Friday, October 26, 2007

The Cambridge Malaysia Forum

We had an official function today, The Cambridge-Malaysia Forum, which was organised by ASLI and supported by the University. We were graced by the presence of our Foreign Minister and Second Finance Minister. I went out at 9am this morning, and only just got back at 11.30pm. It has been an interesting day to say the least. I have learnt many things today.

For starters, I made a boo boo and was told off by JiaYi, for talking so loud. I mentioned quite loudly, that there were no signs marking out where the registration counter was and that the breakfast room was filled with men with too much white hair for me. If anyone from ASLI took offence with my statements, too bad for you. I'm just a little nobody mouthing off, there isn't any need to take offence with my statements.

Then, we get to the speeches. Our Foreign Minister went on his usual droning. I totally lost concentration about 10 minutes into his 30 minute speech. Our 2nd Finance Minister struck me as an extremely soft-spoken person. But the gist of the message to take away from them is that:

  1. They have lost the plot. They kept pointing out that our country is in trouble. We are approaching the slippery slope fast and we need to find a way to stop and turn around, before we hit it. The government is stepping back and hoping that the people will figure a way out of if, which is the nice way of saying that they have no idea of what to do and are shifting the responsibility to the people.
  2. They are in denial. The kept harping about this policy of growth with equity, which I think has a very different meaning from equitable growth. It's essentially trying to redress the whole race based economy in glossy terms. They know that it is not working, but they still continue to propagate it (in different words). This is the bit that confuses me, as I'm generally a logical minded person. If something isn't working, fix it!
After their speeches, the two ministers promptly left, which just showed how much interest they actually had in the dialogue. The dialogue wasn't much of one anyway. It's only during Malaysian dialogues, where I find that forum participants have so little time to speak, while ministers and prominent speakers have so much more. I thought that the while idea of a dialogue was to encourage participation. But I guess I thought wrong. It's not much of a dialogue if you ask me.

So, the morning was pretty boring. But since there was a free lunch (at Catz, so the food was quite good and the dessert was awesome). I think that many people actually attended the forum for the food. We're after all, Malaysians First!

Over lunch, I met this interesting lady, who runs a corporate communications firm for researchers (that's the gist of her business) in the UK. I spoke to her about my background and she was fairly piqued. She even suggested that I'm going to be a millionaire one day! I certainly hope so, but it's still a ways off at the moment. She pointed me towards a UK government body that might be able to help me. I think that I might check them out at a later stage and see if there are any interesting things that I could do.

For tea, I went for an informal lunch with the people from Khazanah. I am genuinely interested in going home to work. Call me idealistic, but I would really like to find a way to contribute positively to my country (even after a bad lesson that I had, I still hold the view that I should do something for my country). However, from the different chats that I had with the different people from Khazanah, I get the impression that, they do not believe that I really want to go home, and they do not really want me to go home. I don't know why.

Then, after dinner, a bunch of us met up with Seputeh MP, Teresa Kok. That's a photo of some of us with her after lunch. From my impression of her, she's one of the old guard. She belongs to an older generation of politicians, who believe (personally or otherwise) in racial politics. I don't blame her for it, but I do believe that for us to progress as a nation, people like her have got to go. We tried to let her know how we felt about the issue, and she wasn't very receptive to our views. But I still appreciated her sparing her time to have a chat with us. None of the government ministers ever bother to do so.

So, the general lessons for me to take away today are:
  1. Our country is in trouble and the leadership is in denial. This is never a good sign.
  2. My country doesn't really want me to go home and help out.
  3. The opposition is hopelessly lost. They will forever remain in opposition.
PS: The photo is a little bad (unlike my usual stuff) because I had my camera set for the room, not the hall. So, it didn't quite turn out right.

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