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Saturday, August 04, 2007
First Annual Malaysian Student Leaders Summit 2007
UKEC with a few strategic partners including Recom.org, organized the 'First Annual Malaysian Student Leaders Summit 2007', over this weekend (Aug 3 - 5th). It seems like a pretty power packed summit with many political, corporate and educational leaders of note. You can view the details of the conference here. Since I wasn't able to attend (and probably Tony as well), we were wondering if any of our readers who did attend this summit send us a report or comments on what they thought of the summit.
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For a summit of this importance I am surprised that the Kuala Lumpur community did not even know about it. It is unfortunate the organizers were rather myopic about letting other students from other universities know about it. Of was it intentionally done?
Don't be surprise, Over half of the UK Malaysian Students don't know of its existence.. I heard about it when I'm in my third year of study there..
And certainly, they don't really bother to inform any UK Uni Malaysian students.
While the summit is a good thing, UKEC is simple being used by ambitious people trying to get into the committee in order to get a good CV and wanting to climb up their career ladder fast.. This summit's secondary purpose is really to present the committee members to leaders of the coparate, political and acadamic world in Malaysia..
UKEC was set up roughly 10 years ago by a group of cambridge students with the intent of like I say decorating their CV.. They did and by trying to look at the first committee and searching their names, many are CEOs or well known figures in their field at just their 30s..
Since then, the tradition has always continued with other ambitious people..
What's better to put on your CV than to state that you are the president or secretary of UKEC, the umbrella committee of all Malaysian societies in the UK.. There are tens of thousands of Malaysian students in the UK..
They should get to their jobs of working on the core purpose of the societies.. Well there may be none, since when it was created, a constitution was not drafted properly and is incomplete with several mistakes in it..
Hear about a society that does not have proper accounts where all the money cannot be accounted for??
Yes, that is happening in UKEC.. it is happening in other Malaysian societies..
To think corruption is begining at such an age.. I will say we all grow up with it.. Forget about anti-graft.. Our basic morale education has failed..
"Forget about anti-graft.. Our basic morale education has failed.."
We didn't fail at all because this is Malaysia, and we cannot compare her using other models. Who are you to say we fail?
I can't say anything at all about possible abuse in the UKEC, but I can say that from a logistics standpoint, the summit was beautifully organised, free from the hitches that have plagued events far smaller.
As for what transpired, Khairy was there yesterday - half my table booed him. Tony Fernandes was hilarious. Not much else of significance.
Today was more interesting - I think it's quite difficult to have confidence in Rafiah Salim and Mustapha Mohamad (especially the former) after how they performed today. Both gave ridiculous answers to questions on academic freedom at home and abroad; Rafiah made this ridiculous proposal that we send boys to "paramilitary" (her words) boarding schools. For a moment we thought she was joking.
Shamsul A.B. from UKM gave this excellent presentation on the NEP/social contract. I'm very disappointed so many people missed his point about the need to restructure our Constitution to accommodate changing realities in our society. I'm very glad, though, that he was brave enough to state that he believes the "social contract" has to be "renegotiated", and that the Constitution must be amended accordingly.
Anon 8/05/2007 01:56:00 PM said,
"We didn't fail at all because this is Malaysia, and we cannot compare her using other models. Who are you to say we fail?"
Shocking. He who grew up in darkness has no use for light.
But in truth, we have not failed in our morality - we are just a nation of snatch thieves, corrupt citizens, rapist, robbers, child abusers (including incest), but otherwise we are so morally upright with the best civil service and education system in the entire world. Yeah, and like my name is Rockefeller.
The ISIS director was even more appalling. He said that it was a good policy for Malaysia not to have diplomatic relations with Israel because of the situation in Palestine. Admitedly, the situation in Palestine is not great, but there far worse regimes in the world like Sudan (heard of Darfur, ISIS?) who are killing innocent lives by the thousands. Why shouldn't we apply this policy consistently?
Also, doesn't he realize that
1. Israel is the most democratic country in the Middle East that does not officially discriminate its Arab citizens (one only has to look as far as the Malaysian consitution to see discrimination in effect).
2. Israel has world-leading researchers in many fields, especially that of biotech. Now, if we want to be advanced in biotech, does it make sense to isolate ourselves from a group of world-leading researchers?
If some Malaysians object visiting Israel, so be it. But let others have to freedom.
I cannot help but furrow my brow in surprise and astonishment that John could actually compliment Dr. Shamsul AB on 'an excellent presentation on the
NEP'. The topic given to him was whether the NEP was still relevant today and he took almost an hour to go full circle round the question and still not answer it. And at the end, he basically told us that every Article in our venerated Federal Constitution should be reviewed. BY WHOM? FOR WHAT? What
happened to the supremacy of the constituion? Is there an expriry to the foundational document of a nation?
Please, there has got to be another way. Something practical. Something which actually deals with the problem at hand.
I think a lot of the comments that have been made thus far have been very, if not extremely, unfair.
I was in the organising committee for the Summit and I am proud to be able to say that I was there in the thick of things. There was no glamour in organising the event - only a lot of hard work. It is very easy for others to discredit the work that the UKEC has done, but you must admit that to be able to pull off an event of such high-provile could not have been an easy task.
I am not a member of the UKEC, only a lowly volunteer, but I have worked with people of amazing calibre - people who you would like to see at the helm of our country one day. These people aren't just ambitious. They have goals, they have strategies, and above all, they want to do a lot of good to the country. I have faith in them.
As for the comment on 'unaccountable money' and 'corruption' - the UKEC thrives on sponsorship. The UKEC worked extremely hard to gain ample sponsorship for the Summit.
The UKEC is filled with workaholics. Reliable people. Please be more fair with your opinions, because they could easily be misconstrued as jealousy.
My response to Samuel is, not only every clause in the Constitution has to be reviewed, we must give the present government the requisite majority in the next GE so that it is able to remove it altogether.
In the context of the Indian caste system, it is only the NEP that is untouchable.
On the publicity of this event, I would say that UKEC does try its best to spread the words out. ReCom.org does try its best to spread the words too.
On participation, more than 400 people attended the event, coming from more than 150 universities in 18 countries.
While I have to say that the info might not have reached every single Malaysian, UKEC does try very hard to organize this event. They went through many sleepless nights, to get all the speakers and this event is open for public for free. They even allow every walk-in participants.
In terms of speakers, while there might be some complaints here and there on some of the speakers, I would choose to look on the optimistic side, where most of the speakers do speak quite objectively, and I would look at the networking and participation of the students as being much better than expectation.
I have attended a lot of conferences around the world, and I would personally say that the quality of speakers and Q&As are of quite high quality. Perhaps some might say that I might be biased, since I am part of the organizing committee. So, I would let those who are there to judge.
I myself do learn quite a bit of it. And I was going around to check with some of the participants, and quite a number of them are quite happy and say that it is beyond their expectation.
I attended the first day of the summit as a 95% observer (I asked one question). I must agree that the logistics were excellent. The UKEC deserves to be commended.
A NSTP reporter asked me what I thought about the forum, and I said it seemed like just another get-together organised by school children, of the sort which I've been attending for about 15 years. She asked if I thought it was elitist, and I said no, actually, I thought it was rather neurotypical.
My reasons for saying that, I explained, were that: due to the high profile of the MSLS, most speakers and attendees would already be practicing the norms of middle-class Malaysian society. So though this meeting could be regarded as elite - it would be as a meeting of the elites among the median social classes of Malaysia.
The MSLS was probably most beneficial to all who attended, as a networking tool. (Of course!) It was most certainly not intended to be an intellectual event. For example, during the small group discussion on "the Malaysian media" which I attended, the group leader was quite well versed at leading small groups on a given topic... however, he was quite ignorant of any facts regarding government intervention in /control of the local mass media. He focused mostly on gathering the random opinions of his group members - most of whom had no information either, and thus nothing to say.
One should not be critical of the statements uttered by any of the speakers. Each voiced what is theoretically, the correct, median answer. One must understand that every speaker who attended was conscious of his or her requirement to be aligned with existing government policy, or to otherwise risk running foul of it in the future.
Samuel, it's quite disappointing that you missed the entire point of what Prof Shamsul was saying, which is that the social contract has to be reviewed. I thought what he was saying was very clear - his entire presentation touched on inequalities in Malaysia, not just in terms of race, but geographic locality as well. He not only criticised the NEP, but also supremacist interpretations of the Constitution (he pointed out that Article 153 is meant as a means to ensuring equality under Article 8, but that there is nevertheless tension between the two as they are presently worded) and discriminatory provisions such as gerrymandering of electoral constituencies (he called for proportional representation) and the different treatment between West and East Malaysians. I've written more on why I agree with virtually everything he said.
Of course what he proposes is politically unviable at the moment. But in a democracy (even a badly torn one as ours), who decides what is politically viable or not? The people. As Prof Shamsul said, the government has the requisite majority to amend the Constitution. If we wanted to, we could get rid of Article 153 overnight. So why are we not pressuring our elected representatives to fight for a Bangsa Malaysia? Why do we sit down and shut up when leaders from the present regime threaten ethnic genocide if they don't get their way?
I don't know if Prof Shamsul was calling for us to only revisit things like Article 153, or the entire Constitution, but either proposal is worth examining. Look at studies of Malaysian law, like Rais Yatim's PhD thesis on the pre-eminence of the executive, and it's clear that our present Constitution is all but useless. We need a substantial rewrite.
And if you're wondering what happened to permanence of the Constitution, it was tossed out by this regime a long time ago. The Federal Constitution has been amended hundreds of times since independence.
John, I'm afraid I have to disagree with you on this. Firstly to me, Prof Shamsul's topic was clear. Is it still relevant? In my opinion, he negelected to answer it and instead of any semblance of an attempt to adress the need for affirmative action, he chose to give us huge doses of rhetoric and jokes about the NEP without providing anything solid for us to chew on.
Instead of addressing the pros and cons of the NEP (whether it be the his flawed interpretation of the constitutional principles behind it or the defective implementation), he hid behind his tagline of constitutional reform. I guess as a law student, this is something I am repulsed by- not because I think that constitutional provsions are set in stone and thus are not subject to review, but I am certainly of the opinion that the fundamental nature of a nation's foundational document cannot be viewed so flippantly as was evident when he advocated a 'renegotiation' of all of the 183 Articles in our Federal Constitution. To take a page out of Raja Dr. Nazrin's book (again) who in turn quoted Baronness Helena Kennedy, the law tells us who we are, and what we stand for. And although it is absolutely within one's right to push for constitutional reform, one must be careful not to neglect the immensely long hours put into every word by the drafters when putting it together. I personally don't have a problem with Art. 153, or the provision which allows Sabah & Sarawak to have its own immigration laws or even the laws which says East M'sian lawyers may practise in West M'sia freely; but not vice versa. This, to me is testament and tribute to the fact that the land of Malaya, West Borneo and North Borneo were not 'clean slates' at the points of 31st August 1957 and 19th Septmeber 1963. There were administrations present before that and rulers even prior to that in these lands. And it is in recognition of those very relevant facts that the descendents of these people negotiated a constitution for the creation of the Federation of Malaysia. Again, to flippantly suggest renegotiating this delicate Social Contract of ours is to be flippant about our delicate past. Furthermore, what makes one so optimistic that any renegotiation will end up in more equitable circumstances? Will it not open the door to a potentially worse situation of majority oppressing the minority (albeit legally)?
And what makes it worse was that he didn't even have some form of a proposal! He just said, "Renegotiate, relook, talk to your wakil rakyat, the people decide- all of it!" That is as good as saying nothing, to me. General rhetoric does nothing to fill in the blanks of today's inequities.
What took the cake was not the fact that Prof Shamsul tried to hide behind this seemingly general and hard hitting statements and veiled jokes about the NEP (often in the third person), without taking a stand; what it was that apalled me was that he basically abdicated his duty to discuss the topic, ie the relevance of the NEP. In his enthusiasm, he forgot about what was important to us, that is what exactly is wrong with the version of the NEP/NDP/NVP that we have today. That to me is something which was screaming to be addressed but was conveniently left out. Again, it is within his right to push for constitutional reform, but I submit that it wasn't his place or the right forum for such a speech on Sunday. He did not do justice to the topic and such a rare occasion to discuss it. Just think about it- after all that, where has he left us? The only thing I can think of (from the grand total of TWO options he proffered) is that he shifted the blame from unsatisfactory implementation unto the Federal Constitution itself- entrenching us further into the already present dark realisation that things aren't going to change (for the better)anytime soon.
Hope springs up, eh?
hey, chill people....
keep it really chill guys
I don't see what Prof Shamsul provided as useless rhetoric and jokes. If you ask me, there was less rhetoric than the above average but ultimately incomparable presentation by Tunku Abdul Aziz and Zarinah Anwar on corporate governance - all they did was spout generalities about the need for things like "moral capitalism". I found Prof Shamsul to touch on more concrete things in his presentation; I had little use for the jokes, although if he was the one who made that remark about how we try to explain certain injustices away as part of our "unique" nature, that was one joke I did have a good laugh at.
If you ask me, Prof Shamsul's presentation was definitely no worse than Prof Khoo Kay Kim's; Prof Khoo did not exactly speak on unity in diversity, and I could not find a consistent theme in his presentation, which was mostly anecdotes and vignettes about Malaysian history. I still found it one worth listening to because of how these ancedotes and vignettes were illuminating when examining the issue of unity and diversity. I don't look at these presentations as the be-all and end-all; I don't expect them to spoon-feed me the answers. I expect them to provide some sort of framework for me to analyse the questions of the day, and that is what both Profs Shamsul and Khoo did.
Of course, you can argue that Prof Shamsul took the wrong tack by arguing we must look at the NEP in light of the social contract. I certainly think it is stupid to insist that the NEP cannot be divorced from things like Article 153 and the social contract; however, when examining the relevance of the NEP to modern day society, we have to look at what the NEP has become in the eyes of modern man, and let's face it: it is incredibly bound up with the "social contract" and Article 153.
You can argue that what has to be changed is the public perception, and not the Constitution. But I would argue that that is like saying judges should take a different interpretation of the Federal Constitution, and not expect Parliament to sort out the legal issues w.r.t. Syariah and civil courts. As I said, the Constitution at the moment sanctions racial discrimination by setting no timeline for how long such discrimination on grounds of race may last, nor by making it clear that this discrimination is temporary, with eventual equality of opportunity being the goal. These are issues Prof Shamsul touched on heavily in his presentation.
As he pointed out, the NEP has become the Never Ending Policy. But this is because Article 153, which in the original Reid Commission report was supposed to have a sunset clause of 15 years, has always been the never-ending article! We have to get our first principles right - which takes precedence, the Constitution or a policy? The policy may be right, but as long as the Constitution sanctions permanent racial discrimination and draws a line between different Malaysian citizens, what good is it?
If you ask me, this "social contract" has been put on a pedestal for far too long. Even when these provisions were entrenched in 1971, Parliament did not make it a "take it or leave it" bargain. Article 153 can be amended without forcing a complete re-negotiation of the other entrenched provisions. Saying we should leave it as is because that is how it has always been is not productive. Why should we not change? Is it because things have supposedly always been this way, so we should never bother changing them?
In the first place, as Prof Shamsul pointed out, this silly concept of ketuanan Melayu and Article 153 originated with the British! There are mounds of historical documentation proving this; I'm sure you have access to a well-stocked library - the bibliography of Wikipedia's article on Ketuanan Melayu is something Malaysians who care about this issue ought to read. Arguing that we should keep things the way they are because our ancestors handed them down to us is silly enough; arguing we should keep things the way they are is even more crazy in light of how these provisions originated with the British colonialists. Our ancestors had institutions like slavery and totalitarian monarchy. Should we keep those too?
That you expect one man to have all the answers suggests you have not thought sufficiently enough about the frailty of the human mind. The Constitution is supposed to serve the people, not a group of academics or politicians, let alone one academic. It is not useless rhetoric to suggest that the people should decide what we want in our Constitution; it is a democratic principle.
Arguing that he did not take a stand is ridiculous, IMO. He took a stand on the NEP's relevance by pointing out that before we consider its relevance, we must view it within the historical framework of colonialism, and also the constitutional framework that permits discrimination along the lines of race in the first place.
Of course there are more options than the ones he named. There are always many more options than the ones we speak of. But there is always a reason we exclude some options. If you ask me, the important thing is not so much whether we can fix the NEP but whether we can fix the Federal Constitution. As long as the Constitution permits discrimination according to race, drawing a distinction between Malaysian citizens on arbitrary lines (and thus permitting ludicrous but nevertheless somewhat justified assertions that it defines certain citizens as first- and others as second-class), a race-blind need-based affirmative action policy can only do so much.
Just to let you know, the person who was supposed to lead the Media team was unable to make it to the event, and since we were running out of time we had to appoint another of our voluntary member to replace him, hence the absence of his knowledge on matters which would be relevant to the discussion.
I want to assure you that other group moderators have at least done a bit of reading before the discussion to provide references when necessary =)
I won't comment on the possible "motives" of the establishment of UKEC or the functionality of that body as a representation of all Malaysian students in UK and Ireland as well as the reason behind organising the MSLS '07; for the mere respect for those people I know that sits as the current as well as past National Executive Committee members.
I'm only here to give my 2 cents worth on the MSLS '07 event itself.
1. Not being in attendance due to familial commitments, I can't say whether the flow of things were good or otherwise. But, assuming that it was (based on several comments made earlier), it's nothing more than an event well-managed and it does not and should not have any bearing on the UKEC as far as nation building is concerned. At most, I would credit them with being good managers.
2. Being within the community of local student leaders, it was made privy to my knowledge that it is rather "interesting" that the UKEC committees came seeking for assistance from the Ministry of Higher Learning (KPT) to financially support the event and yet demands things should remained at their whims and fancy. For instance, alternatives were given as to reduce unnecessary expenditures. Being an event of intellectual discourse, it shouldn't really matter whether it's done in niko hotel or intekma resort in shah alam (an extreme contrast, budget-wise).
3. It is rather saddening when the "community" in which I'm in as aforementioned was somewhat criticised as meddlesome when the reality is that we were summoned to the table only after UKEC asked for monetary aid from the ministry.
4. Coming back to the actual thing, the MSLS initiative could very well be a start of better things to come in the future. It could provide a platform for student leaders, regardless of foreign or local education, to interact and intelligently discussed issues of great concerns. That much, I'm willing to gladly admit it.
5. The story about Datuk Rafiah was conveyed to me not by the local media but rather the MB of Selangor himself at a recent event. As we were going about our dinner, Dato' Seri Khir Toyo and wife casually lamented that even if the students were in disagreement, booing shouldn't be the way to go. Maybe the boo-ers have the right to do so as it is their "fundamental liberties that are enshrined in the federal constitution". The question is that, is it necessary to exercise such a right at such an event. Being students of higher learning institutions, boo-ing should be seen only as an insult to one's IQ. A supposed learned individual should just stand up and raised his or her disagreement and maintained certain decorum. Then again, this can't be badly reflected on the organisers as the boo-ing, I believe, was beyond their control and anticipation.
6. I'd like to touch on a little bit on the issue of morality and respect for others. As Malaysians, we're deeply rooted in traditions and taboos (pantang larang). the existence of such things were not for the fun of it but I think it's to hold the social fabric intact and in control. The boo-ers must realise this : we are the so-called "orang muda" or the youngsters and therefore, although in total disagreement, there's a way to tackle it. Boo-ing only conveys a message of disrespect to an elderly, to a patron of education, to a person of respectable position. Just imagine you mother being humiliated like that. Although some may argue that as a woman of great stature she shouldn't have reacted with a defensive tone, but that was a mere human reaction and as such humans make mistakes.
With all that long and possibly tiresome remarks above, I'm not condemning the UKEC or the boo-ers or whomever that might've felt like they're under fire. I'm no better than any of them, but I'm merely sharing and hoping that we could improve together for the betterment of our country.
In any case, I'd love to have an opportunity to personally interact with the UKEC National Executive Committee members (most especially this Wan Mohd Firdaus I've been hearing a lot about) and pass my authentic and genuine impression rather than receive it on a second-hand basis.
Aizuddin Arshad of UiTM
Please accept my sincere apologies if i am to appear as somewhat blunt or even rude, for soe of these comments here saddens me.
1) UKEC was not started 10 years ago but has a history of about half a century. Obviously, different administrations will show different results. THe UKEC has been strongest in the 90s and of late under their respective leaderships. CV points are simply a biproduct of student activities. CV points are CV points, anyone can join UKEC and put it on their CV but doing a good job is far different and it is inherently certain that the UKEC crew are doing a good job at late
2) Not all Malaysians are aware of this coalition obviously if they are not involved. UKEC does take the initiative to publicise themselves especially via Malaysian societies in universities. Obviously some messages get lost either through the societies in universities or students not taking the initiative to find out themselves - In short, you do not blame an apple tree for bearing apples but not delivering them to the village idiot...
3) Please take note that the UKEC has a set of accounts far more accountable and comprehensive than tht of malaysian berhads AKA transmile... u will all be stunned by the professionalism demonstrated by mere students
4) Please do not accuse those involved in the UKEC as using UKEC as a platform to get into a so called inner circle within the country. Firstly, ppl at the helm of Malaysia generally started off as student leaders hence having somehting in common. Secondly, to hold events such as the MSLS does require a degree of interaction with such figures. I do apologise but such remarks do sound liek remarks of jealousy. Anyway, there is no such thing as bad publicity and i must say, it is honourable for anyone/group at such an age to get such extensive coverage
Finally, may i reiterate that the summit has been a success for a first try. Please take into account that such summit have to be considered in light of every facet and the first step is always the most difficult.
Again, my apologies to those i have offended for i am blunt and straight forward.
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