Friday, January 29, 2010


Malaysia has not regained pre-1997 levels of growth, despite the government insisting all is well with the economy. Corruption and patronage have taken firmer hold- as may be indicated by the Port Klang Free Zone controversy. Investors are turning wary of strained ethnic relations in the country, and the baton of 'new Southeast Asian economic powerhouse' has shifted to... Indonesia!
Shocking, especially when you consider that Indonesia has 17.8 % of its population below the poverty line (as of 2007).

Not only that, the Malaysian government is showing a powerful resistance to moving with the times. Rote learning still forms the core of the education system and, bowing to the desires of backward elements in the society, Maths and Science will be taught once again, in Bahasa Malaysia. Plus, the modernization of teaching methods have been slow and unwieldy, and the quality of young teachers being produced yearly is steadily dropping.
This is UPSI- Malaysia's most recognizable teacher training university. Failure to keep its' standards high has led to a drop in teacher quality, and, we all know what happens then.

But, rather than addressing the problem, the government refuses to even acknowledge it, tweaking the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (the most important public exam) to produce a steady 'rise' in the number of top scorers.

Malaysian economic woes also reflect a lack of willingness to change. The government has eyed green technology and energy efficiency warily, with plans slowly getting underway to green Putrajaya and Cyberjaya. Plus, in this country, the Sarawak government has the what, idiocy, temerity, gall (?) to classify coal as a renewable energy source! The government is also the first to cry foul when the West points out environmentally unsound practices here, but shakes its legs when the allegations are proven true. Which is why you'll never here of the Malaysian government trying to go further in grass-to-fuel research.
Palm oil plantations destroy forests- we only have 56% of our forest cover remaining-, reduce biodiversity, and endanger the culture of the Malaysian indigenous people.

It'll have to be eco-unfriendly palm oil, due, perhaps, to national pride.

One of this country's biggest problems -inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations-, however, isn't purely the fault of the government. Nor is there a whole lot the government can do about it- apart from resisting boneheaded courses of action, like fighting over a word to fish for votes.

The solution starts with us ordinary Malaysians, people like you and me. We are the ones who must shelve our default skepticism and at least give 1Malaysia a chance. With everyone I talked to, the immediate response was '1Malaysia is just a show'. Worse, parents subconsciously teach their kids to only mingle among those of their race/ religion, and spout all kinds of racist rhetoric at home. Really, I can think of no other reason as to why self-imposed segregation is observed in each and every Malaysian public school.
Malaysian schools are no longer places for interracial mingling. No surprise, then, that the colours in this photo aren't mixing.

Not only that, the way we treat people and the environment is also fast becoming rotten. We like to say we are a warm, friendly people, but here's the truth.We admire anyone with a lighter skin and blue-er eyes than us, yet shun the poor migrant worker. We hail the white tourist, but scorn the African student.We pity endangered animals only in the lunar calendar and on tee-shirts, yet kill and eat them as soon as we can. We complain about the hot weather, but burn our rubbish and choke the sky with our SUVs.
The SUV is one vehicle that should have never been invented. It pollutes the sky and burns a hole in the pocket. All it does well is boost the ego, as if we need more of that.

So really. It's not all the government's fault. How about we quit complaining, and start thinking of more than ourselves? Of more than oursleves and our exotic dinners, fancy cars and big houses?? How about we spare a thought for the marginalized and poor, the destitute and downtrodden, and of course, the environment? Is it too much to ask that we, government included, use our brains and hearts equally?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


My best friend said a very.... interesting (?) comment today in school. I forget how the conversation went, but it ended up like this "... you'll probably want to be the President of Greenpeace one day."

And that got me thinking.

Greenpeace is THE environmental NGO out there, yet its methods are often controversial, usually involving direct action. This ranges from sit-ins to the blocking of whaling vessels and criminal damage on coal-plants. To the average person, such activities do seem rather radical- after all, its 'just' the environment, but to me, (except the last bit) all of their activities are justified, for the public continues to ignore environmental concerns in favor of tiger-bone, ivory and sharks- fin soup.

But, where do we draw the line? Where does direct activism become eco-terrorism? Can it really be justified in the name of the environment? As forecasts for the state of our biosphere becomes ever more dire, does it become right to bomb, maim or kill in defence of the planet? Consider the fact that human lives are going to be sacrificed by depleted mountain glaciers, melted ice and more extreme weather events

It does not. Not for me. Because the value of human life is the same as the value of animal and plant life all over the world. This means that if you're fighting to save species, destroying your own to call attention and grab the headlines does seem rather bird-brained.

And what would happen if we set an oil-palm headquarters alight? Carbon dioxide is released, isn't it? It therefore becomes more illogical to destroy the environment in the hope of saving it.

Still, deploying vessels to physically block whaling craft is quite alright. And shooting animal poachers is also fine. Maybe we should consider the death penalty or life imprisonment for poachers and illegal fishermen.

In the meantime, lets accept that since its the Year of the Tiger, that great beast deserves our respect. Why waste money eating its parts when the science says there're no benefits whatsoever? You wouldn't want a tiger to eat you, right?


Government response to the attacks have been rather positive, but these cops need to catch the perpetrators fast.

When Malaysia makes it into international newsmagazines, its almost always for the bad stuff. Piracy and the loss of mangroves in National Geographic, human trafficking in Newsweek, and the Perak political crisis in The Economist. Not to mention rampant deforestation in many NGOs reports and websites. Well, we just got in The Economist, thanks to the Allah controversy, and the burning of churches.

Aren't we famous?

My belief is that Catholics should be allowed to use the word Allah, simply because, in the Middle East, where Christianity came from, Allah simply means 'God'. For 600 years after that, Arab Christians and Jews continued to use it to mean God, and when the Prophet Muhammad founded Islam, the preexisting word for God was then taken to be used by Muslims worldwide. There is, thus, a shared history of the word Allah for the 3 Abrahamic religions, and it should stay that way.
This is Allah, a beautiful name for a beautiful God in three beautiful religions. Check out the Wikipedia article for full details on the word.

In Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, Christians are allowed to freely use Allah in their worship and even public posters and banners. Even Arab Christians use the term to mean 'God'. According to Gwynne Dyer, a journalist for the Salt Lake Tribune "... Malaysian Muslims should take a lesson from early [Arabian Muslims]...[the Christians] were quickly conquered by Muslim armies, but were not forcibly converted... improbable that they had to change the word they used for God". (Read the article here)

The government likes to say that when we use Allah, we will confuse the nation's Muslims. However, since the Herald already carries the word TERHAD, how are Muslims supposed to get to read it? Plus, I believe this nation's Muslims are intelligent enough to know the difference in the contextual usage of the word. Those believing that the word's usage is somehow their right (!) are lacking judgement, maturity and are an affront to the intelligence of Malaysian Muslims. A simple history review (provided Free Of Charge above),is enough for this country's educated Muslims to understand the truth.

Like the Economist's article, I believe that the current controversy is no more than the effort of the government to woo Islamic hardliners after losing more of their support to PAS in the last general election. Prominent intellectuals, like Universiti Malaya's Azmi Sharom also believe in this scenario. By contrast, PAS has become a voice of moderation saying that the other Abrahamic religions be allowed to use Allah to mean God in Malay. The 1Malaysia concept has thus come under serious threat, because whoever wins, gaping wounds have been opened. And these can't be stitched up easily.
If the whole issue is indeed a tactic by UMNO to win votes, then the 1Malaysia concept is as good as dead.

In short, this issue has to play out in the courts with all parties maintaining cool heads. Reiterating my support for the Herald, I would like to point out that if the Herald loses this case, which word do we lose next? Amen?

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Now, the world knows that governments need to act, fast, to counter climate change. And most of us already know the perils of living in a warmer world. Many of us are even unfortunate enough to have experienced global warming's initial effects already (think the Kelantan-Terengganu floods and the current searingly hot afternoons). Still, government officials, not feeling these effects directly, drag their feet when it comes to action.
As great a leader as he is, President Obama is still subservient to the laws of politics, notably compromise. Pity.

One reason for this is politics, simple, despicable politics. You see, leaders promise to take action on climate change, but never specify just how much action they want to take, or when they want to take it. And of course, ambiguity is always the mark of a great politician. But more troubling is the fact that environmentalist leaders are scared to death of alienating the voters who don't believe in man-made global warming, or those who argue about the cost. Other than forget the environmentalist votes they could get, they then decide to compromise. Which is why you hear about Obama's plan for clean coal, when a greener choice would be mext-generation nuclear power.
This is a coal strip mine. Now, how clean can this be, compared to the near zero- emissions rate for nuclear power?

Thing is, global-warming won't compromise. The tons of carbon we've belched into the Earth won't hang around and wait for all of us to agree on the issue; it's cooking the planet as we speak. Which means if a government's got something it wants to do on global warming, then it sure as heck should start doing it! Screw the politics.

But politics isn't the worst of it.

There's actually a fair bit of greed here. Oil rich nations (with a significant number of African ones) are dead against a carbon neutral economy, in which oil won't feature. Heck, oil's effects are much more far-ranging than simply the environment- it's caused wars, widened the rich-poor gap, and, in developing countries, caused the curse of black gold. But, because it brings in a windfall in profits, governments are not about to give it up for something as universal as, say, solar. That includes Malaysia; petronas funds too much of the government budget for it to wean itself off oil in the near future.
Despite having oil, many Nigerians live in slums like this, as powerful elites siphon off oil royalties.

Therefore, it's up to us. It is us who must reject plastic, save energy (the sun is bright enough to be used to study- just open your windows), and recycle whatever cannot be reused. Branching out from mere global warming, we must also save our endangered animals by ensuring they remain in the wild- not in our houses, not on our dinner plates, but in our seas, skies and forests. It will be a tough fight, and public revolution is necessary. But we, the young people of today, must look at the choices our parents and grandparents made yesterday, and reject them in favour of a tomorrow with the real planet God made for us.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Now that Copenhagen has failed, the world's attention now turns to the next international meeting in Mexico, 2010. And, as everyone knows, there are certain things that the world's nations need to do to for the next meeting to flow without allegations of hypocrisy, walkouts or protests. My ideas are fairly simple, but they will work wonders in helping to draft an agreement, as well as in carrying out the tasks agreed upon.

For developed countries, it is absolutely critical to start coming up with more agendas on how to tackle the problem in their own country first. To this day, the US still has not passed a domestic climate bill, with President Obama more concerned on the health care issue. Adaptation of green energy, especially next-generation nuclear power, is also going very slowly. In developed countries, politics, rather than economics holds up the process. Plus, developed countries, are fearful of imposing more emissions limits on major carmakers, as the world slowly begins to escape recession, but with the economic outloook getting better, it is time to start doing so. Europe also has to do more, such as imposing a carbon tax, besides its' regular carbon market.
Next generation nuclear plants like this one are essential to combat global warming. Too bad nuclear energy still suffers from bad press.

Speaking of markets and money, the fund for developing countries carbon emissions should also be increased. Developed countries have pledged $ 100 billion to help developing countries fight climate change, but while this figure is too little, the $800 billion requested by Malaysian PM Najib Tun Razak is way too much. Still, the developed nations need to raise money, and this is probably best done through carbon markets. But, better than this method is to develop and transfer green technologies to developing countries, as well as harnessing their abilities to fight climate change (like jatropha biofuel).

As for the developing countries, they've got quite a bit to do too. First, they need to compile a full energy audit, showing all energy sources and measuring the emissions of major industrial sites. They should also note certain target areas for immediate action, and put these areas on the priority list for receiving Western aid and technology. Plus, they should also do complete analyses of transportation systems, calculating the number of cars on the road, and what energy sources do public transport systems use. It's also integral to do energy audits for all government buildings as well as providing incentives for private companies to do the same.
Sights like this are common in developing countries too. Sadly, their environmental impact assessments aren't.

Even more important is the effort needed by developing countries to receive the money that 1st World nations properly. It is a known fact that many developing countries, the African ones in particular, handle simple cash aid with such corruption that perhaps 90% of the money given is siphoned off by official after official before it finally reaches its' target. By that time, the amount is too little to be put to any use. The problem is much worse in these countries' Environmental Protection Agencies, as bribery to flout eco-laws is a norm in developing countries' industries. It is imperative thus, that for effective use of the money, or maybe even increased handouts (if the West decides to trust the 3rd World more), corruption must be stamped out.
Perhaps one of the biggest stumbling blocks in global climate action could be removed if corruption was tackled. As an extra bonus, social equality would improve too.

These steps are by no means the only ones, they are simply what I consider to be the most important. Not just because they'll be effective in the next round of talks, but because they will have multiple advantages, not just climate related ones. So, to work!