Thoughts On Opportunities And Challenges For Kuala Lumpur 2020

Most of the key issues in KL are all related to the economy and development. The level of development and per capita income in the city can be said to be almost, or on par with developed countries.

However, the issues stem from the fact that the B40 in KL are often overlooked because of their higher income than their counterparts from rural areas and even other towns, while the cost of living in KL is not taken into account.

With regards, to income disparity, there is indeed no easy short-term solution.

The increase in minimum wage is positive. In fact, KL should be the pioneer for a living wage that was proposed by Bank Negara. In addition, programs for interventions in welfare, education and health should be expanded.

There is a lot to be done to improve the environment in PPRs, and I believe it is important to focus on children.

That is why I have innovated on what I learned with the Mentari Project in PJ with the Tunas Mentari football project in PPR Air Panas and the Reading Bus Program in AU3.

In the long term, I believe we should have some form of local council elections. But we must acknowledge there still exists long-held fears of racial dominance, dating to the days of 1960s, which was borne through local council elections as well.

The government should conduct a study on how to implement a system that is inclusive and will dispel any fears. Even if we cannot implement in nationwide, the democratic deficit justifies KL to have an elected local government.

KL is a city with a lot of potential, and really the sky’s the limit. However, we need to move beyond the nitty-gritty issues.

We need to focus on public transport, as it is crucial for the city. There has been a lot of work done by Prasarana, FT Ministry and DBKL in improving this.

Previously the free GoKL bus service was only utilised by tourists and foreigners due to its routes which mainly serves the downtown area of the city.

Now, the expanded and new routes go through residential areas and connect with existing LRT/MRT lines. We should look at restarting MRT3, whether using the original route or an improved route.

Ultimately, the KL City Plan must be viewed holistically for a sustainable development of the city. We can allow development, but work harder in providing new PPR areas to ensure the city remains inclusive.

At the same time, the character of KL must be preserved whether it is about the city’s heritage or green areas.

Embracing Our Diverse Heritage

2019 was a polarising year for Malaysia.

Our “culture war”: Malay against non-Malay, Muslim against non-Muslim – showed no sign of abating and indeed, quite frankly, was exacerbated.

One of the main bugbears has been the proposed introduction of the teaching of Jawi khat as part of the Malay-language curriculum.

This, unfortunately, has caused much controversy.

There have been passionate, even vehement, arguments for and against the move.

Certain irresponsible parties have sought and indeed, gained much political capital from it.

Jawi and our heritage

To be sure, Jawi is an important part of our national history—something that many Malaysians are not aware of.

The Pemasyhuran Kermerdekaan—our Declaration of Independence in 1957—was written exclusively in English and Jawi script for Malay with no romanised Malay version.

Ironically, many Malays today don’t understand it very well. While I can comprehend Jawi, I too do not write or read it fluently.

That’s a shame because major historical documents from our past are found in Jawi.

Most of us have heard about Sejarah Melayu (the Malay Annals) or Hikayat Hang Tuah – all manuscripts written in Jawi.

But there were other works, frequently overlooked by western orientalists as it did not fit the stereotype that all Malay literary works were purely of fantastical myths and legends.

For instance, the Taj-us Salatinmanuscript, which was composed by Bukhara al-Jauhari in 1603 Aceh. It was also known as Mahkota Segala Raja-Rajaand came out half a century before Englishman Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan was published.

This was one of the earliest documents in the world that touched on the idea of constitutional law and a social contract that was the focus of Leviathan, talking about the spiritual covenant between God and human beings, as well as relations between a ruler and his or her subjects.

Taj-us Salatin was prized in the Johor and Kedah courts as a reference to the Sultan and nobility.

Another famous work written in Jawi is Bustan-us Salatin by Nuruddin ar-Raniri, focusing on statecraft but also a pioneering book on universal history.

The Jawi issue, like it or not, is just a symptom of how badly skewered our thinking on race and religion has become—especially when one views education and language through these lenses.

The importance of Malay language

There are not a few Malaysians, both Malay and non-Malay, who feel that the national language is unimportant.

But this is a short-sighted view. Malay is not only a national but regional lingua franca.

It plugs us into the Nusantara (ie the wider maritime Southeast Asia) and is relatively easy to learn.

Singaporean government officials and politicians have spoken to me of their regret at how Malay, which is their national language, has become almost totally abandoned in their public life.

Lee Kuan Yew wrote in his memoirs: “At home, I spoke English to my parents, Baba Malay – a pidgin Malay adulterated with Chinese words – to my grandparents, and Malay with a smattering of Hokkien to my friends, the fishermen’s children.”

Lee too recalled how in the 1950s, pasarMalay was the best medium to speak in political campaigns as it was the most widely understood language in Singapore.

But today, while their national anthem and military commands are in Malay, the majority of Singaporeans can barely speak it.

This has and is robbing them of a deeper engagement with Malaysia and Indonesia, the latter being Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The same thing mustn’t happen to us.

But that won’t happen if the market for Malay content doesn’t increase.

And there is no way for that to occur, or for Malay to become richer and less exclusively tied to one race or religion if the non-Malays themselves won’t embrace it.

Moreover, it robs them of insight into the minds of the Malay community, making the task of national integration more difficult.

Let us not forget, the Bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak too, while having their own languages and a huge Christian population, Malay in their interactions as well as worship.

I have made it a point to send my son to a national school, where the medium of instruction is mostly in Malay, which is his heritage.

And he still speaks to his friends in English.

Embracing mother tongue languages

Still, mother tongue education is also important. This applies to not only Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, but also the languages of the other ethnic groups.

Recent studies in southern Thailand have shown that the children there benefitted when they learnt their mother tongue from a young age, in this case, the Pattani Malay dialect.

They not only master academic subjects better, but they even become more fluent with Thai compared to children who were forced to learn everything in the Thai medium from the beginning.

The issue of minority languages weakening the status of Malay does not arise.

The vast majority of our population has at least a basic command of the Malay language, whether in the form of bahasa pasar, or regional dialects.

My point is that it is important that everyone should be able to speak Malay, and indeed, we are getting there, however haphazard the process.

But I find it rather ironic that some of the most virulent voices on this issue, including those taking a racist stance on the Jawi and Malay issues, have children who can’t speak Malay simply because of their elite status.

Upholding the national language – as well as nation-building in general – does not require and indeed, cannot happen, at the price of the humiliation or subjugation of minorities.

Knowing one another

What is needed is trust and goodwill on both sides. We need leaders who have the political will and credibility to bring it about.

My primary education was at the La Salle School of Petaling Jaya. Back then, there was (and still is) a huge cross on one of its buildings – and beneath it, the school’s name was written in Jawi.

In fact, there were crosses in each of our classrooms and no one made a fuss about it.

My father, who comes from a family of Islamic scholars, wanted his children to be able to converse in English fluently, and to mix with different races – so he ended up sending us all to mission schools.

The Islamic injunction of lita’arafu, or getting to know one another is crucial, especially in a multicultural society.

And it doesn’t mean compromising your faith, but simply that you understand the beliefs of others.

In my constituency, Setiawangsa, a surau hosted a Chinese New Year celebration last year.

This year, I hope to hold a multi-faith buka puasa with leaders from all religious communities.

It is important that all schools host more cultural programmes to foster mutual understanding.

The government should work hard to make national schools the school of choice in the medium and long run, but in the meantime encourage cross-cultural exchanges between national, vernacular, religious and even private and international schools.

The government, schools, NGOs and other bodies can play a hand in cultivating it.

If we carry on living in silos, we will end up always living in fear of one another.

Responding To Merdeka Center Polls On Anwar Ibrahim’s Popularity

I read the news that Merdeka Center claims that Anwar Ibrahim’s support among the Malay community is low.

Indeed, polling is an unexact science. I used to trust Merdeka Center – in fact I appointed them to survey Seri Setia and an early survey in Setiawangsa previously.

But this industry needs credibility and independence. The credibility of Merdeka Center was compromised during GE14 as they played a role to advocate the idea that BN can only be defeated through a PH-PAS collaboration. In fact, one of the reasons BN lost was the existence of three-cornered fights.

As late as January 2018, Merdeka Center was still insisting that BN would obtain a two-thirds majority due to three-cornered fights!

In March 2018, INVOKE predicted PH would obtain more seats in Peninsular Malaysia compared to BN.

INVOKE was widely ridiculed. But INVOKE’s prediction was the most accurate of all.

I recorded this in my book ‘9 May 2018: Notes from the Frontline’.

The full book is available here:

‘On 7 May 2018, INVOKE released its final survey, that boldly predicted a Pakatan Harapan victory. Pakatan Harapan would win 111 Parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia while Barisan Nasional would win 54 seats.

Pakatan Harapan was ahead in support among Malay voters in Penang, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, but Barisan Nasional had a slim lead in the other states. In the 2013 election, Barisan Nasional had enjoyed a 30-per cent differential over Pakatan Rakyat among Malay voters; this time no state recorded more than a 20-per cent lead for Barisan Nasional.

As Pakatan Harapan enjoyed strong support from the non-Malays, this would enable the coalition to do well in mixed-seats across the Peninsula.

The only glaring misses for INVOKE were Kelantan and Terengganu. It had predicted that the two states would be won by Barisan Nasional but instead were won by PAS.

Rafizi explained after the election:

“Even in the case of Kelantan and Terengganu, it was obvious that fence-sitters resorted to tactical voting in the last week of campaigning; throwing their support behind PAS (instead of Pakatan Harapan) because realistically speaking only PAS was strong enough (as the second party in Kelantan and Terengganu) to defeat Barisan Nasional in those states.

Likewise, the voters knew enough about which party was the strongest to defeat Barisan Nasional in a three-cornered fight elsewhere, that there was a widespread tactical voting (especially among the Malays) throughout the country.”

INVOKE’s optimistic surveys contrasted with other agencies. Barisan Nasional’s private polling was on the other end of the spectrum, having placed them within a few seats of regaining the two-thirds majority in Parliament that had been lost since 2008. This explains the disbelief and paralysis that characterised the response to their election defeat. University academicians prominent in the mainstream media predicted an easy win for Najib Razak and Barisan Nasional.

In January 2018, Merdeka Center announced that Barisan Nasional would win the general election and re-gain the two-thirds majority in Parliament due to three-cornered fights, the redelineation of boundaries and the fractious nature of the Opposition.

‘The opposition’s prospects range from slim to zero as PAS leaders appear keen to prevent a PH victory. PAS seems ready to assist UMNO on the grounds of preserving Malay political hegemony.’

The polling outfit maintained their prediction in April. In their final poll presented on the eve of the election, they recorded the decline in Malay support for Barisan Nasional but concluded it was insufficient for Pakatan Harapan to win Federal power as the lead among Malay voters was still substantial for the ruling coalition.

They forecasted 100 safe seats for Barisan Nasional, 83 for Pakatan Harapan, two for PAS and 37 seats where the margin of error was within three per cent. This included my Setiawangsa Parliamentary seat.’

The Government Should Look Into The Living Wage Recommended By Bank Negara

Yesterday I explained why the concerns of the employers who are not satisfied by the new RM1,200 minimum wage in the cities are baseless.

But the government should also consider the living wage that was proposed by Bank Negara in line with developed economies across the world.

I have raised this in Parliament before. The fact is that the minimum wage and living wage are different.

The minimum wage, which is the statutory minimum, of RM1,200 is far lower than the living wage. The living wage is not mandatory in nature, but can be introduced through incentives and encouragements.

According to the 2017 Bank Negara Annual Report, the living wage for an individual in Kuala Lumpur was RM2,700, while a household with two children would require RM 6,500.

The living wage goes beyond securing necessities such as food and shelter, but also affords social participation and financial security.

In 2016, nearly 50% of working adults in Kuala Lumpur earned less than RM2,500 per month, and up to 27% of households earned below the estimated living wage.

IDEAS Malaysia a think-tank known for its free market ideas that are frequently referred by major corporations, have also proposed a living wage policy through tax credits.

If IDEAS itself has proposed this, it is clear that the concept that Malaysians need higher wages should no longer be controversial, but accepted in order to drive our economy forward.

The government should look at the relevant sectors as well as incentives in order to introduce a living wage in stages through consultation with government agencies, employers and employees.

KEADILAN Chief Organising Secretary
KEADILAN Central Leadership Council Member
Setiawangsa Member of Parliament

We Must Go Back To Our Manifesto And Stick To The May 2020 Transition

I would like to wish all Malaysians a very Happy New Year.

2019 was a challenging year for our country on many fronts. While Pakatan Harapan was able to bring about a number of remarkable achievements—including pro-rakyat economic policies, continued institutional reform and reducing the voting age to 18—the fact is that we ought to have done a better job especially in economic reforms.

Clearly, more work needs to be done in terms of not only creating more jobs and bringing the cost of living under control, but also future-proofing our economy, to ensure that our workers will be able to compete in the face of rapid technological change.

Urgent efforts must also be undertaken to reduce the growing inequality in our society, that is now, worryingly, manifesting itself within, as well as between, the different ethnic groups.

Doing this will undoubtedly blunt the rise of extreme identity politics of race and religion that we are unfortunately witnessing on our shores, as in a few countries throughout the world.

The fact is that Malaysia cannot be peaceful and progressive without socio-economic justice.

The iconic year of 2020 must hence be a year of reform for the rakyat.
Pakatan Harapan must continue the process of institutional reform and super-charge the modernisation of our economy.

We were greeted in the the New Year with the resignation of YB Dr Maszlee Malik as the Minister of Education.
I thank Dr Maszlee for his service to the nation. I am sure he will continue to serve his constituents in Simpang Renggam as well as the people of Malaysia generally.

The portfolio is not an easy one and while we differed on a few issues, the fact remains that Dr Maszlee was able to achieve concrete things despite a number of difficulties.

Like it or not, Pakatan Harapan must up its efforts to effectively communicate its agenda to ordinary Malaysians, as well as empowering them in government.

Moreover, we need to redouble our efforts to deliver on the pledges of our manifesto.
Among the things that the rakyat is demanding certainty is the transition as promised by the Pakatan Harapan

Consensus announced on 6 January 2018.

The Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council must clearly commit to a May 2020 transition from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the Seventh Prime Minister to Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the Eighth Prime Minister as announced earlier.

This is something that needs to be done for the sake of our country. Whether it is my constituents that I meet in the market, civil servants in Putrajaya or the business community – they want a clear answer on this matter.

KEADILAN Chief Organising Secretary
KEADILAN Central Leadership Council Member
Setiawangsa Member of Parliament