Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Insecurity is the heart of racism

When Subang Jaya State Assemblywoman Hannah Yeoh and her husband Ramachandran Muniandy decided to register their newborn daughter as “anak Malaysia”, nobody told them that it would unearth deep-seated insecurity in Malaysians’ attitudes towards race.

Hannah believes that there is a sizeable amount of Malaysians who – like her – prefer to be identified as Malaysian and not ethnic Chinese, Indian or Malay.

However, she was shocked by some of the reactions she got when she tried to get the National Registration Department to officially recognize the concept of Bangsa Malaysia. “Someone told me I was ‘not a submissive wife’, while others accused me of being anti-Indian.”

While awareness of the Bangsa Malaysia concept is growing, Hannah says that her recent experience has revealed that a segment of the population is resistant towards it. “Some people condemn political parties for having racist agendas, but they are not able to let go of the notion of race either.”

Hannah traces this attitude on the system of racial labeling which has become a ‘stronghold’ in the way this country functions.

“Race is at the core of each Malaysian’s identity from the moment they are born. Everything revolves around which category you tick in the box for ‘race’ in Malaysia,” the former lawyer told The Rocket.

Hannah points out that a Malaysian going overseas who describe themselves as being ‘chinese’ would find themselves being mistaken for being a China national.

Asked what would make Bangsa Malaysia a reality, she replied that Malaysians must abandon the argument of race.

“Our sense of security in our identity must not be rooted in skin color. It comes from knowing who you are… your relationship with your Maker and your loved ones… being empowered by that. I don’t believe I depend on my skin color for anything,” stressed Hannah.

The first-term state assemblywoman firmly believes that insecurity is at the heart of racism. “Insecurity turns people into racists. But unity can happen when the people of this land feel a sense of belonging, when we look at the things that unite us and not focus on skin color.”

Describing an example of unity, she relates the story of two best friends and former schoolmates, which she calls a tale of “the real 1 Malaysia”. Wheelchair-bound Chin Kit is best friends with Azizul. Despite living in Pantai Dalam, Azizul would travel all the way to USJ 1 in Subang Jaya just to spend time with Chin Kit.

They hang out together and often share a taxi to go shopping. Azizul, who suffers a disability to his hand, would carry Chin Kit in and out of his heavy wheelchair.

“In a country with no natural disasters, we often take unity for granted. But these two friends with disabilities had to depend on each other for survival. There is no room for discrimination when we need to depend on each other,” Hannah added.

“Don’t be an Ibrahim Ali at your dinner table”

Quoting blogger Nathaniel Tan, Hannah exhorted parents to be mindful of their choice of words when speaking about those of other races. “Don’t be an Ibrahim Ali at the dinner table, your children will easily pick up stereotypes,” she said.

Hannah believes that leadership is the key to breaking racial stereotypes. She added that Bangsa Malaysia would not happen if teachers continue to be trained by Biro Tata Negara, or if political parties are race-based.

She rapped Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak for spending millions on branding to promote the 1 Malaysia concept “without sincerity”, and not living up to expectations. Hannah said that the slogan is without substance if the Prime Minister does not take action against incidents of racial intolerance.

For instance inflammatory remarks by Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali; or the recent 8TV Ramadan Public Service Announcement Advertisements – which she describes as “tasteless and condescending”.

Hannah warned against an attitude of “sweeping things under the carpet”, as over time, the accumulated sensitivity will explode. She supports DAP National Chairman Karpal Singh’s suggestion of legislating a Race Relations Act.

The 32-year-old says that she always strives to emphasize inclusiveness in constituency allocations and programmes organised by her kawasan. “For instance, in the Subang Jaya Talent Quest competition, we required group participants to be multicultural and not just made up of members of the same race,” she said.

Hannah – also known as Yeoh Tseow Suan – decried that mono-racial friendship has become second nature in an increasingly polarised society. She described the phenomenon of adults gradually having fewer friends of different races as being “unhealthy”.

By nurturing the things that unite Malaysians, she hopes to rekindle multicultural friendships – in particular for her daughter’s generation. -The Rocket

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hailstorm in USJ

Article from SJ Echo - "Mini Tornado" Hits Puchong and Parts of USJ

Residents and Authorities Cleaning Up in the Aftermath

TNB personnel working into the night to restore power to homes left in the dark for hours after the storm.

PUCHONG and USJ residents were caught off guard with the sudden heavy storm that swept through their neighbourhoods leaving behind a trail of destruction.

Several parts of USJ especially in USJ13 experienced a hailstorm just before thunder, lightning, strong winds and heavy rain poured down mercilessly in the housing estates.

Photo of the small pieces of ice which fell from the sky, courtesy of Mr Ang of USJ13 RT

The "mini tornado" as described by sources close to the Meteorological Services Department, left a trail of destruction - fallen trees and even disruption in power supply to several areas.

MPSJ, Bomba and even TNB personnel were kept busy the whole afternoon right into the night, trying to clear roads of debris and reconnecting power to homes which had been left in the dark since 4pm.

ADUN Subang Jaya Hannah Yeoh who went around the neighbourhoods of USJ9, USJ13 and USJ14 to see the extend of the damage said she hoped residents would be patient as the authorities raced against time to carry out their work.

Hannah calling TNB while she is with residents of USJ13

Earlier reports from residents described chaos as tree branches and uprooted trees blocked off roads in neighbourhoods and also Persiaran Murni.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My tribute to the late OCPD

A few months ago, YB Gobind Singh Deo (Member of Parliament for Puchong) and I had a conversation about town hall meetings and co-operation with the police. Naturally, we touched on the issue of application for police permits for such meetings and the person in charge of considering such applications – the late OCPD Tuan Zainal Rashid. When his name was mentioned, YB Gobind’s description of him stayed in my head until today: “A good man”.

A good man. That’s him. Our Tuan Zainal. Ever since I was elected the State Assemblyman of Subang Jaya, I have attended 3 funerals for police officers at USJ 8 Balai. His is my third. When I received news of his sudden death from MPSJ councillor Rajiv Rishyakaran, I was stunned. I could not believe the sms I saw. I wanted to just delete it and pretend that I never saw it.

Just a few days before his death, I hosted a thanksgiving dinner for rescue workers of the explosion at Empire, namely the policemen and the firemen. Tuan Zainal sat next to me at the dinner table and we had an interesting conversation. He gave me slimming tips when we started chatting about the weight I put on during pregnancy. We talked about my caesarean surgery. He spoke about the importance of “urut” to get back into shape. I wanted to stay back a little longer to chat with him and now regret for failure to obey that tugging at my heart. I didn’t know that that would be the last time I saw him.

The last time I saw him - photo courtesy of SJ Echo

In the course of performing my duties as the State Assemblyman of Subang Jaya, I have met many police officers but Tuan Zainal stood out like a star. He was always down to earth and made me feel very comfortable around him. Always patient to explain procedures to me (he did the same at the Empire explosion site at 5am!). He had invited me to his house before for Hari Raya gathering and had the pleasure of meeting his wife. Sadly, I missed the chance to buka puasa with him at the new surau in IPD Subang Jaya this year.

Our karaoke session together

I will never forget meeting him at the first function organised by USJ RA in 3K. I was called out to sing a P. Ramlee duet with Tuan Zainal. I was nervous, firstly I’m a lousy singer and secondly, having to belt out a P. Ramlee song gave me double anxiety. Again, Tuan Zainal did what he knew best – making people around him feel comfortable and I did not just survive the song, I actually enjoyed it!

My colleagues in politics have often complained about the difficulty of securing police permits for their events. I did not share the same fate, simply because Tuan Zainal was a fair man. I count meeting him, knowing him and having fellowshipped with him as one of the great joys of serving as the ADUN of Subang Jaya.

He will be greatly missed! - photo courtesy of SJ Echo

Some days I still go to his Facebook page and see his photos. His sudden passing is a great loss to the community of Subang Jaya. I know he will be greatly missed by his family and those who love him. A tribute article like this cannot do justice to the nice man that he was. But this is the least I can do, to let Subang Jaya residents know what a fine man we had in our late OCPD. A good man indeed.

Giving credit when it is due

Giving Credit When It Is Due

Ever since I became the state assemblyman for Subang Jaya, sleeping late has been a norm. Some days I get to go to bed early yet still remain awake till early morning pre occupied with so many thoughts. September 28 was no different. I happened to be awake at about 3am and was reading tweets on my phone when I received a tweet from a resident in SS17 informing me of a loud explosion coming from Empire Shopping Gallery. I immediately rang the police from SS17 police station and they told me they were already at the site. After notifying the MPSJ engineer, I rushed to the site too.

When I arrived, I was greeted by Tuan Ariffin from the SS17 police station and then Chief Inspector Sulaiman. As I walked closer to the site of the explosion, I noticed the firemen led by Deputy Supt Tuan Khairi bin Daud of the SS17 balai were already at work. Soon after, I met our OCPD Tuan Zainal who was also there at 5am. This article is not to talk about the explosion (which you can read from other news reports). I want to talk about the brave men involved in the rescue and inspection works.

This was the first time I had ever experienced a large scale emergency incident. Seeing the rubble in front of my very eyes was a numbing experience. I have been to Empire to have family meals and my immediate thought was “what if we were in there when this happened? My husband, my baby, my parents, sisters, brothers, friends and etc?” The next question that came to mind “wow, rubble, broken glass – do I dare to walk in to have a look if they allow me to?”. I didn’t have the answer.

And then I looked up and saw the bomba officers walking in and out of the building, looking unwavering and without doubt about their own safety. Something shifted inside me. I knew it was the “underestimated the risks involved” mindset when assessing the performance of some of our men in orange and blue. 

When I tweeted about how impressed I was with them, someone replied commenting that I should not praise them for what is expected of them to do (their job). You see – it takes a lot of courage to walk towards the rubble and into the building to inspect (not knowing the cause of the explosion and whether or not it was going to explode again?!). 

What if they don’t walk out alive? What about their loved ones? I couldn’t find it within me the same courage they had and for that, they deserve my praise! I hope in today’s pessimistic society, we can be more generous with our praise and encouragement when credit is due. After all, it doesn’t cost much to say thank you for being brave!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Forum Belanjawan 2012 on 11/11/11

A public forum on the national budget is being held in Subang Jaya on 11 Nov 2011 9pm at Dewan MPSJ SS15, featuring YB Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad (MP Kuala Selangor), YB Liew Chin Tong (MP Bukit Bendera, Penang) and YB Azan Ismail (MP Indera Mahkota, Pahang), who are members of the Pakatan Rakyat shadow budget committee. Organized by Pemuda Pakatan Rakyat Kelana Jaya. All are welcomed!