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Tag: politics

What is Sinar Project and why we should care if it lives or dies

Published in Malay Mail Online

By Zurairi AR

SUBANG JAYA, Feb 20 ― Located on the sixth floor of a building, the only thing distinguishing Sinar Project’s front door from the other nondescript grey doors on this long corridor are the myriad feisty stickers ― in support of net neutrality, privacy, free press and speech ― on it.

Inside, you are immediately greeted by shelves of computer programming textbooks ― from Java to Rails. On the desks its members share are scattered Nanoblock toys and a giant 3D puzzle of Moscow’s St Basil Cathedral.

“Swee Meng always has to tinker with something,” Sinar Project’s co-ordinator Khairil Yusof said apologetically, referring to the group’s chief technologist and his long-time friend.

But they are not all toys. One particular miniature gizmo is actually a circuit to measure the office’s air quality, which the group hopes can be a prototype for a network of data-gathering monitors placed across the country.

The 400-square feet studio-turned-office is home to the country’s sole specialists in open data, government transparency and digital rights, but Sinar Project might not even survive the end of this year due to dwindling funds for its niche non-profit work.

Holding up a cloudy mirror

Published in Malay Mail Online

After the havoc President Donald Trump has wreaked in his two weeks in office, it is hard not to feel schadenfreude for the superpower that has always acted like it knows what is best for the world. Apparently it does not even know what is best for itself.

Trump has not only antagonised journalists, but seems to be on a warpath against the institution. His strategist Steve Bannon — whom many have now taken to mockingly calling President Bannon — has attacked journalists by labelling them the “opposition party”, demanding the institution just “keep its mouth shut.”

Funny how Trump’s White House was so hell-bent on “correcting” the attendance numbers at his inauguration, with blatantly false information given by the White House press secretary Sean Spicer himself; this was later defended as “alternative facts.”

And Trump’s family members just cannot stay away from his administration, as much as Trump just cannot stay away from his business interests. His daughter Ivanka Trump is reportedly playing a quasi-First Lady role, replacing Melania Trump. Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner is serving as senior adviser to the president.

Then, Trump fired attorney general Sally Yates who had defied him, calling her act a “betrayal.”

To the rest of the world, the actions of Trump’s first few days were mighty repugnant. But to some Malaysians, it was just like looking into a cloudy mirror. Such a familiar sight, but much dirtier.

A nation of ‘kap chais’

Published in Malay Mail Online

I do not ride a motorbike. My father, himself a wild rider in his youth — complete with a scrambler bike — forbade his sons from ever riding, for reasons we did not bother asking.

My memories of riding pillion on an underbone bike, which we call kap chai, are about hitching a ride to Friday prayers, either with my late grandfather in Johor back in my high school days, or now with my father-in-law in Kelantan.

Living beside a main road in Putrajaya, my sleeping hours are punctuated by kap chai bikes; the shriek of their puny engines magnified tenfold by their vulgar exhaust mufflers as they go by, keeping me worried that the wee baby would be shocked into waking up (fortunately, she never did).

There are dedicated motorbike lanes in most parts of Putrajaya, especially accompanying the wide four-lane roads that go between precincts. They, of course, remain ignored by riders who choose instead the wide roadways.

Still, the bikes remain essential to the working class who needs to cross the massive administrative capital on a day-to-day basis. It is a similar situation for university campuses. Malaysia likes to build things big, but never with any consideration for the humans who would live in it.

Will there still be one Malaysia in 2017?

Published as “A Malaysia for All” in Malay Mail Online

The year 2016 has left many of us bruised and battered, emotionally and spiritually, and it is easy to make the mistake of anthropomorphising the year to lay blame at its feet.

There were major celebrity deaths and earth-shattering socio-political upheavals; you would think that 2016 was being unnecessarily cruel to humankind, making it one of the worst years in history.

But alas, 2016 has no mind of its own, nor were the events a deliberate machination of fate. Things just happened.

And in this country, the year 2016 symbolised the start of the deepening fissures that aim to cleave Malaysia in two — a repercussion that we have felt ever since the divisive 2013 general elections.