down forests.

I find it quite hard to believe that the farmers could have caused this much damage. First, they rarely own the lands. Second, even if they do own lands, it’s mostly limited to two hectares.

If the president can deliver an apology to the neighboring countries, then he can certainly apologize to his own people for failing to protect this country’s future generations.

A burning forest in Riau, Indonesia. Photo by Virna Puspa Setyorini, Copyright @Demotix (6/20/2013)

A burning forest in Riau, Indonesia. Photo by Virna Puspa Setyorini, Copyright @Demotix (6/20/2013)

Unspun is quite disappointed with the slow action of Indonesian authorities to decisively address the problem:

In this age of satellite imagery what further investigation is needed to zoom in on the plantations with forest fires and punish them? What fumes is the Forestry Ministry and other Indonesian officials inhaling?

@iamdreamcatcher posted a picture of a burning forest in Riau and blamed irresponsible companies:

some of companies also have concession lands in the two islands; Sumatra and Kalimantan. it happens years ago, so I guess not just Singapore or Malaysia who's tired with the situation, we also have the same feeling for these irresponsible people …

July 05 2013

Malaysian Internet TV Service Gains More Viewers

KiniTV, a Malaysian Internet TV service recorded 7.2 million video views last May:

KiniTV will be producing news reports and talk-shows that come straight from ordinary people and independent analysts, free from censorship and to promote dialogue and encourage transparency.

June 28 2013

Bankruptcy in Malaysia

iMoney.my creates an infographic about bankruptcies in Malaysia. Almost 20,000 bankruptcy cases were recorded in 2012 or about 53 Malaysians who went bankrupt everyday.

June 26 2013

Southeast Asia: The Great Haze of 2013

Since last week, a thick haze has enveloped Singapore and some parts of Malaysia caused by forest fires mainly in Indonesia. The haze brought air pollution levels to a record high in the region. Malaysia placed two districts under state of emergency while Singaporeans were advised to remain indoors.

During emergency situations, the sharing of correct information has proved to be useful in minimizing or preventing further casualties. To help people cope with the impact of haze, online tools were developed like the Haze Action Online which provides information on the steps carried out by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to combat transboundary haze pollution. Meanwhile, the regional haze map shows the extent of the haze disaster in Singapore and Malaysia.

Southeast Asia's Regional Haze Map

Southeast Asia's Regional Haze Map

In Singapore, netizens are using the Twitter hashtag #sghaze to monitor and document the spread of haze. The N95 mask finder is a crowdsourced platform that helps consumers find affordable and reliable N5 face masks. The wearing of face masks is advised as protective measure against the haze.

The SG Haze Rescue asks people to donate N95 masks, volunteer, or share a shelter:

#SGHazeRescue is a community of Singaporeans offering air-conditioned spaces to individuals and families without such privileges. You can offer anything from a sleeping bag, couch, to a guesthouse

On the part of the government, the National Environment Agency has launched several online portals that give up-to-date information about the haze. It also published a list of clinics that offer treatment to haze patients. Meanwhile, the Emergency 101 website releases health advisories and clarifies misconceptions about the haze.

The haze has somewhat eased in Singapore but the situation remains critical. Lynn remembers how construction workers continued to work despite the city wide advisory for people to stay at home:

…there’s a group of people for whom the option to just take it easy indoors, is not available. Construction workers continue to labour through ever higher PSI (pollution standards index) readings. Despite calls from several quarters, the Ministry of Manpower has not issued a stop-work order

June finds meaningful things to do at home:

Breathe out haze.

Breathe in grace.

Regardless of how long the haze is going to linger, and regardless of the pain and inconvenience it brings, let’s choose to count our blessings and make the best of what we have, each day. (And oh, remember to stop and smell the roses no matter how hazy life gets…Well, figuratively at least.)

Eight percent per annum notes the sudden shortage of face masks and air purifiers in Singapore:

…there weren’t enough to go around. We hear stories of how poor aunties queue for an hour at Guardian pharmacy only to find out that the inventory ran out. We then activated our friends overseas to bring masks back from all over the world. Masks were running out in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia. Air purifiers ran out too.

In Malaysia, Muar and Ledang which are both located in the state of Johor suffered the most from the haze. Michael Ng is angry over the inaction of Indonesia to stop the burning of forests:

The Indonesian government can put the blame on Malaysian and Singaporean-owned oil palm plantation companies operating in Sumatra island for causing the haze but ultimately what is lacking is the strict enforcement of the environmental laws (if any exists at all) on their part.

How could it be possible for these companies to carry out their slash and burn activities with such impunity all these years if not for the lackadaisical attitude of the Indonesian government on putting its foot down.

I pity our school children and those elderly and suffering from asthma and other breathing problems. The haze has made their daily lives very difficult and uncomfortable.

Kuo Yong Kooi thinks the long term solution is to rethink the economic development model:

…the open burning in Indonesia is directly causing the haze problem at the moment, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many issues here that needed to be factored into the haze equation.

Fact one is that we are rampantly clearing the precious lungs of the earth which is the rainforest and substituting it with monocrop palm oil plantations.

We need to shift our paradigm away from this current development model to be able to resolve this problem.

anilnetto received a report about the burning in a plantation near Muar which could have worsened the haze:

The general consensus was that they bore the brunt of the smoke billowing in from Sumatra – but local plantation burning in Johan Setia near Port Klang and in Mukim Air Hitam near Muar may have aggravated the smog.

Charles Santiago, a member of Parliament, proposes to investigate companies which have violated environment laws:

We do not need to leave it to Indonesia alone to monitor, regulate or prosecute errant companies. Malaysia can keep a close watch on Malaysian companies in Sumatra and charge those that flout laws, for these companies have committed nothing less than a crime against humanity.

June 24 2013

Haze Chokes Singapore and Malaysia

Air quality in Singapore and West Malaysia hit hazardous levels in the past few days caused by forest fires from neighboring Indonesia.

At 12 noon on June 21, the Pollutant Standard’s Index hit 401 in Singapore, the highest in Singapore’s history. On Saturday and Sunday, it was the turn of Malaysians to choke. In neighbouring Malaysia, particularly in the coast town of Muar which is two hundred kilometers away from Singapore, the Air Pollution Index hit 750 on Sunday 23 June.

The bad air prompted many Singaporeans to make their way to hospitals and pharmacies to stand in line for face-masks. junjie.wu tweets about it here:

Haze in Singapore. Photo by umiwurnell, Copyright @Demotix (6/20/2013)

Haze in Singapore. Photo by umiwurnell, Copyright @Demotix (6/20/2013)


@bbeautifool People Q for N95, look what I got to spend my weekends being crouch potato. Home the safest place to…

While Brian, Mr. SGAG celebrates finally getting a hold of one on 22 June, after air quality has improved!

‏@SGAG_SG Bad Luck Brian. Finally gets his hands on the N95 mask after 5 hours of queueing at the pharmacy. Haze clears. #sghaze

Some though, heeded government advisories to stay home. “I’ve got a tummy” spent the weekend drinking milk and eating bread to feel  better and holed in to watch watch TV:

…the worst part of it all is that, we had to still report for work despite the bad to worse weather conditions. As far as I am concerned, I had to still report for work even after the office announce that employees can work from home if work scope permits. So ironically, my work scope is very site-based therefore, I have to be back to office for work that day whatsoever.

But anyways, I fell sick after 3 days of fighting with the haze and till today, my nose is dry yet running at the same time.

A Malay couple wears a face mask while celebrating their wedding day during haze in Muar, in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor bordering Singapore. Photo by Lens Hitam, Copyright @Demotix (6/22/2013)

A Malay couple wears a face mask while celebrating their wedding day during haze in Muar, in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor bordering Singapore. Photo by Lens Hitam, Copyright @Demotix (6/22/2013)

While B.L. Xu thought deep patriotic thoughts about what Singaporeans should be doing for the environment:

I personally think that what most of us should be appreciating is clean air, not the absence of haze caused by them. Instead of pointing fingers at others and trying to solve the root of the problem, it is more important to fully understand and digest the moral of the story

Meanwhile, Patrick Low is supporting a silent protest:

We need to stand up as a people and send a clear signal to Indonesia that we will not tolerate this harmful incursion to our health and economy.

As haze condition is getting hazardous please just pop by wear black, wear mask and bring some water for the short duration you are there.

Respromask – who have a stake in such things – reports that Malaysia has declared a state of emergency in Muar and Ledang. As a precautionary measure, Malaysia has also shut down some of their schools.

But who’s responsible and who should pay? The hunt for culprits has begun. The Singaporean Minister of the Environment called for Indonesia to name names and dole out punishments. In reply, the Coordinating Minister of Peoples’ Welfare in Indonesia chided Singapore for being childish. Singapore’s Emeritus Senior Minister had later hoped that Indonesia would adopt a more neighbourly spirit.

Meanwhile, individual Indonesian citizens are trying to make amends by expressing their concern over the haze.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has already issued a formal apology to Singapore and Malaysia for the haze caused by forest fires in some parts of Indonesia.

June 20 2013

Malaysia Launches Dengue Web Portal

To fight dengue, Malaysia's Ministry of Health launched a GIS-based web portal called I-Dengue, “which aims to provide the public with the latest information on dengue hotspots and preventive measures on how citizens can avoid getting the disease.” Dengue is a tropical virus with no known cure that is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Malaysia has already recorded more than 10,000 dengue cases this year

June 14 2013

Anger Over Attacks Against Myanmar Migrants in Malaysia

The ethnic violence in Myanmar seems to be spreading in nearby countries.

Some Myanmar Buddhist migrants in Malaysia have been attacked in recent weeks which many people believe are related to the ongoing ethnic and religious tension in Myanmar. According to Eleven Media, 6 died and 12 were hospitalized with injuries during the violent attacks against Myanmar nationals in Malaysia from May 30 to June 8.

Myanmar's Embassy in Malaysia initially dismissed the news which angered many Burmese netizens. Ye Htut, Myanmar's Deputy Minister of Ministry of Information clarified[my] the report:

(We) read the news on the Internet about the clashes near a Myanmar monastery at KamPung and Selayang and that some Myanmar nationals died. (We) immediately asked the Myanmar Embassy in Malaysia about this issue at 5 pm and again at 8 pm via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ambassador said the news was false. [...]

A Myanmar national put 11 red roses at Malaysia Embassy Yangon for Myanmar nationals killed at Malaysia.

A Myanmar national put 11 red roses in front of Malaysia's Embassy in Yangon in honor of Myanmar migrants killed in Malaysia. Photo – Ye Moe's Facebook.

Wai Lin Oo expressed[my] his frustration with the Embassy's response:

It's actually happening! If you want to approve Embassy's words, just prepare a flight in Myanmar to carry the dead bodies back.

Fang Ran asserted[my] a similar point.

People are suffering. They are just simply liars who don't even go outside the Embassy. And they charge us extreme taxes. I can't even mention in words how they often reprimand ( citizens who are seeking refuge in the Embassy). [...] When can we depend on Myanmar government? It's really discouraging. Where is respect for human rights of Myanmar nationals?[...]

Myo Set compared[my] how the governments of other countries are behaving when faced with a similar situation:

When a Japanese was killed in 2007 in Myanmar, a Japan Minister came at once. When Myanmar workers had issues with a Korean factory owner, the Korean Embassy suddenly became involved in the case. North Korea cleared away the books about Kim Jong Ill from book shops in Myanmar. What a shame! US came down to Myanmar once there were issues of Yettaw.

Our turn?

In Malaysia, the Ambassador's mouth got a stroke. Ministry of Information is crippled and Myanmar government is paralyzed.

We are Burmese, a community page of Myanmar citizens around the world questioned the silence of NGOs and media regarding the abuses suffered by Buddhists in Malaysia: 

When riots in Meikhtilar Township in Myanmar happened, (the global) media and international organizations (like the) UN, Human Rights Watch (reported) about it and some even exaggerated the (situation), labeling it ethnic cleansing, genocide, Muslims in Myanmar are being brutally massacred, or something like that….But why are they silent than normal about the current massacre in Malaysia targeting Myanmar Buddhists? How many lives must the Burmese Buddhists sacrifice further to put the (situation) on pages and screens? Please show the so-called RIGHTS you all repeatedly use whenever you get every chance to make the Burmese Buddhists dishonorable in every page and every screen worldwide.

On June 4, when voices became louder and attacks became more serious, the Myanmar government issued an Aide Memoire to Malaysia's Ambassador in Myanmar urging the Malaysian government to investigate the issue immediately and take legal actions against responsible persons. On June 6, Malaysia reported that 900 Myanmar nationals were detained during a security sweep. Myanmar government is preparing[my] to send a team of special representatives to Malaysia.

Since some of the injured Myanmar migrants cannot afford the hospital bills, the Malaysia Kampung Free Funeral Service Social Team (Kampung FFSS) gave donation to the victims. U Aung Ko Win, President of the Kanbawza Bank who also runs Myanmar Airways International (MAI) donated[my] $50,000 US dollars and cut the MAI air ticket fees of the Malaysia-Myanmar route by 50% for the convenience of migrants who wish to go back to Myanmar. Another well-known wealthy personnel, U Zaw Zaw, who is President of Myanmar Football Federation announced[my] that he will donate 1,000 air tickets for those who want to go back to Myanmar, plus additional $20,000 US dollars donation to Kampung FFSS.

Many netizens on Facebook changed their profile pictures to black to grieve the deaths of Myanmar citizens in Malaysia.

June 11 2013

How Southeast Asian Leaders Use Twitter

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or SBY joined the Twitter world only last April 13 but he is already the most popular Southeast Asian leader, at least in terms of Twitter followers. As of this writing, he has 2.4 million followers. Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been an active Twitter user since 2008, continues to be his country’s most popular Twitter personality with 1.6 million followers. Philippine President Noynoy Aquino is also a prominent Twitter user with 1.5 million followers.

Indonesia’s @SBYudhoyono joined the Twitter world by posting these 140 characters:

@SBYudhoyono: Halo Indonesia. Saya bergabung ke dunia twitter untuk ikut berbagi sapa, pandangan dan inspirasi. Salam kenal. *SBY*

@SBYudhoyono: Hello, people of Indonesia. I have joined Twitter to exchange greetings, views and inspirations. Nice to meet you.

sbyHe also tweeted the main points of his speech at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore about the achievements and priorities of his administration.

@SBYudhoyono: 15. We did not just reform, we transformed – “reformasi” to “transformasi”.

@SBYudhoyono: 16. Today we’re a trillion dollar economy, largest economy and middle class in Southeast Asia; 6.3% growth, second after China.

He also gave an advice to Arab Spring countries:

@SBYudhoyono: 31. Muslims in Indonesia are comfortable with democracy and modernity. This may well offer valuable lessons to Arab Spring countries.

Enricko Lukman welcomes the entry of SBY in the Twitter world:

It is great to see how technology is being used more and more by important figures. It allows them to interact with people better and even send out important news and messages in real time. I hope this can set the trend for future Indonesian leaders to do the same – to listen to and speak with citizens online.

SBY is not the first Indonesian politician who opened a Twitter account which prompted Akhlis to ask about the motive of SBY:

I don’t know what to say but it is very much out of character to him.

So what makes me wonder is: Why now? Isn’t it now much too late to get actively involved on social media? Even if that’s for political reason, this is so left behind. Many politicians have begun this long before 2013.

Indeed, Indonesian politicians cannot ignore social media tools since a big number of Indonesians are getting their information from the internet. In fact, Indonesia is among the biggest markets of Facebook and Twitter in the world. Wayne Palmer explains further:

Using social media to gauge public opinion is certainly the beginning of something quite new in Indonesia. Politicians themselves have been quick to recognise its capacity to spread information and shape public opinion.

The ease with which the public can openly express their opinions via social media complicates matters for Indonesia’s political elite, many of whom, among other things, have a reputation for the way in which they handle public complaints – ranging from defensiveness to outright petulance. Nonetheless, with all its opportunities and traps, social media has reshaped the playing field in Indonesian political life for those with their sights set on power.

But despite his large following, SBY must learn to interact with his constituents on Twitter. According to social media experts, SBY rarely responds to his Twitter followers.

najibIf SBY wanted some pointers on how to effectively use Twitter in politics, he can probably learn from Malaysia’s @najibrazak. Like SBY, Najib’s initial tweets were limited to public statements of his office but in 2011 he began interacting with his followers. He even used Twitter to invite his followers to watch a live broadcast of his favorite football team. He hosted several meetups as well. And when Korean singer Psy of ‘Gangnam Style’ fame performed in Malaysia, he clarified on Twitter that no government funds were used in the public event.

@najibrazak: Just to reiterate, Psy's performance did not involve public money at all. Public was not charged for watching it either.

Najib described last month’s General Elections as Malaysia’s ‘first social media election’, which is probably his way of acknowledging the crucial role of the internet in shaping the views of voters. Najib’s party won again although there were allegations of voting fraud. Najib’s recent tweets included the following:

@najibrazak: Just heard Nelson Mandela is in hospital in South Africa. I'm sure all Msians will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.

@najibrazak: Authorities will investigate tragic incident on Penang bridge. Let's focus on rescue efforts and pray for victims & their families.

@najibrazak: Joint dev key to solving South China Sea disputes. Sharing prosperity rather than letting it divide us is preferable to the alternative.

@najibrazak: If you have any views or proposals Budget 2014, email it to Ministry of Finance. Goal is to engage Msians to help create a #BetterNation

@najibrazak: In the spirit of unity, I announced over the weekend a bipartisan parliamentary committee to be given oversight over the Election Commission

Najib is clearly Malaysia’s leading Twitter user but there are reports that more than half of his followers are using fake Twitter accounts.

pnoyLike Najib, the Philippines’ @noynoyaquino maximized social media tools to succeed in the elections. Aquino’s online presence in the 2010 presidential elections boosted his winning chances. After elections, Aquino maintained his high social media profile. Today he has several Twitter and Facebook accounts managed by three Cabinet members. There was one instance when Aquino directly answered a Facebook critic which showed how the president’s team is efficiently using social media networks to improve the government’s image.

But not all Southeast Asian leaders were successful in using Twitter to connect with their constituents. Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra or @PouYingluck was forced to cancel her Twitter account in 2011 after it was hacked. The hacker was able to post these messages:

You can't protect even your Twitter account. How can you safeguard the country? Think about it my brothers and sisters.

Is it time for our country to change for the better and not project an image to aid businesses, vested interests and relatives?

Overall, Twitter and other social media tools have been very useful for Southeast Asian leaders who needed to communicate directly with their citizens. Social media can improve their image as tech-savvy leaders which could prove appealing to the younger population.

The rise of mobile internet in the region and the globe also means more people would be interacting with governments and their leaders through handsets and tablets. It would most likely inspire even the traditional or older politicians to ‘speak’ to their constituents and deliver their message through virtual means.

June 08 2013

VIDEO: How the Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Hurt Internet Users

A new animated video by digital rights group Electric Frontier Foundation warns that the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement being negotiated by the United States and ten governments from around the Pacific region, could have alarming consequences for Internet users.

The treaty's negotiations, which include input from corporations, are being kept under wraps, but a leaked draft [PDF] of the treaty from February 2011 and other leaked notes have given many advocates cause for concern over copyright enforcement provisions in the agreement's chapter on intellectual property.

According to the group, the treaty could make the Internet an intimidating place for the people and companies that use it. The agreement could encourage Internet service providers to police the activity of Internet users and block legitimate content with only a private notice from the supposed copyright holder in order to protect themselves from liability.

It could also make it illegal for users to work around technical measures put in place to prevent copyright infringement, such as unlocking a mobile phone in order to connect it to another carrier or modifying the format of an e-book to make it more accessible to those with disabilities.

The video, called “TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of”, is available on YouTube and can be found here:

May 09 2013

‘Malaysian Tsunami’ Protests Election Irregularities

Tens of thousands in Malaysia gathered in Kelana Jaya stadium near the country’s capital on May 8, 2013 to protest the final vote tally of the 13th General Elections. The Opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat won 51 percent of the popular votes but it only got 89 seats against the 133 seats of the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN).

Because of its victory, BN is now the ‘world’s longest-ruling elected coalition’ which first came to power in the 1950s. However, it suffered its worst defeat since 1969.

News reports estimated the crowd inside Kelana Jaya stadium to be around 50,000 to 60,000. However, Malaysiakini reported that more than 120,000 people joined the protest, including those who couldn’t enter the stadium:

Including those caught in traffic jams all around Petaling Jaya, the crowd is estimated at 120,000 – making it one of the biggest rallies in recent times

Despite the drizzle, the crowd is still trickling into the stadium. Cars have been parked as far as 2km away and the party doesn't seem to end anytime soon for supporters.

Tens of thousands gather in Malaysia to protest the results of the General Elections. Photo by Ramon Fadli, Copyright @Demotix (5/8/2013)

Tens of thousands gather in Malaysia to protest the results of the General Elections. Photo by Ramon Fadli, Copyright @Demotix (5/8/2013)

This is what Genevieve Nunis observed in the event:

The stadium was filled with Malaysians who disagreed with the results on the 13th General Election, and they made sure the leaders understood them by shouting ‘Reformasi’ (reformation) and ‘Ubah’ (change). The crowd, all dressed in black rallied for a free and fair elections

This is truly the act of patriotism. These are Malaysians who do in fact love their country and yearn for a brighter future in Malaysia. Could it be an overwhelming feeling? It just might, but the beautiful part about it all is that everyone is putting their differences aside, and fighting together for their country as one.

A protester holds up an "anonymous" mask during an opposition coalition rally. Photo by Hafzi Mohamed, Copyright @Demotix (5/8/2013)

A protester holds up an “anonymous” mask during an opposition coalition rally. Photo by Hafzi Mohamed, Copyright @Demotix (5/8/2013)

Twitter hashtags #black505 and #kelanajaya were used to document and share updates about the protest. Here are some related tweets:

@JustinTWJ I may not be physically at Kelana Jaya stadium now but my heart and mind is there. #black505

@AD___AM Look at all the irrelevant and ungrateful people who showed up at Kelana Jaya yesterday.

@critic4good The #black505 rally ended, but the spirit to fight for a better Malaysia still growing strong. You guys are awesome!

@sueannajoe I see people of all races walking by wearing black in unison. I see unity, I see hope, I see love for the nation. #black505

@Supernoves Was overwhelmed and proud of the turnout at #kelanajaya stadium last night. Our voice can never be silenced anymore. That's how it should be

The government warned that some of the speakers in the rally could be charged for sedition. The Opposition announced that more rallies will take place in the coming days.

These two videos uploaded on YouTube show the crowd which assembled in the stadium:

Terence Netto cited the 1986 People Power in the Philippines when Filipinos marched in the streets and soldiers mutinied in protest to the election fraud committed by the administration:

It is hoped there will be no need of the intervention of personnel in the uniformed units here to assist one side or the other in the dramas to come over the widespread suspicion that the results of GE13 are tainted beyond repair.

Prime Minister Najib Razak attributed the surge in votes for the Opposition to the support given by Chinese voters. He called it the “Chinese Tsunami’. A letter writer named Disappointed Citizen criticized Najib:

Our dear prime minister made a comment about the Chinese voting community which broke my heart…I felt that it was rather insensitive of him.

And now to refer to a portion of the people as a “tsunami” that may be dangerous for the nation simply because they voted for the opposition seems to me to be a rather petty and immature tactic.

But was Najib correct in his analysis? Scholars insist that what caused the loss of votes for the administration was the overwhelming support of urban voters to the Opposition. Some call it ‘urban tsunami’ or ‘Malay tsunami’.

Gertrude Pereira lists some election reforms that need to be undertaken:

If it is serious about reconciliation and healing, then be magnanimous. Clean up the electoral roll, reform postal balloting, provide free and fair access to the media, clearly indicate that the next elections will be on a level playing field and call for GE14 earlier rather than later. And keep it clean.

Ramesh Rajaratnam argues that it’s the election system that is deeply flawed:

Without a concerted effort from our MPs to make our country fairer by insisting on equitable representation in Parliament, it will indeed be very difficult for Najib to ask for national reconciliation when the very premise of his assertion was fundamentally flawed.

If you don't know what's broken, how can you fix it?

Dr. Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied heralds the rise of a new breed of Malay voters:

GE13 has laid bare the end of money politics and made it plainly obvious that the days of old school racial politics are numbered. The new breed of Malays have their eyes now set on cosmopolitan leaders, regardless of which party they are from, leaders whose forebears have had Malay interests in mind and, above and beyond that, the interests of all Malaysians at heart.

Just Read! is against the decision of the Opposition to organize a protest rally:

Whether there were flaws or not during the just concluded 13th general election, it was a good start to a ‘clean and free’ election in the country; and with due respect Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, please accept the decision of the voters!

Be a true gentleman, be a good Opposition Leader and take your team on the right and proper function as a constructive opposition rather than mocking at each and very policy the government introduced.

tunku also thinks the same about the Opposition leader:

He may not be good at winning elections, but Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is very good at whipping up his crowds of supporters and trying to persuade the world that he is a victim of injustice

Through the hashtag #mywant, some Malaysians called for national unity and harmony:

@jazlinhussin #mywant is for Malaysians to stop asking for re-election. It was fair so deal with it. Lets build a better Malaysia.

May 04 2013

Malaysia: News Sites Face Attacks on Eve of Elections

The post was co-authored by Oiwan Lam and Leila Nachawati.

The general election campaign period in Malaysia has triggered what independent news site MalaysiaKini is calling “China-style censorship.” Over the last two weeks, at least two news sites, Harakah Daily and MalaysiaKini, have suffered from DDoS attacks and connection disruption at the ISP level. MalaysiaKini reports that its Twitter accounts have been hacked and pages on its video site, KiniTV, are being blocked by certain ISPs.

On May 5, Malaysians will vote in a highly contested general election that many say could be the closest in the country’s history. Should opposition candidate Anwar Ibrahim succeed in contesting incumbent Najib Tun Razak, it would bring an end to over fifty years of single-party rule that has been in effect since the country won independence from the England in 1957.

Photo by Two Hundred Percent. Released to the public domain.

Photo by Two Hundred Percent. Released to the public domain.

Launched in 1999, MalaysiaKini is among the most read news sites in the country and has received awards for its coverage from the International Press Institute, Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists. With tension increasing on the ground over a tight political race and alleged manipulation of electoral results, their work has been key in election monitoring and coverage. This is not MalaysiaKini’s first experience with such problems; the organization also suffered attacks that left the site offline during general elections in 2008.

Harakah Daily has experienced similar problems. In addition DDoS attacks, the news organization’s IT team has discovered that customers from a majority of local ISPs have encountered disruption in connecting to the site. Oiwan Lam, a co-author of this post, is currently in Kuala Lumpur as an election observer and was unable to access Harakah Daily on Saturday, though was able to connect later in the day.

Interference by some (but not all) ISPs

Users of ISPs including TM Broadband, Unifi, Streamyx, Maxis, Celcom and Digi have complained of unusually slow speed when accessing the Harakah Daily portal. But both sites have reported that their pages are readily accessible on YES4G and Time Internet ISPs. A pageview chart created by Malaysiakini also revealed that connections were being ‘dropped’ every now and then when using these ISPs.

Chart by Malaysiakini.

Chart created by Malaysiakini.

Executives at both news sites have spoken strongly against the actions of these ISPs. Zulkifli Sulong, Harakah Daily's Editor-in-Chief, said:

If the matter is true, such dirty tactics must be stopped. ISPs should focus on their job to deliver the best service to its customers any desired websites without restriction.

Premesh Chandran, CEO of MalaysiaKini, noted that national law obligates ISPs to keep their networks open.

In line with official government policy and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, telecommunications providers such as TM have a duty and obligation to ensure that their systems are not used to censor the Internet.

Various advocacy groups have pointed out that Malaysian law explicitly protects the open Internet.

Both organizations are working to ensure that even if their sites are blocked, users will still be able to access their content via alternative means. Currently, Harakah Daily has posted all current news items on its Facebook Fan page. Malaysiakini has set up several mirror sites to prevent the complete blocking of their site during the Malaysia general election on May 5.

General increase in online controls

As the government faces a possible loss of power, online censorship and surveillance seem to be an increasing trend in the country. In a report on the commercialization of digital spyware issued by Citizen Lab, Malaysia appears among 36 countries where the remote monitoring and surveillance solutions software known as FinFisher has been used. The report includes a sample of FinFisher surveillance malware that appears to have been specifically crafted for use during the election period. Reaching users in the form of an email attachment, and written in Malay, the malicious program is disguised as election-related information.

Citizen Lab writes:

While we cannot make definitive statements about the actors behind the booby-trapped candidate list, the contents of the document suggest that the campaign targets Malay speakers who are interested in Malaysia´s hotly contested 5 May 2013 General Elections. We trust that both domestic and international elections monitoring officials and watchdog groups will investigate to determine whether the integrity of the campaign and electoral process may have been compromised.

US-based campaign organization Access is seeking to put pressure on the government to stop the political interference with the Internet. The group has organized a petition directed at the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) demanding that the government agency restore access to all websites during and following the upcoming elections.

Global Voices Advocacy urges concerned users to share this story widely and to sign the petition to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

Will Malaysia's Ruling Party for 50 Years Continue to Dominate Elections?

A resounding theme in Malaysia’s 13th General Election on May 5, 2013 has been the prospect of change, or ‘ubah’ (change in Malay). A popular slogan being bandied about is ‘ini kalilah, ubah’ which translates as ‘this time around, change comes’.

Having said that, it is unclear how the election will play out, and Channel News Asia has reported that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition might still win, but with a smaller margin. BN has ruled Malaysia for the past half-century.

Shufei made a case for a change in government:

I'm not one for politics. I detest it actually, it makes me more emotional than almost anything else. I'm so easily roused by anger when I read about prejudices, dirty tricks, unjustified behaviour, corruption. Everything that is humanely destructive but equally bracketed into the flawed mortality of individuals I'm entrusting my country with.

But don't you think we should have a choice? A two-party system so we have the ability to choose if the government is corrupt? Isn't that what democracy is all about? Not being shushed or silenced because ‘they have done so much things for us'. Yes, they have done things for us, but they're our government. It's, I'm sorry to be blunt, their job.

Glam also urged their readers to vote for a change in government, using several videos.

Anil Netto also posted a video of voters in Penang calling for change in the country.

The people have made up their minds.

This wasn’t about the people calling for tunnels, new highways and more high-rise luxury condos; it was the about the people calling for an end to corruption in the country and for political change at the federal level.

Thomas described Prime Minister Najib Razak as the ‘Trojan Horse’ of Malaysian politics:

Throughout the country, on the numerous BN’s billboards, printed materials and TV commercials and news, it is Najib’s sweet and gentle smiling face that you see. Never before in the history of general elections in our country has so much been hinged on the persona of a man instead of on the ideals or vision of the party for the country. But Najib Razak is a trojan horse, constructed by professional public relations firm like APCO with the help of a very compliant broadcast and printing mass media industry.  He has had an extreme makeover which transformed him from an ultra Malay rights politician to one that espouse the inclusive and tolerant values of 1Malaysia.

Malaysia has been swamped with campaign materials such as banners, flags, posters and billboards. Photo by Hon Keong Soo, Copyright @Demotix (5/2/2013)

Malaysia has been swamped with campaign materials such as banners, flags, posters and billboards. Photo by Hon Keong Soo, Copyright @Demotix (5/2/2013)

This is the first time that postal voting is allowed in the Malaysian elections. Chelliah, a Malaysian living in the UK, wrote about their excitement at the possibility of a change in government:

As I write this post the sun is rising in Malaysia on a new day and I will be going to bed soon because it is the end of the day in the UK. There is something ironic about that. I left Malaysia 32 years ago and although I now live thousands of miles away I am excited at the prospect of ‘Ubah’ (‘change’ in the Malay language)becoming a reality on 0505.

The election or GE13 as it has become known, I suspect, will be a political milestone for the manifestation of Malaysian unity all over the world. I don't think I am alone in hoping for Ubah while living in a foreign land. You may wonder why this is important for someone who does not experience daily life under a regime that many Malaysians experience as being corrupt and authoritarian. I may not live there now but I did live the daily  life of state-led grind for many years.

In Melbourne, JOM Magazine, a magazine that caters to the Malaysian community, made a video about the postal voting day, which was held a week before May 5.

There is also a video of Malaysian voters in London:

With social media so widely used, it is not a surprise that this election has been dubbed the social media election.

April 27 2013

Malaysia: Which Party Has the Best Election Manifesto?

Malaysia’s 13th General Elections will take place on May 5 and fortunately, the major parties have unveiled their election manifestos which can guide voters in choosing the right candidates. Which party has the best manifesto?

The opposition Pakatan Rakyat published its manifesto on February 25. Titled ‘The People’s Pact, The People’s Hope’, the manifesto seeks the support of voters to dislodge the ruling coalition which has been in power in the past half-century:

Malaysia is a country with immense potential, its people strive for excellence bound by ties of brotherhood and fraternity

However, the power elite hinder our national aspirations. Corruption and greed thrive, while the people continue to live in hardship.

For the sake of the people, let us change and come together to chart the future of a new Malaysia.

The People’s Manifesto is crafted based on four key pillars – Fraternity of the People, the People’s Economy, the People’s Well-being and the People’s Government.

A supporter of the ruling party listens to the speech of the Prime Minister. Photo by Asyraf rasid, Copyright @Demotix (4/6/2013)

A supporter of the ruling party listens to the speech of the Prime Minister. Photo by Asyraf rasid, Copyright @Demotix (4/6/2013)

Meanwhile, the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional announced its manifesto on April 7 led by Prime Minister Najib Razak. Titled ‘A Promise of Hope’, the manifesto listed the achievements of the incumbent government and gave a comprehensive and detailed action plan in the next few years:

The time has come for us to decide. The future of this nation lies in your hands.

The record of this Government in delivering on its promises speaks for itself. Real changes have taken place, but the journey towards total transformation will take time.

As we head into this 13th General Election, I humbly seek your mandate to carry on this task of lifting Malaysia to new heights. A mandate from you is a promise of hope, a mandate for us to achieve greatness together as one people, one nation, one vision. The best is yet to come!

Sarawak Dialogue compares the two manifestos. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim criticizes the manifesto of the ruling party:

The BN Manifesto also lacks new ideas and is very short on details since many programmes have been rehashed and repackaged into something with a new look, in contrast to our People’s Manifesto. More than 90% of the programmes listed are already known to the people and remain too general and lacking in specifics.

Manifesto of the opposition

Manifesto of the opposition

Khoo Kay Peng analyzes the manifesto of the opposition:

…the manifesto is silent on how it is going to achieve its promises. It does not explain how this nation is going to be able to afford some new subsidies, grants, freebies and payouts. The coalition left details on revenue streams aside.

However, the manifesto is definitely a political document. It is designed to please housewives, undergraduates, civil servants, retired armed forces members and Felda settlers who are considered important constituents in the next GE

Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia, a non-partisan coalition of 25 Civil Society organizations, identifies the issues ignored by the major parties:

GBM has studied the manifestos of the Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional. As manifestos are designed to attract votes some difficult issues may not be included or dealt with adequately. We identified two major issues:

1. Poverty and inequality and
2. National debts

In the run-up to the election we urge both Barisan and Pakatan to spell out clearly their policy and road-map to tackling these two issues as they impacted on the economic and social well-being of our nation.

Lawrence Yong writes about the ‘war of manifestos’

On first impression, both manifestos seem like wide-ranging populist attempts to buy as many votes as possible. Both are easily dismissed as political ploys.

Reading the manifesto has never been more important for anyone who truly cares about democracy in Malaysia and wishes to vote wisely. Neither answers all policy questions, nor can manifestos be expected to.

This is the first time BN has to publish a manifesto to counter the opposition and they took more than a month to respond.

Hishamh points to the dilemma of voters in reading election manifestos:

So here’s the dilemma – assuming you have to vote, which party would you vote for? Each has proposals that you support, yet each also has proposals you don’t like. Both are broadly similar, yet the differences between the two are in areas that you care about. Neither can you judge which of the two parties, if elected, will actually come through with their promises.

Murmurs from the Heart appreciates the move to publish election manifestos:

The nature of politic in Malaysia has matured to some extent, though there is still a lot mindless emotion driven by those who rely and thrive on politic of hate.

At least now, political parties explicitly lay out their promises in a written manifesto.

At the end of the day, it's not “What you said, what I said”, but what is written.

This manifesto will also be used as a report card as to how many of the promises are fulfilled.

BJ Thoughts warns that manifestos can be disregarded by winning parties:

…you have political manifestos flying around with some claiming each other as unachievable. Fine, manifestos may not be contract cast in stone and to some, it is nothing but a convenient way to let the voters to know on what the party intends to do – ideal intentions that may change over time due to political pressures, financial constraints and of course, dirty politics.

April 23 2013

Study on Southeast Asian Monarchies

There are four monarchies in Southeast Asia: Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia. The March 2013 issue of the Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia discussed the history and prospects of these monarchies. In Brunei, the absolute monarchy is able to consolidate its rule by implementing generous welfare programs.

April 21 2013

What Malaysians Expect in the General Elections

With the 13th General Elections drawing closer, many Malaysians have turned to the Internet for news and other information, as well as posting their thoughts on the election. Malaysiakini, a popular online news portal, has abolished its paywall for the time being, at least until after the election.

Online, it appears that majority of Malaysians are in favour of the opposing Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance rather than the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which has been in power since the country’s independence in 1957.

JoyBlee is certain that the country needs a change in government:

Our menial salary cannot  sustained our daily expenditure as the prices for even a necessity item has been increased in monthly basis. We cannot afford to save any to our life saving. So we really need to change the leader who only think for their deep pockets instead their rakyat(people) life.

We need to change! WE HAVE TO CHANGE! This is it!

A poster reminding Malaysian citizens to vote. Photo from Flickr page of  niezam sandakan

A poster reminding Malaysian citizens to vote. Photo from Flickr page of niezam sandakan

This sentiment was shared by Crankster:

Malaysians have had enough. In the last 5 years, the crime rate has increased drastically. So has national debt. Meanwhile, the quality of life has steadily declined.

When things were going well, people turned a blind eye to corruption, racist practices, cronyism and nepotism. But life has stepped up the pace (all over the world, not just in Malaysia) and people are just not willing to accept old practices anymore.

Shankaran Nambiar, wrote on the East Asia Forum about his opinion on how he thinks the election would affect the economy:

Ideologically speaking, the Malaysian opposition coalition is similar to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), as both coalitions subscribe to market-oriented economic policies. Both the BN and the opposition accept the value of FDI, the role of multinational corporations and the importance of trade.

While the UMNO has to take care of its constituency, protectionist policies will need to be addressed if the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the EU–Malaysia free trade agreement are signed. The government no longer has the sort of free hand it once had to extend preferential treatment to promote the growth of bumiputera business.

Will the opposition act like the BN if it comes to power? Perhaps not. One of the opposition’s key policy platforms is transparency. The other platform is the eradication of wastage and leakages from the system. The opposition also speaks about improving the economy as a whole, rather than just the economic wellbeing of particular racial groups — like the bumiputera.

Nuraina A Samad called this election the ‘social media election’:

The PM said social media had the ability to include more voices into one issue, including political debates.

He predicted that this would be practised in the coming months as people went to social media to discuss issues related to teh general election.

Now..that's a long way from where everyone came from in 2008 when blogs and bloggers were despised, feared, whatever by the then leadership. Paranoid even.

Bakri Musa reminded readers that they need to think wisely:

The first and only question voters must ask before casting their votes in this next election is whether the current Barisan government is deserving of another term. All other matters, as whether other parties are capable of taking over, are irrelevant and besides, conjectural.

Consider three critical areas:  economy, education, and level of corruption. Barisan’s economic leadership is passable. It is exemplary only when compared to that of Zimbabwe. Granted, by the figures Malaysia outperforms America and Western Europe (and even Singapore), but remember those countries are already cruising at high altitude. We are still ascending. We need faster growth. We should compare ourselves to China and Panama. Even Ghana and Laos surpassed us last year.

Anil Netto offered interesting observations he made from conversations with Malaysians:

It is amazing what you can learn by talking to people at a hawker centre in Penang.

Here’s what I found out this morning:

University students are wary about expressing their views if they are critical of the ruling coalition or supportive of opposition parties for fear of reprisals. You can’t be too careful; you never know who is going to snitch on you.

Apart from spam messages urging people to vote for BN, a couple of people have received SMS birthday greetings apparently from a local BN candidate (in mainland Penang and in Sabah). I saw an SMS text birthday greeting that had the recipient’s full name, age and the name of the sender, the BN candidate from mainland Penang who allegedly sent it, and his parliamentary constituency.

From these reactions, it appears that Malaysians are mostly concerned about the economy, the rising cost of living, as well as more government transparency. It also seems to indicate that many are anxious for the day to come to find out the result.

April 20 2013

The Alphabet of Malaysian 2013 Elections

Art Harun gives a primer on Malaysia's 13th General Elections by listing and explaining some keywords that define Malaysian politics. For example, letter A refers to Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the Opposition; while letter N refers to Najib Razak, the incumbent Prime Minister

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