Monday, August 20, 2007

Howsy Is A DAP Forum Virgin No More: The Merdeka Dialogue Report

UPDATED: Read theSun's take on this dialogue here.

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What would you do on a Sunday afternoon? Still hungover from last night’s wild party? Just laze around your bed? Frenzy shopping? Well, being exactly one week after moving to KL, I’ve decided to lose my DAP Forum Virginity by attending their latest series – Merdeka Dialogue – Whither Bangsa Malaysia at Crystal Crown Hotel, PJ; co-incidentally exactly 3 months after ‘coming out’ (from blog anonymity lar!) at the BUM2007 event.

Relying solely on public transport, I took a taxi to the hotel from the LRT station. Upon coming out from the taxi, I saw Harris Ibrahim (of the People’s Parliament) at the entrance. We’ve met at the BUM 2007 exactly 3 months ago, but me being so insignificant, I didn’t go and say hi to him and we jsut looked at each other. LOL!

Tried to look around if I could see any familiar faces around and saw Teresa Kok (she was in a hurry for lunch), Chong Eng, Chin Tong and of course Tony (with her very cute daughter). Registered myself (I was 2nd in the list!) and the person there (supposedly Swee Kuan) told me that the event will start at 2 pm sharp. The ballroom hall was still pretty empty at the moment and it was just 5 minutes to 2. Sat at the centre corner of the hall and getting my notebook ready. Decided not to use my 8MP camera but instead my 2MP camphone to not attract attention. But someone sitting next to me asked me if I am a reporter and I just smiled and said ‘It’s just for personal use’.:P

The dialogue started at 2.30 pm (Malaysian time mar! The uncle behind me jokingly? contemplated whether to vote for DAP for this delay). By the time, the hall was 90% full but unfortunately as Jeff said (to be discussed later below), the audience was essentially Chinese and Indian and those over 40 of age. What was enlightening though was a couple brought together their kids along to the dialogue.


KKP in the black shirt.

Jeff then came in and the hall was star-struck. Saw Khoo Kay Peng also and bloggers of the same feather flocked together. Kit and son then came in. Dr. Chia, a psychologist and the latest entry to DAP, emceed the event and introduced the speakers. The event was divided into two sessions – speakers, consisting of Kit and son, Charles Santiago of ?, Yeoh Yang Poh (former Bar Council Chairman), Tunku Abdul Aziz (former Transparency International Chairman), and the forum panel. Overall, the speakers gave their own perspective based on their specialty on what Bangsa Malaysia is to them (which most of them banked on Tun M’s quotes and speeches) and almost all of them did not fail to mention the Namewee case (it seems that he is coming back to Malaysia today?).

The speakers.

Lim Jr. led the speakers by exclaiming “Moneycome, moneycome, moneycome”, a moniker to “Merdeka 3x”. That is what the context of 50th Independence seemed to BN now, according to him. He also stressed that Malaysia is not 50 years old now but instead it is the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu’s. He touched on how the NEP is being abused, not just by the UMNOputras but also the ruling coalition gravy train cronies – like how Samy Vellu gave RM1 million to the Sungai Siput UMNO branch instead of helping his own race. As stated in the announcement of the dialogue, he quoted Tun M on what consists of ‘Bangsa Malaysia’; namely being able to speak Malay and subscribes to the Constitution. He envisaged that based on the fact that ‘blood of Bangsa Malaysia flows red’, we should deserve a safe country, get university places, live in a friendly environment and a football team to be proud of, amongst others. He ended his speech with the Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia encounter with God on press freedom joke.


Lim. Jr and his 'Moneycome'.

Param was not in the list of speakers so Charles Santiago replaced him. He discussed two aspects of Bangsa Malaysia: 1. UMNO’s Bangsa Malaysia and the effects on non-Malays and 2. The 9MP and impact on Malaysia. Most of his speech was based on quotes and facts, like Tun M’s take on Bangsa Malaysia back in Jun 1995, Johor MB Ghani Othman’s Malay = pivotal race in Nov 2006, Najib’s concept of Bangsa Malaysia = state of the mind and numerous keris-brandishing and blood-soaking threats. In the 9MP, he explained that hardly nothing was mentioned on Bangsa Malaysia and the Imam Besar Badawi’s Islam Hadhari was given emphasis instead. He also spoke on the issues affecting the Indian community, such as the 3% equity for Indians as promised in the plan was actually just a myth as there’s no plan, and the lack of funds of Tamil vernacular schools.

Charles Santiago.

Yeoh Yang Poh gave a different perspective on the Bangsa Malaysia concept. He said that the concept should not a rationale to group all Malaysians into a single race, but to embrace the diversity of races and pluralism. He explained that discrimination happens when there is competition for limited resources, and in Malaysia, ethnicity is used as excuse to divide and rule in order to maintain power on the ‘limited resources’. He also gave examples that race-based political parties and the vernacular MSM giving different slants are hindrances towards a Bangsa Malaysia concept.

Yeoh Yang Poh gave a different perspective.

As a non-partisan (but once wooed by Kit to run for DAP), Tunku Abdul Aziz emphasized on the importance of separating government and nation, and no one should desecrate the national anthem even though they do not agree with the government (more on the Wee Meng Chee discussion by the forum later). As a Merdeka veteran, he had experienced colonial oppression and said that he cherished the independence very much now. He also mentioned about the setting up of the Sime Darby foundation (is there such a thing?) to prevent the brain drain especially across the Causeway.

Tunku Abdul Aziz.

As DAP is not a very rich party, the organizers then appealed for donations to defray the cost of holding the event at a 3-star hotel, so I also donated some lar. It was later disclosed that more than a thousand bucks have been collected. Not bad!

Donation! Donation!

Kit discussed mainly hot and current issues, such as the Wee Meng Chee case, the just-ended MCA General Assembly and the pathetic Liow Tiong Lai attempt, the Islamic or secular state, and Tun M’s ‘there’s a stench in the air/something’s rotten in this country’.

Kit.

In the later forum, Mano and Harris Ibrahim agreed with Tun Abdul Aziz that we should separate the government from the nation, and that we have to send a strong signal to the government that we love them as Malaysians but we should no longer love them due to their political policies. Jeff addressed the same question on my mind about the lack of Malay and young audience attendance to the event. Both Harris and Jeff talked about putting ‘Malaysian’ when requested for ‘race’ in forms, and that Jeff actually felt more Malaysian when being overseas, as he only needed to put ‘Malaysian’ as the nationality without other labels at the immigration checkpoint. Jeff also touched on the non-separation between the different estates in the country, the UMNO-dominant BN is arrogant because of the Malay votes they get (thus the other component parties are irrelevant) and he is no longer superstitious about AAB’s promises. The last speaker in the forum panel was Dr. Oh Ei Sun, supposedly representing East Malaysia, who likened the Bangsa Malaysia as a plate of ‘ulam’ and the ‘sauce’ that binds them together is now being taken away by BN. He also gave his perspective from the East, stating that the poverty there is worse compared to the West, examples of the discriminatory policies from the evil West, and that the East might have regretted from joining the Malaysia coalition.

The forum panel.

Mano.

Taiko.

Dr. Oh.

Forum’s stand on Wee Meng Chee/Namewee fiasco

In co-incidence with the 50th Merdeka celebration just around the corner (and also due to another forum on Namewee later that night), all the speakers touched on the fiasco and lend their support to him. Lim Jr. said that Namewee’s is not even comparable to the more seditious UMNO’s keris-brandishing acts. Lim Sr. defended him by asking that how many students actually brought along the Malaysian flag for overseas studies and chided the Cabinet for ‘berbincang lama’ on this rather miniature case compared to gigantic national issue like the PKFZ bailout and blatant corruption. Charles Santiago mentioned that Wee should not be seen a threat as he is not even in the country! Yeoh Yang Poh said that Wee is just a manifestation of the product of the society. According to Dr. Oh, patriotism should not be one-sided, and one will only love his/her country back if the country did the vice versa. He called upon the audience to be more open-minded to Wee’s video.

You want my opinion on Bangsa Malaysia? Try with ‘equality of opportunities’ for a start. :-)

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