Behold, I have returned in 2018

Cat in viewfinderIt’s been years since I’ve updated this website but that hopefully will change.

Have been busy juggling multiple gigs, including a fairly long stint with Stuff Singapore. Still a columnist though I piss fewer people off these days – maybe old age has made me mellow, who knows.

Now that I’ve got a lot more free time I hope to spend time working on my own stuff for once.

Since this is my first year in my 40s, might as well make the start of the decade count.

Hopefully I get around to updating this site at least once a week. The road is paved with good intentions yada yada pancake but I’m gonna try and keep this resolution. As well as my 10-year-old one of losing another 10kg haha haha haha.

Wish me luck!

Blog Action Day: Human rights isn’t just a ‘Western’ thing

I was once chastised for my ‘Western’ thinking about human rights.

Well, excuse me, nobody sent me the memo about it being un-Asian to care about human rights. Human rights matters now, more than ever, in a world where the income and cultural divides seem ever starker.

Zenpencils has a neat graphic that gives a nice summary about what human rights is about.

But what is human rights to me? It’s acknowledging that all human beings are all entitled to the same, basic human rights defined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

Yet I live in a country that often ‘forgets’ about the declaration. On Monday, a judgement ruling that a certain word belonged only to a certain faith and was ‘not integral’ to another faith blatantly tramples over Article 18 of the declaration:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

So I care about human rights because I know too well what happens when people don’t care. When people trample all over the sensitivities of others without care for their rights.

Rights matter. Whether you’re from the West, the East, space, Narnia or The Shire. So it’s great that on Blog Action Day, bloggers all over the world will also be talking about the rights we all deserve, regardless of who or where we are.

So, you want to be a popular columnist

Here is my big confession: there really is a ‘trick’ to getting stuff you write to be liked/emailed/circulated.

In my case, I have a whole bag of tricks which I am glad to share with all you columnist wannabes.

(Disclaimer: Following this guide is not a guarantee that you too, like me, will be dubbed Malaysia’s liberal equivalent to Anne Coulter.)

1. Write to be read.
Oh, thanks, Captain Obvious, I can hear you say. But some people who have spent decades in journalism have yet to understand those four words.

It is not about showing off your expertise in quantum mechanics or abusing the thesaurus. Writing to be read means simply to write in a way that makes what you have to say accessible. Don’t make your readers struggle to understand your points.

2. The title does matter
A snappy headline sometimes makes all the difference between your column being the very first thing the reader latches onto or being passed over for that fascinating expose about KFC.

I know my columns will have to compete with all the other articles on the site so I make an effort to keep my headlines short and punchy. Give them a reason to click on your link.

3. Know your audience
A paper in academic journal and a column in a national news site are going to need different approaches. Your fellow academicians may understand what you mean by autarky and mercantilism but the average layperson won’t.

Learn when not to use jargon or at least make the effort to explain terms not commonly used by the man on the street.

In the case of TMI, I know most TMI readers check out the site at work or while commuting. So I keep my articles short so they can quickly skim through the article and determine if it is worth reading. If I bore them before they even get past the first paragraph, they will find something else to do. Like forward cat pictures to colleagues.

4. Write with conviction

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

― John C. Maxwell

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

Whatever stand you make in your column, stand by it. Make people believe you are invested in what you write. To get people to think, it is far easier to win them over by first getting them to feel.

You can win over more people with your heart than you can with your mind. Sincerity and authenticity go further on paper than authoritativeness and being pedantic. (Note: I know it’s not fair but that’s how the world works, bub)

It is not easy to acquire smarts but you can, with imagination, learn empathy. Intelligence or academic expertise takes years to improve, but empathy takes only imagination and a willingness to explore what it means to walk in another person’s shoes.

5. Be gracious
Make the effort to thank people for sharing your links. If you are active on social media, engage your audience, be open, engaging and understand that your column is a starting point to conversation. Let it be a beginning to dialogue, an invitation to debate.

Your column is not a tablet on Mount Sinai from which you proclaim, “I am right, you are wrong, listen to me!”

Sometimes all it takes for your column to ‘ignite’ is for one person of influence to link to it. But it is far more gratifying if you connect with so many people that they, in turn, help connect you to others.

You do not win the war just by creating shareable content. Understand that your readers, not your talent, make you.

6. And etc.
Some people (unlike me) write so well that people can’t help but want to share whatever they write. Everyone else (like me) need to put in the extra effort.

I know I am not the best writer. I am not very talented. I do not have much of a vocabulary. I have neither intellectual rigour, nor artful wordplay. But I do the very best I can with the very little I have. And that, my friends, is something anyone can do.

May the pen and the world be kind.

You don’t have to listen to me

Free twitter badge
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The best thing about Twitter: interaction.

The worst thing about Twitter: interaction.

Because I am on Twitter, people think that it is perfectly OK to do the virtual equivalent of spitting in my face.

Like this one dude who was catty enough to Tweet the following:

“alamak ada org naik darah, give way pls, coz kalau dia marah, people gotta “listen”.

Of course I could make merry of the fact that he Tweets like a 15-year-old girl, but that would be too easy.

The thing is I don’t always ignore my haters. While I don’t bother reading the comments on my column (I like keeping my braincells, thanks), I do take note of the @replies I get. Because sometimes my detractors do have points and I respect their freedom to disagree with my sometimes controversial/annoying opinions.

Also, sometimes it makes great fodder for my weekly column.

The way my detractor goes about it, it’s as though I scream to an audience of bound captives, forcing them to listen to me.

And the thing about my anger is, the angrier I am, the more impassioned my writing. The more I feel, the more it comes out in my words.

If I care enough to be incredibly angry about something, then it is probably worth writing about. So maybe my secret superpower is that the angrier I get, the more articulate I am.

I AM ERNA HULK. I WRITE PRETTY WHEN I’M ANGRY.

The thing is, I would like people to be decent human beings when they interact on Twitter. To be polite to people even when they disagree with them. To be angry about issues, to hate injustice and wrong instead of hating on people just because they can.

But that’s like wishing on a star, right?

So basically I’m saying, it’s cool to disagree with me. But it ain’t cool to be a dick, know what I’m saying?

Especially if you Tweet like a 15-year-old girl, bub. Unless of course, you are a 15-year-old girl. (Then Tweet all you like, sweetie! Someday you’ll grow up and learn to spell!)

 

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From a hater of my ‘We are all pendatang, Dr M’ column

I don’t usually publicise the fan/hatemail I get but this is special case.

It’s funny he calls me an ungrateful Malay because…Aku bukan Melayu-lah, tolol. Aku orang Sabah, faham? Tulis email pun macam budak baru masuk tadika.

Name: saiful
Email: saixgarcia@gmail.com
Message: FUCK U ERNA
UR A PIECE OF SHIT
UR REMARK ON PENDATANG ISSUE IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE UR A RUNNING DOG BARUA CHINESE UR AN UNGRATEFUL BASTARD MALAY QUESTIONING UR OWN RACE
UR ABLE TO WRITE N SPEAK ENGLUSH COZ OF GOVT POLICY TO HELP U A BITCH MALAY TO GO TO UNI.. UR SUCH A PIG RUNNING BY THOSE SEPET
I SAY IT AGAIN UR A BASTARD A BITCH UNGRATEFUL MALAY
YET I BET U TOOK 5PCT DISCOUNT FOR BUMI HOME BUYERS… SHAME ON U SHAME ON U

Time: Sunday January 27, 2013 at 1:02 am
IP Address: 58.71.139.44
Contact Form URL: http://ernamahyuni.com/contact/
Sent by an unverified visitor to your site.

Getting on the Tumblr choo-choo train

I finally dusted off the Tumblr account I got eons back – being an early adopter meant I got to bag erna.tumblr.com. But I’d never bothered posting on it till now.

Waiting for Tumblr to ‘grow up’ was worth it. I now have comments thanks to Disqus and I really dig the theme customisation options on the theme I’m using.

Though the Web interface is super-fun, I’m likely mostly going to login to my dashboard to giggle at the fandom posts on the Mass Effect and Legend of Korra

What does suck though is the dearth of decent Tumblr desktop clients. I Googled them to death and couldn’t find anything as handy as Windows Live Writer (which I’m using right now). What I’m doing right now is blogging on my main blog and using a plugin to auto-post what I write her on Tumblr. This way I’m reaching out to people who are Tumblr junkies and not so keen on vanilla blogs like mine. Plus reblogs are the bomb, y’all.

I haven’t been blogging much lately. Spending too much time on Twitter/Facebook does that to you. Trying to get back into the daily blogging habit as I partly owe my current writing career to my blog. Blogging daily is a great way to keep the writing juices flowing and my blog is the equivalent of my real “home” on the Internet. Twitter and Facebook are really just hangout spots.

Here’s to a return to active blogging!

Letter from reader on Bersih

The following letter from a reader gave me a headache. And am not happy that someone would basically say that if I don’t agree with him I am a “political hack”. Err, sorry, he totally does not understand what political but non-partisan means.

The letter, for your reading: (I DID NOT WRITE THIS)

I was all for what bersih stood for. But, then i read the fine print. See the point by point analysis below. If you don’t go through this and have some doubt as to their intentions, then I know you are just a political hack.

1. Clean the electoral roll

The electoral roll is marred with irregularities such as deceased persons and multiple persons registered under a single address or non-existent addresses. The electoral roll must be revised and updated to wipe out these ‘phantom voters’. The rakyat have a right to an electoral roll that is an accurate reflection of the voting population.

In the longer term, BERSIH 2.0 also calls for the EC to implement an automated voter registration system upon eligibility to reduce irregularities.

RESPONSE:

Based on the CIA World Fact book, death in Malaysia is 4.93 per 1,000 population (based on July 2011). Through extrapolation, for 28 million population, the estimated number of deaths in a year is 138,040 persons. Assuming the information is not updated in JPN over a period of 5 years, on a worst case scenario, the total “un-updated record of deceased persons” is 690,020 people.

According to the EC, we have 11.4 million registered voters. Assuming EC did not update their database due deceased people, this represent 6% inaccuracy of the true / actual registered voters.

Malaysians should ask: can a 6% “inaccuracy / irregularity” (on a worst case scenario) be a strong point to bash the EC or the Government for being unfair? I think this is absurd and politically motivated.

The fact that the opposition won more states in the next GE showed that fair election / democracy is in place.

Therefore, my question for those who are politically inclined: does the 6% translate into a sure win for the the political parties (including opposition) in the next GE?

For automatic voter registration as proposed by Bersih v2.0, many people have expressed disagreement on this subject.

There is a writer who posted something in Malaysian Insider that I would like to share…

“Not that I have anything against people registering to vote.

I am a registered voter myself. However, to force something on someone — be it religion, racism and even voter registration — is something I just can’t agree with.

It’s against a person’s free will. I see it as similar to parents determining their kids’ religions at birth; performing circumcision on a kid who doesn’t know any better; or even how parents of a male child with no penis would show off their kid in a photo opportunity for the Malaysian media, as we saw in 2009.

There are many fears in having an automatic-registration system, primarily on the basis of privacy.”

As for voters registered with a non-existent addresses, everyone knows that we move from one place to another as we grow. Let’s assume that Ali was born in Kuala Lipis. He has an IC which has the address of his family in Kuala Lipis. 20 years later he migrated to Kuala Lumpur, then 5 years later he was posted to Terengganu for offshore assignment with Murphy Oil. 6 years later he was posted to lead a project in Sarawak. Does it mean he has to update his IC address and inform EC every time he moves to another address?

If let’s say 10 million of our population is affected by this, do you think it is practical to enforce it in reality my dear fellow Malaysians?

In short, Bersih’s demand of the automatic voters registration basically forces people to be registered. And that cannot be seen as democracy!

It definite contradicts Bersih’s principles of having a fair democracy.

2. Reform postal ballot

The current postal ballot system must be reformed to ensure that all citizens of Malaysia are able to exercise their right to vote. Postal ballot should not only be open for all Malaysian citizens living abroad, but also for those within the country who cannot be physically present in their voting constituency on polling day. Police, military and civil servants too must vote normally like other voters if not on duty on polling day.

The postal ballot system must be transparent. Party agents should be allowed to monitor the entire process of postal voting.

RESPONSE:

According to the Government website, Malaysia has approximately 1.2 million civil servants. The police & military are consistently on duty and geographically dispersed throughout the country. In fact, they are on duty too during elections, etc.

If the police, military are forced to vote normally, then they are forced to leave their duty in various locations. Imagine leaving the jungle, strategic border locations just to vote. I think this is not practical at all.

On this note, Bersih 2.0 also made a proposal to EC for party agents to monitor the entire process of postal voting. Well, this has not happened in any other countries. Please name me one country which allows parties on both divide to “intervene” in the EC processes or postal voting.

Also, postal voting happens not only for police and military personnel who are on duty, but also Malaysians who vote overseas. If Bersih 2.0 wants party agents to be allowed to monitor the entire process of postal voting, does that mean that party agents need to be posted whenever and wherever there are Malaysians voting overseas? (I’m sure some of them don’t mind having the excuse to have a nice holiday overseas, “in the name of democracy”!)

I think this proposal suggests deep paranoia and mistrust of key institutions in the country, including the Elections Commission (SPR), which I think is simply pathetic.

In conclusion, there has not been any real issues in terms of postal voting, whether in Malaysia or in other countries. After all, from a bigger picture perspective, the impact of postal votes is small compared to the actual votes in the various constituencies.

As a citizen who support fair elections in this country, I suggest that we should be focusing on the actual voting mechanism at the various constituencies rather than debating day and night on postal voting, which, in reality, produces a minimal impact to the election results.

For those who are politically inclined to dwell on the numbers and think that this is still not fair because the postal votes can ensure a better win, imagine this: Assuming 100% of the 1.2 million servants are forced to do postal voting, that represent 10% of the 11.4 million registered voters in this country. Assuming ceteris paribus, if you divide 11.4 million registered voters by 222 constituencies, that is 51,351 votes for each constituency. Therefore the postal votes (i.e 10% of 11.4m) constitute 5,400 votes vs. 51,351 votes.

With all the anger and insult which I hear from the political leaders and Bersih organizers, my conclusion is simple. The impact of postal voting to the overall result is minimal.

The majority swing or “success” for each political party is based on the actual voters who attend, register and vote on the actual election day. Surely as Malaysians, we shouldn’t be so easily fuelled and vortexed into something so small until we lose our logical reasoning.

I ask again the question to my dear fellow Malaysians. Looking at the maths, is this something worth fighting for? Is this what we call unfair election or democracy by the opposition?

3. Use of indelible ink

Indelible ink must be used in all elections. It is a simple, affordable and effective solution in preventing voter fraud. In 2007, the EC decided to implement the use of indelible ink. However, in the final days leading up to the 12th General Elections, the EC decided to withdraw the use of indelible ink citing legal reasons and rumours of sabotage.

Bersih 2.0 demands for indelible ink to be used for all the upcoming elections. Failure to do so will lead to the inevitable conclusion that there is an intention to allow voter fraud.

RESPONSE:

Less than 20 countries out of 194 countries use inedible ink in their elections. Indelible ink is NOT used by developed countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore, France, Japan and many others. It is used mainly in less developed countries with large populations.

Some of the countries include Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Gambia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Mauritania, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tchad, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

It is also worth to note that indelible ink is not a fool-proof method and has its disadvantages such as:

· Indelible ink itself can be used to commit electoral fraud by marking opponent party members before they have the chance to cast their votes; and

· There have been cases in Afghanistan where “indelible” ink have washed off voters’ fingers using bleach; such ink was blamed for contributing to fraud in the first Afghan presidential election in 2005.

In short, if Malaysia decides to use indelible ink, for a country that has a comprehensive database and biometric identification of its citizens, it can be viewed as step backwards for the nation and not a step forward. Remember, less than 20 countries out of 194 countries uses indelible ink in their general elections.

For those countries who don’t use inedible ink, do you regard them as corrupt?

Bersih organizers have really managed to divert the attention of the public on this. Pure deception

4. Minimum 21 days campaign period

The EC should stipulate a campaign period of not less than 21 days. A longer campaign period would allow voters more time to gather information and deliberate on their choices. It will also allow candidates more time to disseminate information to rural areas. The first national elections in 1955 under the British Colonial Government had a campaign period of 42 days but the campaign period for 12th GE in 2008 was a mere 8 days.

RESPONSE:

There is no standard or best practice in any countries to determine the optimum campaign period. For example, Singapore has a 9-day campaign period, the United Kingdom has 17 days and Philippines has a 90-day campaign period. The misconception by the public at large is that the campaign period (whether it is 5 days, 21 days, 40 days, 60 days or even 100 days) guarantees a fair election.

Campaign activities must be viewed as an on-going activity by the ruling and opposition parties and not a one-off activity due to General Election. Both parties must work hard daily or throughout the year to ensure support from grass roots and voters at their respective constituencies. The all year round consistent campaigning throughout each constituency guarantees better results than a one-off GE campaign approach. This is particularly true in the modern world’s 24-hour news cycle, where politicians constantly jostle for media and public attention.

I feel that regardless the campaign period, both parties are not privy to the actual General Election dates (while it is true that in Malaysia, the incumbent Prime Minister has the upper hand due to his constitutional role in advising the Agong regarding the dissolution of Parliament, we know that even ruling party politicians play constant guessing games regarding the exact timing of polls). Hence, it is in the interest of both parties (ruling and opposition) to identify winnable candidates and strengthening their grassroots support through regular campaigning. I believe both sides are working equally hard at the grass root level to gain support.

In short, Bersih organizers and supporters should not view the campaign period as a key determining factor to ensure fair elections. Again, they have deceived the public and caused unnecessary anger.

5. Free and fair access to media

It is no secret that the Malaysian mainstream media fails to practice proportionate, fair and objective reporting for political parties of all divide. Bersih 2.0 calls on the EC to press for all media agencies, especially state-funded media agencies such as Radio and Television Malaysia (RTM) and Bernama to allocate proportionate and objective coverage for all political parties.

RESPONSE:

I feel this is a lob-sided request by Bersih 2.0. Free and fair access to media has been a hot topic of debate since Tun Mahathir’s time. At the same time, we are aware of the existence of alternative media which provide differing views which are sometimes being perceived as unfairly critical of one side or the other.

Lets look at some facts.

According to ITU (United Nation specialized agency for ICT), Malaysia has 17 million internet users in 2010. According to Nielsen research in 2010, newspaper in Malaysia has approximately 15 million readership (54% of population).

Malaysiakini recorded 1 million visitor in January 2011. For one year, it is estimated the total visitor is around 12 million people. And remember, we have other online news portal such as Malaysia Insider, Malaysia Reserve, etc.

On another data by Malaysian Digital Association (MDA) in April 2011, Malaysiakini recorded higher number of unique visitors at 2.7 million compared to the Star online at 2.4 million.

Therefore, if you compare the mainstream news vis-à-vis the alternative / online media, the equal number of visitors/ readers for both shows equal playing field if you want to view it politically. Why Bersih is making a big fuss out of this ?

Another strong point to note is that the Government does not ban or censor Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider or any other internet portals must be viewed as a significant step compared to other countries. Despite much provocation from opposition-leaning portals, the Malaysian government has kept to its commitment of free and open Internet since the launching of the Multimedia Super Corridor, and I think the Government deserves a bit more credit for not emulating China in this regard.

In recent times, we have seen the birth of “invisible & anonymous online cybertroopers” whose job is to consistently post negative comments on any article that appear in various Internet portals.

Whilst we all know that these are either planned or posted by a small handful of individuals, we have not witnessed any censorship from the Government on the strings of unintelligent and provocative postings, including comments relating and blaming everything on the present Government.

The silent majority knows that most of the comments posted online at Malaysia Kini and Malaysia Insider are fabricated / scripted by certain quarters. Postings / ramblings such as “Hidup Pakatan”, “Wait for the next GE”, “Lets vote PR”, “Government bodoh”, etc are “recycled” and appeared in different articles.

If we want to scrutinize further, Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider journalists have the tendency to post a negative title to capture the attention of the readers/ visitors. This makes certain quarters feel that the online-media are pro opposition.

So to sum it all, both political parties have equal playing field judging from the number of readers/visitors for both mainstream and alternative media. To allow fair reporting for all political parties, my view is that Bersih 2.0 must also call for the EC to ensure that online media such as Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider practice proportionate, fair and balanced reporting.

6. Strengthen public institutions

Public institutions must act independently and impartially in upholding the rule of law and democracy. Public institutions such as the Judiciary, Attorney-General, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC), Police and the EC must be reformed to act independently, uphold laws and protect human rights. In particular, the EC must perform its constitutional duty to act independently and impartially so as to enjoy public confidence. The EC cannot continue to claim that they have no power to act, as the law provides for sufficient powers to institute a credible electoral system.

RESPONSE:

I fail to comprehend how Bersih 2.0 can make this call for “reform” of the institutions mentioned, when the Government has been doing precisely this for several years now, beginning with the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police, the establishment of the Judicial Appointments Commission, as well as the establishment of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission.

In other words, the transformation of various national institutions is an ongoing process. And so, rather than continuing to lambast and ridicule vital institutions of the state such as the MACC and the police, I suggest that the Opposition and their friends in Bersih 2.0 should start being more productive and suggest concrete measures to transform our institutions for the better.

This is especially true for the Elections Commission. Other than continued calls from the Opposition for the EC to “report to Parliament” (what does that mean, anyway? Who is Parliament should they report to? How would reporting to a committee made up of squabbling politicians be any improvement from the current way that the EC is established?), we have not heard any specific and concrete measures to improve the EC.

Stop hiding behind vague rhetorical statements, and try to be more specific and concrete about what changes you propose to make.

7. Stop corruption

Corruption is a disease that has infected every aspect of Malaysian life. BERSIH 2.0 and the rakyat demand for an end to all forms of corruption. Current efforts to eradicate corruption are mere tokens to appease public grouses. We demand that serious action is taken against ALL allegations of corruption, including vote buying.

RESPONSE:

I agree and support Bersih 2.0’s call for war on Corruption. I am totally behind this as no one likes or condones corrupt practices in this country.

It took me several days to study this in greater depth and looking at what the present Government is doing vis-à-vis other countries. I am very passionate to share my findings with my fellow Malaysians who are there in KL raving about corruption.

My view can be simplified as follow.

Fighting corruption is an on-going battle, and I believe each country have to come up with preventive measures to curb corruption. When I looked at developed countries like Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States, it took them more than 10 years to fight corruption to a level where it is acceptable by global standards.

One of my ex-colleague is in a top 3 global investment bank and she had the opportunity to sit in to listen to the Government Transformation Programme (GTP as popularly known in Malaysia) update during an analyst roadshow in Singapore and Hong Kong. From her discussion with many other analyst, Malaysia has placed a number of significant game changer initiatives to prevent corruption and this is clearly reflect in the GTP annual report (which I’m told can be downloaded for free).

As this most hotly debated topic in Malaysia, I did some research on the web to get a better understand on what she meant by “significant game changer initiatives”.

For the first time, a Whistle Blower Act has been gazetted and now every Malaysians can submit a case and his/her identity will be protected. This is something new for all of us in Malaysia.

Next was the announcement of 18 corruption courts expedite corruption cases so that swift action can be taken. I think this is a brilliant idea! Not many countries have this.

From the MACC website, I found out more than 800 people have been arrested for corruption in 2010 alone. And 200 + confirmed cases have been published on the MACC website with names, IC number and photographs. This is indeed a significant milestones for this country if you ask me. I think we are following closely the Hong Kong model. For the record, ICAC of Hong Kong do publish the statistics of the convicted cases on their website.

I also managed to check how transparent the Government is in publishing the government award contracts, I have found this website called MyProcurement. Quite rough but it fits the purpose of listing more than 3,000 government award contracts. Not bad if you think about it.

Overall, although more can be said about Malaysia’s effort in fighting corruption, I feel Malaysia in the recent time has made leaps and bounds to build preventive measures.

At the end of the day, the corruption case may not reduce to zero overnight, but as a Malaysian, we have to give some credit on MACC’s effort.

Coming back to Bersih 2.0. Yes, I do support this demand/request by them. In fact, Bersih should work with the Government to bring the corruption cases along with the evidence forward as they have 18 corruption courts to expedite the matter. Anyone can make vague and unsubstantiated claims about corruption. Why Bersih 2.0 did not bring forward actual corrupt cases and work with MACC or EC remains unclear.

So Bersih should stop riding on this demand knowing the fact that Malaysia is doing everything they possibly can to fight corruption. In fact, stop being rhetoric about such pronouncement of intent. Rather, please work with MACC and bring solid corruption cases ! The public at large are sick of talk and debating about rhetoric stuff and all we need is to bring more corruption cases forward!

8. Stop dirty politics

Malaysians are tired of dirty politics that has been the main feature of the Malaysian political arena. We demand for all political parties and politicians to put an end to gutter politics. As citizens and voters, we are not interested in gutter politics; we are interested in policies that affect the nation.

RESPONSE

If there is one demand from Bersih 2.0 that I like, then this will be it. We must stop dirty politics on both sides.

Politics in Malaysia is still at infancy stage. Fact based argument is often twisted to inject doubt in the society. Racial sentiments are always played to spark racial divide. Personal allegation and remarks between political leaders are often chosen as the best method as opposed to fact based arguments or healthy intellectual debate.

If you look in the last 10 years, the existence of a digital community has changed the landscape on how we think and altered our perception on they how we view a particular subject. More predominantly when everyone can express themselves through a combination of facts, fiction, lies and emotions on the web (i.e blogs, online media), then things start to change. This is coupled with the existence of “invisible cyber troopers” (from both sides) starting to post comments on negative things about this country.

Slowly but surely most of us in Malaysia are now blaming the Government’s education system for our kids’ lack of achievement despite given scholarship, good residential schools, etc. We blame the Government for the high cost of living despite having the lowest interest rate for car loans, property loans, etc. We blame the Government for not giving the rakyat enough subsidy despite being one of the most highly subsidized countries in the world. We blame the Government for not having sufficient investors into the country despite our Bursa Malaysia reaching 6 times record high in 2011 alone, etc.

I hope we do not come to a stage where we blame the Government for climate change too.

On the statement by Bersih 2.0 on “ we are interested in policies that affect the nation”, I managed to do a quick research about the Government Transformation Programme and the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) that the Najib administration talked about. After hours of research and reading, I almost fainted to count the number of articles and report from financial analyst/economists around the world on the national transformation agenda. Whether it has impact or not, one thing for sure the stock market in Malaysia has record high at 1580 points in 2011. That excludes that the fact the our stock Market has reach at least 5 times record high in 6 months of 2011 !

I mean, on one hand we demand “policies that affect the nation”, one one hand we forgot about the very achievements which are taking place infront of our eyes.

Dear fellow Malaysians, reading and observing how we act as a country, for a homogenous society, we need to embrace and forgive our differences.

We should be grateful. Malaysia is blessed with so many positive things surrounding us vis-à-vis our neighbouring country.

Each of us have a role to play.

Rallying and street demonstration doesn’t guarantee a better future.

Let’s stop the bickering and dirty politics.

The losing battle with the bulge

My weight is threatening to return to my “chubby” level of 65kg. Sigh. I’d worked hard and reached 57kg in December but now all the weight is back, not helped by my laziness and all the food I get at press conferences. Damn you, delicious deserts!

The only thing that has really helped take the pounds of is, unfortunately, stuff I hate: vigorous exercise. 3 days a week of running as well as portion control gets me dropping a decent 1kg a week. There are no magic bullets but sadly have been too caught up with work and personal life drama to really look after my waistline.

Things must change so I’m forcing myself to blog my progress every day until the end of 2011. Wish me luck.

Health Plan progress:

Breakfast: Nasi Lemak
Pre-lunch: More nasi lemak
Lunch: Sushi take, cawan mushi, sunagimo, onagiri
Tea: Ice cream
Dinner: Nothing, thank the gods.
Exercise: On The Run exercise plan, Day 1

Feeling: Tired, but determined.

Rules for warriors of truth

I’m known to be a despot about books. While I am totally against book banning, I have no reservations about slamming a book down someone’s throat.
There are books that I will demand my friends read, to the point of taking said book, handing it to them or literally smacking them on the heads with it.
“You. Have. To. Read. This. Book.”

There is one book I think all journalists, editors and yes, even bloggers must read. It is called ‘The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect’.
http://www.journalism.org/node/71
On the subject of bloggers, it would be nice for you to read it but it isn’t absolutely essential if all you blog about are personal subjects. Now if you’re one of those so-called sociopolitical bloggers, then I probably will hit you on the head with it. WIth a lot of force because most of you piss me off that much.
Two excerpts from the reviews of the book:

“Don’t even think of becoming a reporter, editor, columnist or influential blogger without reading this modern classic.”

-William Safire,

The New York Times

 

The Elements of Journalism…belongs on the shelf of every citizen who reads the paper or watches the tube.”

Roger Mudd

Wall Street Journal

It angers me to read a lot of the reporting on the current hot topic – the Allah issue – as there is a lot of sensationalist, ridiculous speculation going on. I was hopping mad when one online publication reported rumours as fact.
Irresponsible journalism is unforgivable. Journalists are purveyors of truth, after all. It made me even more angry to see text messages being sent out that claimed cars were burning in PJ and Christians must remove all their religious paraphenalia and PROTECT THEIR CARS.
No, not look after yourselves, be careful, or pray. The message is ‘LOOK AFTER YOUR CARS’. I am disgusted with the abject selfishness and materialism shown by these so-called  Christians. If you were a Christian, you’d know you don’t own anything. God does. It’s His car, not yours. Pray for your country, its people and not your damn cars.
Back to the book, here are the elements of journalism as espoused by said book:

  1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.
     
  2. Its first loyalty is to citizens.
     
  3. Its essence is a discipline of verification.
     
  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
     
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
     
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
     
  7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.
     
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
     
  9. Its practitioners have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience.
  10. Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news.
     

Do our journalists and publications follow those elements. For the most part, no. Our newspapers are mostly glorified party newsletters. Or worse, patsies of advertisers.

The press should serve the people but they are now beholden to the people who actually pay their salaries. Hint: it’s not the people.
No wonder circulation is down. It’s because the public no longer trusts in the mainstream media. Journalists no longer know how to be journalists and the public doesn’t even know what they should expect, no, demand from them.
Standards of reporting are down. Standards of writing are down.

It’s everyone’s fault, really, for allowing those standards to drop.
Then we have bloggers and those who Tweet. I believe in a right to free speech and expressing opinons but some of these people are just plain irresponsible.

Some silly girl on Twitter was claiming that no Malays offered help to rebuild or protect churches.
Who are you, little girl? A journalist? Were you on a church board? You didn’t check your facts, but instead made hateful comments and worsened the situation. You complain about Malay/Muslims being racist but take a good long look at the mirror and tell me what you see.

Would God really be proud of your self-righteousness and blatantly ignoring the truth?
If you refuse to be part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
As a writer and occasional blogger, I am beholden to the truth. My personal stance is that I refuse to be anyone’s mouthpiece. Not BN, not Pakatan nor any religion.

I belong to God, not religion. I believe in His mercy, His compassion, His grace. But I will not be any religion’s mouthpiece, nor push any agenda that does not place truth at the heart of it.
So please, before you forward any moronic SMS or hate Tweet/post/email, think. Is this the truth? Can I prove it is the truth? Will I really be doing good or harm by spreading these words.
Think. Pray if you do pray. Ask. Verify.
Else you will just be part of the problem.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Engaging bloggers for (PR) dummies

So this PR person (not a Textie) asked me: "How do we engage bloggers?" Part of me wants to say: if you have to ask, you shouldn’t even try. That’s the cynical, mean part.

But I suppose I should add my own two cents to the blogger/PR debate which blew up oh-so-nicely last week. Before I joined PR, I was a rarity – a journalist who also happened to be a blogger. It’s certainly an advantage for me in my current job. I can honestly say to journos and bloggers that I know where they’ve been and where they’re coming from. It also makes me rather peevish when I see clueless PR blindly attempting to ‘engage’ bloggers and making a right royal flub at it.

Bloggers are not journalists. While journalists can be bloggers as well, the reverse does not hold true. You do not ‘pitch’ bloggers the way you do journalists. But there are certain things you do with journalists that you can do with the New Media crowd:

1. Find out their niche. What do they cover? What are their interests? Don’t just send any pitch or release willy-nilly. An example of what not to do? Send Paul Tan a pitch about hydrophonic plants instead of about cars, and you deserve to be tarred and feathered.

2. Politely make contact, introduce yourself and what you do as well as who you represent. Don’t wait until you have something to pitch to make New Media friends. Importantly, ask them how they would prefer to be contacted. When I was an editor, I preferred IM or emails. If a PR person had to, then call me at work. My mobile phone was off limits except for absolute, dire emergencies. Press releases and invite attendance did not fall into the latter so I did blow my Fiery Editorial Pissy Breath on clueless PR person. Don’t get me started on the Kaspersky rep who called me at 8pm at night.

3. Work on building a relationship. Don’t treat them like one night stands. Use, abuse, chuck. Malaysia’s small. The media circle is small. Heck, even the PR industry in Malaysia is pretty tiny which is how my appointment got blown up as big PR industry news. Make the effort. Play your cards right and you’ll be regarded a reliable source at best or at worst, angry bloggers won’t be crucifying you on their blogs.

What you don’t do with bloggers which you can with journalists:

1. Send them unsolicited releases. No, no, no. Yes, Gmail may give you lots of storage space but most bloggers do not want releases from absolute strangers in their inboxes. Get in touch with said blogger first, ask politely if blogger would like to receive news about your client, then send them. Just don’t bother sending releases to Shaolin Tiger unless you want to see him do a Hulk Rage. He blogged quite a few times about receiving unsolicited PR writeups. And he’s still getting them, the poor sod.

2. Invite them for events and expect them to write about them. Journalists are obligated to write about news or if your client advertises (sad but true) but bloggers are free agents. You want a nice big writeup on their blogs? Contact Nuffnang or Advertlets for blogger advertorial rates. If you call up a blogger and ask him what angle his blogpost is going to have, quit your job now. Please. You’re the type who makes the rest of us look like morons.

Bloggers aren’t a different race or breed of people. Heck, even Tun M blogs. Treat them like people, relate to them, reach out to them and don’t just consider them a ‘means to an end’. What if the shoe was on the other foot? A journo I knew once said this in passing about a PR friend: "Pity she isn’t more useful." Ouch. What PR needs now is authenticity, sincerity and earnestness. The days of spin and fakeness are over. I’ve said this before – I believe there is a way to be good again. Even for us so-called PR flaks.