Friday, July 22, 2011

BERSIH 2.0 aftermath

On the 9th July 2011, many Malaysians, regardless of races, language and religion, numbering up to 50,000 (estimates vary depending on the source, 50,000 claimed by Bersih 2.0,
6,000 claimed by police) walked out on the streets, supporting the call for free and fair elections.

They were walking towards a Stadium previously granted by both the King (Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin) and the Prime Minister (Dato' Sri Haji Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak). However, the Home Minister (Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein) still refused to acknowledge BERSIH 2.0 and declared that Bersih is illegal. Thus they were not able to obtain a police permit to gather at Merdeka Stadium. Despite this, the supporters of BERSIH 2.0 marched down the streets on that day only to meet a well prepared police line of defence which had been on the street blocking the road to the Stadium since the day before.

What followed was internationally condemned for police brutality and violating human rights. Police thrown tear gas into the peaceful crowd and splashed water cannons at them. They evenattacked a hospital after cornering the citizens into it. One citizen died after collapsing and only receiving help from an ambulance after one and a half hour. His family blamed the police for withholding medical aid to the victim. Over one thousand demonstrators were arrested that day.

The aftermath came down hard on the government of Malaysia, Barisan National (BN). Not only does Amnesty International denounced the crack down, they supported a small group of BERSIH 2.0 UK in London doing street protest (by giving protest signs) while the Malaysian Prime Minister visited London from the 12th to the 15th July. Even Queen Elizabeth wore a yellow dress in greeting Najib and his wive. The author personally joined in the protest on the last day on the 15th July and had a great time singing "Yellow Submarine" outside the Intercontinental Hotel where Najib was to have his dinner.

Yellow being the colour of BERSIH 2.0 T-shirt is banned and deemed illegal in Malaysia. While submarine was for the sandal case involving Najib. Even the United Kingdom police supported the call for democracy as they recognise that democracy involves having demonstrations from time to time. (In fact even having just been in the United Kingdom for only 10 weeks, I had already witnessed 3 other demonstrations held for various other reasons.)

Before the demonstration on the 15th July, there was a short briefing for us, reminding us of the peaceful spirit of demonstration and non-political involvement of BERSIH 2.0. The main message of that particular demonstration was to demand the release of six person still being withheld by the Emergency Ordinance (dubbed EO6). After the demonstration, the organisers for the BERSIH 2.0 UK debriefed us, saying that the movement for free and fair elections does not end with the 9th July rally but to be continued on. Having a presence at London is important as well as the unprecedented numbers of Malaysians having spoken up. Also, in a play of words, they said that the government of Malaysia only banned BERSIH, not BERSIH 2.0!

Following up on continuing the movement for electoral reform, BERSIH 2.0 has released a guideline on their website asking individual Malaysians to take the spirits to the core and initiate their own events. This is relevant in view that the Malaysian government has been busy covering up (via local mainstream media) almost everything bad about what happened in the 9th July rally and trying to win over the hearts of the common people. One report in the Economist on the BERSIH 2.0 rally was partly censored before distributed to the people and the police released their own version of what happened on that day. In my personal view, it all seems to be a foolish attempt that will succeed only if the internet did not exist or that fewer Malaysians cared.

With the next General Elections in Malaysia coming up before March of 2012, the outlook does not look good for BN. In a facebook page unrelated to BERSIH 2.0, more than 200,000 people liked "100,000 People Request Najib Tun Razak Resignation". One blogpost said that the Malaysian Prime Minister should learn from Singapore Prime Minister "to share power".

As for the global view, the author must apologise for the previous article for not being able to find anything about Singapore BERSIH 2.0 rally at the time of writing the previous piece. According to the facebook page Global BERSIH 2.0, more than 4000 people in over 38 cities around the world joined in the 9th July rally at their respective local time. These included Singapore Online (63), Singapore Picnic (200). "The organisers in Singapore, aware of the restrictions on public gatherings posed by the Singapore authorities, quite cleverly decided to do an online show of their love for Malaysia and their support for the Bersih 2.0 campaign. However, there were some folks who decided to gather informally for a picnic at a popular park."

It is impressive that there are so many Malaysians out there. As a Malaysian student in NUS, I can say it is unsurprising as Malaysia has been allowing brain drain to continue for a long long time by now. The latest case can be seen with the First Malaysian Gold Medallist in the International Physics Olympiad 2011, Chew Kok Wei who is going to Peking University to study Physics. Hopefully, whatever government comes to power next in Malaysia can fix what has been long broken in the country.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

London, the Internship

This is the post that I will review what my feelings about this Internship at the United Kingdom.

Coming to an overseas summer research project has been my dream since I knew about Caltech SURF from Tao Ye who just came back from there to continue on her year 4. A bit late for the usual schooling time, but just nice timing to catch up very fast. I was a freshman then.

I planned so many modules and programmes for myself that I had to take at least 6 modules in NUS every semester, and no way I'm going to go for SEP (Student Exchange Programme). A summer exchange programme is too expensive, and the two other overseas trips (BIA and CHIP) I had the fortune to join in while in NUS are too short (2 weeks).

So this is truly the first time I've ever spend so long overseas (I count Singapore and Malaysia as my home by now) and living alone. It's 10 weeks now, 2 more weeks to go. And thus I have achieved one of my dreams. Thanks to NUS, Imperial College, Hariom, SongHan, and my parents!

In this summer, I had also fulfilled one of my childhood dream of playing Pokemon for real (using the official handheld device) at least before I eventually lose interest in it. Well, seeing that adults rarely play games, I take it that they are a boring species to grow into. Part of the reason I'm still so childish. Now I kinda understand that some adults do play games too, while most seek their pleasure from romantic encounters and a life partner.

Currently I have largely finished Pokemon Black, starting on with Pokemon SoulSilver, and ordered Pokemon Platinum. That's the 3 games I'll play.

Also I've not expected to meet so many friends that I've already known in the United Kingdom during the period that I'm here.

First off it is Carmen.... I guess I didn't realised or care that she when to United Kingdom for SEP. I just knew she's in SEP. So I was kinda like, oh Carmen is in UK too right? Will I get to meet her there? Only after I got the Imperial offer for some time.

Strictly speaking this is not considered as my friend that I knew before, but.... Then my dad's friend, Uncle Kok Heng invited me for a dinner! It was nice. I went to his home too!

And now for the more Imperial side of the story, my cousin, Jia Long is still an Imperial student but.....just nice that he's in USA doing one year exchange and we completely miss each other while I'm in his College....... But then.... his sister, Ting Hui had graduated from Manchester's University and is coming back for work just before I leave. So at least I get to meet one of my cousins.

Then there's of course my Secondary School friends. Ming Wang, who is an Imperial guy! He just when back and introduced me to Franciscans in the UK. Amazing, just how much link there are. And then I found out (embarrassingly) that two other of my Sec School friends who are Franciscans too are in UCL and LSE respectively. (Haven't meet them through)

And now closer to NUS again, Wei Ling came with her parents to London and then to Cambridge for a similar summer intern (shorter than mine). And I get to meet her here at London and at Cambridge when I visited her.

This is not in United Kingdom, but I'll say it still..... Also the SPS gang (including Wei Ling) where I've met my previous room-mate, Hariom, IPhO buddy, Mukhtar, pre-IPhO friend, Tuan Beng, the usual handsome Sandoko, the eating champion Raymond, and tall Wei Guo. Didn't get to see Barry, Yee Ann, and Chern Hui..... but it's cool. Oh and it's during my two days weekend trip to France!

And now I got word that Tzyh Haur (fellow SPS senior, friend) is coming to London! Haha... nice....just amazing how nice a timing I had here.......

Speaking about timing, here are a few amazing events that I've visited since coming to UK. They are just so near and timely that I can't miss it!

  1. Pokemon National Championship UK at Birmingham.
  2. Rubiks Cube world record (London), 330 people solving in 1 hour at the same place, I was one of them, got a free cube too.
  3. Flash mob meditation in London. Went for 2 already, going for the third one just before I leave.
  4. BERSIH 2.0 rally (London), just sending our Prime Minister before he goes off to Rome. This is where I met so many more Malaysians in the UK!
Cool timing huh? I didn't expect these to happen while I'm here. But since they did, it's just amazing to join in!

The experience of guarding my wealth and not overspending, in fact, recording down all my expenses so that I don't have to transfer money from Singapore is just harrowing and offers a real insight into what does it means to worry about money. Now that I can clearly see I'm successful in saving lots of money, I'm a bit less worried about this part.

Taking about saving money, cooking meals has been a wonderful experience. However, cooking the same thing for the same person (me) can get boring easily. So, not only do I keep on improving my cooking skills and materials (now my soup taste so good, you'll want some), I'm looking forward to cook for others to enjoy! I kinda understand how a housewive/husband feels like now!

Travelling on foot is one more thing I get to do a lot in the UK. I get to rediscover the passion for travelling (on foot) in me. This is one thing that I love about London!

On the negative side, (to balance out too many perceived positives here) I am interacting with Buddhism far too little favour of comic books..... read almost all the Marvel Ultimate Universe comic books already!

And I'm a bit lonely, didn't make much friends here. Anyway I needed some time for myself. To think, to talk to myself. This is important for the things I'll need to face when I come back to Singapore.

So with three more weeks to go before school reopens, I need to focus on what's up ahead: To finish my work in Imperial and to prepare for my Final Year Project in NUS!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Malaysian Call for Fair Election: BERSIH 2.0 is on 9th July 2011

Singapore's neighbour, Malaysia is having one of the biggest Demonstration in recent years.

BERSIH (clean) 2.0 is the follow up of the 2007 Bersih Rally. It calls for free and fair elections in Malaysia with 8 demands (more details at the website,

  1. Clean the electoral roll
  2. Reform postal ballot
  3. Use of indelible ink
  4. Minimum 21 days campaign period
  5. Free and fair access to media
  6. Strengthen public institutions
  7. Stop corruption
  8. Stop dirty politics

Lead by Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan, BERSIH 2.0 has so far gathered over 50 thousand likes on it's officialfacebook page with strong calls for Malaysians to be brave enough to come and join in the planned street rally on 9th July 2011.

The street rally is meant to be peaceful and non-political, just civil movements of 62 Non Governmental Organisations asking for greater democracy. However, the response to this rally turns out to be tremendous. Perkasa (a non-governmental Malay Supremacy), and 56 Non Governmental Organisations are asking BERSIH 2.0 to call off their rally and are launching a counter rally against them. UMNO (United Malays National Organisation) Youth also calls for a counter rally, separate from Perkasa against BERSIH 2.0. The opposition to BERSIH 2.0 claims that it is a political movement (as it contains the political opposition party,Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, and Democratic Action Party) out to topple the current government.

Not only that, the Malaysian Government has declared BERSIH 2.0 as illegal, declined gathering permits for all three parties involved and the police are out to arrest the people who are wearing the BERSIH 2.0 yellow T-shirt and several leaders of BERSIH 2.0 . There is also a threat that the rally may lead to a declaration of a state of emergency and wide ensuing violence. This lead to the United Nations human rights office to voice concern about measures being taken by authorities in Malaysia, including restricting freedom of expression, ahead of a peaceful demonstration.

Malaysia's ceremonial head of state, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had to step in and call for all three parties to resolve their differences with the government peacefully. BERSIH 2.0 leader, Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan met with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and agreed to stage the rally in a stadium instead of having it on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. The Home Ministry said that meeting the King doesn't make the BERSIH 2.0 rally legal.

Meanwhile, Malaysians in 24 cities around the world are planning to gather at the same time to show support for the BERSIH 2.0 rally. Notably, Singapore is not in the list. With it's closest neighbour being in such a rocky ship, one has to question does Singapore cares?

Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow, we'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Middle Way

Looking at the life of a monk now, most layperson (including Buddhist) would immediately comment that the lifestyle is too extreme.

Waking up at 4a.m. in the morning, 227 precepts to keep (311 for nuns), wearing only robes all the time, meditating most of the time, keeping mindfulness at all waking times, learning the Dharma everyday, even having 3 months long of rain retreat each year. Not only that, a monk does not eating after noon time, does not indulge in entertainment, no money, no marriage, and certainly no sexual activities.

Try a small taste of that for a day (in our 8 precepts day) and see if you want to continue it for a week (in our meditation retreat). More than half of the participants dropped out.

Yet are not the monks supposed to live life according to the Middle Way?

Of course it would be deviant from the Middle Way to judge everyone via the standards of the monks. There are standards for laypeople too at Digha Nikaya 31, Sigalovada Sutta, but we are not talking about that here.

It would be easy too to say that most of the middle class citizens are very indulgent in entertainment thus consider a community of monks to be extreme without the other end of the spectrum like war-torn people (who are elsewhere) to compare. This realisation is meaningless to this article too.

When I started learning Buddhism on my own, reading the books without joining in a Buddhist Society or having Kalyana-mitta or a teacher to guide me, I had gone so deep and so fast into the theoretical ultimate reality and accepted what I see as obvious truths, that I decided to have "monk" in my email. And thus thinking this is how an enlighten being should view the world (impermanence, suffering, non-self) , this is what an enlighten being would not have think of (greed, hatred, delusion), thus deluded myself into a serious state of depression every moment I discovered myself to deviate from perfection.

That put me out of touch with Buddhism for a while in order to regain my sanity.

It took me years later on to realise “All things in Moderation. Including Moderation.” The way to Enlightenment is not the extreme way that gets you there faster. It is not a intermediate goal to achieve and get rid off so that I can get on with life. It is rather to realise that life itself is impermanent (still don't realise it, just putting it here to say I don't realise it). Now, from my involvement in Tertiary level Buddhist Societies, I am going back into Buddhism, gently, calmly, (sorry I still won't use slowly), practising it step by step with my Kalyana-mitta here and teachers to guide me.

So what is the Middle Way?

The Middle Way is also to be learned first, before practising, realising and sharing. And to learn is to have right understanding and right thought.

The Middle Way on the line between two extremes end of love and hate is not the indifference in the middle, but rather to rise above the line and to have Universal love, loving-kindness, thus naturally right speech, right action, right livelihood comes into play.

Knowing causes, knowing effects, knowing oneself, knowing how much is enough, knowing the proper time, knowing individuals, knowing groups of people: these Seven Noble Virtues constitute walking the Middle Way. (Refer to Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Sevens, no. 64, Dhammaññu Sutta: One With a Sense of Dhamma) Using discernment, wisdom and compassion in living one’s life, thus explaining the constant right mindfulness, right effort, right concentration to keep on walking on the razor edge of the Middle Way.

Not taking ourselves too serious nor too flippancy, when one can laugh at oneself, then one is taking moderation in moderation.