Not In My Backyard

It has been a little over a month since a stay application by Taman Desa residents in Kuala Lumpur’s High Court was dismissed. The application was filed to stop a high-rise residential development named The Address, pending a judicial review that went unheard, or in OfficialSpeak is ‘pending’.

It is hard not to be cynical, not only as a fellow Taman Desa resident but as a Malaysian citizen who has been left frustrated by our government’s highly irresponsible behaviour as of late. On a bittersweet note, us Taman Desa residents are certainly not alone.

Across the Klang Valley, and beyond, numerous citizen groups and associations have risen in response to increasingly unsustainable practices by developers, which are haphazardly approved by Government bodies such as DBKL.

TTDI Residents VS Profit

Save Taman Rimba Kiara (credit - The Star Online

Photo Credits: The Star Online

A case in point would be the highly-publicised Taman Tun Dr. Ismail project that threatens the future of the neighbourhood’s beloved Taman Rimba Kiara. In mid-December last year, the resident’s application for a stay order against (yet another) high-rise apartment project scheduled to be built on the park lands was dismissed in KL’s High Courts.

As a layperson, I would like to give our Courts the benefit of doubt and trust in the process of law and order. Surely, the application was dismissed for good reason, right? One would like to think so. Sadly, this is not true. According to High Court Judge Kamaludin Md Said, one of the reasons for his decision was the fact that the condominium project landowner Yayasan Persekutuan and developer Memang Perkasa Sdn Bhd had already invested RM115 million into the controversial project.

That is not good enough a reason. So, in effect, what our Court is saying is that monetary investment is more important than the needs of the people and the sustainability of our environment. In effect, RM115 million, is more important than the citizens of TTDI and their access to Natural resources. Not only did the residents have their application dismissed, they were also ordered to pay RM40,000 for the cost of the lawsuit. Mind you, this money is coming directly from the pockets of TTDI residents – while the developers have forked out nothing.

The next date set for Court was meant to be January 6th but I couldn’t find any newer update as I am writing this, which probably means, predictably, that the date has been postponed for some inane reason or another. A ploy to buy time, from our spineless government who is absolutely in cahoots with unscrupulous developers who do not think twice about paying off officials within DBKL and other related parties. You may ask what proof I have in making such a strong statement – do allow me to elaborate using the case study happening right in my backyard.

Nonsense In My Backyard

If you had read the link above on Taman Desa, you may be able to imagine the fear and horror of my fellow neighbours. The construction of three 30-storey condominium towers on a narrow strip of TNB reserve land, surrounded by three schools and low-rise condominiums should be enough to explain the above, but maybe you don’t see the big picture.

What if I told you about the crane crash that happened last month? Or the fact that when they started construction, residents reported of noise even after 7PM? Would you be convinced?

Well, you might say – so what? Nobody died, right? The crane crash was just an accident, a slip up perhaps, in the team’s safety SOPs. Firstly, there shouldn’t have been an incident in the first place. Any developer and construction company worth their salt would know to put Health and Safety issues first, and this is a cardinal rule that cannot be broken. It is a matter of good ethics and responsible business.

But wait. I forgot. We are in Malaysia, where apa-apa pun boleh (anything also can)! Businesses do not operate responsibly here because they don’t have to! The interests of corporations are put in front of the people’s needs and this has been on the rise.

Secondly, Taman Desa residents had already applied for a judicial review against the new developments, which were pending in court. After the crane crash, they could not ignore the problem any further and have submitted a memorandum asking for real engagement with the developers. Until today, they have yet to hear anything.

Malaysia Made A Promise

So, no hope in corporations to preserve our Environment. But surely, we can then rely on our government to do what is right, right? Well, not really – because it looks like they’d rather spend time telling the cops to go after resident protestors.

Did you know that Malaysia has adopted UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and recently, even played host to the 9th World Urban Forum? Of course, much of the talk around the forum was spent on petty politicking between Israel and Malaysia but I digress from my point which is: why not consult the people and preserve our environment before it’s too late?

Why Do I Care? Why Should You Care?

Taman Desa (Credit - Malay Mail Online)

Photo Credit: Malay Mail Online

Aiyah, it’s human nature la, we will only act when something happens. Anyway, you might say, why are you so bothered? This Taman Desa thing did happen in your backyard, but you didn’t get affected, right? You didn’t feel your condo vibrating, kan, so kenapa sibuk (why are you being a busybody)?

I am cynical enough to anticipate these questions and this is my response: Because at some point, I will be affected. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but that day will come. If I don’t speak up today, I may wake up a year, or two years from now, with a basement car park as my bedroom view instead of Taman Desa’s gorgeous crop of greenery.

I may wake up a few years from now, and get stuck in the mother of all traffic jams because Taman Desa’s populations per acre has risen from 60 to 650 in just a few short years.

I may wake up one day and see that my beautiful, old neighbourhood is crumbling around me because it can no longer support so many new high-rise developments. As far-fetched as that sounds, it’s not entirely impossible. That’s why I choose to be sibuk and say something. This is why I am writing and speaking about these issues – because I am applying foresight by saying that what affects my neighbours, affect me too. What affects one, affects all – that is the true meaning of humanity.

What has happened to our sense of community? Am I only allowed to care when I am directly affected? Only when a crane has fallen onto my child, or my parking spot, or my school? We, as a society, need to start thinking for the long-term. Approving high-rise buildings for the sake of ‘development’ is NOT progress and it is not effective long-term thinking. In fact, I would argue that it barely constitutes any “thinking” at all.

Let’s all start to care beyond the tip of our noses. Let us make it known that these sort of practices and behaviour will not be tolerated by the people any longer.

Let’s move away from the mainstream school of thought of aping the West when it comes to our consumption and development patterns.

We are better than that, we must be better than that, in order to give an Earth that will provide for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Let us not give them a home that is barely alive, because that is what is happening, unless we stop it, together.


Malaysia Risks Post-Election Protests on Bias Claims

BERSIH has captured vote-buying on video and received complaints ranging from improper electoral rolls to government abuse of state-run media, according to co-chairwoman Ambiga Sreenevasan. This confirms what I heard last night from a man who told me an empty ballot paper is worth RM2,000 in Penang. They are cheating and getting away with it. We must not let them. Together we stand for justice, fairness and do what is right.

Spread the Yellow Wave

Gelombang Kuning (Photo credits: Bersih)

As a member of civil society, I am tired of the constant news about political violence in my country, not to mention the stories about foreigners being flown in to vote for Barisan Nasional (click on this article to read more: I am ready to do something about it and thanks to the fact that I work in an awesome NGO like AWAM, I can!


Join me and my colleagues and friends as we do the walk-about around Petaling Jaya tomorrow to spread the yellow wave with ribbons and BERSIH bookmarks! I want to send a clear message to the government that I and other Malaysians oppose all forms of political violence and we support the call for free and fair elections. I also want to see my neighbourhood covered in yellow by nightfall. This is because I sincerely believe in the power of positive collective action. Authoritarian regimes worse than ours have been toppled thanks to the power and actions of the people. I think underestimating ourselves is our biggest downfall and it simply won’t do to carry on in this manner, especially at such a pivotal time for our country.

yellow ribbons


Change will never come easy and it is something we have to work towards. This government is not going to leave easily and I want to do everything in my power to make sure that they go because I will not let my country be ruled any longer by Barisan Nasional. I am finished with Najib Razak and his leadership which I believe has let the country down and a big part of it has to do with the mismanagement of our finances. For someone who doesn’t really care about money, this is saying a lot. I am a witness to Pakatan Rakyat‘s prudence in financial affairs and I support them for this reason, amongst many others. Under Pakatan Rakyat’s leadership, the Selangor state managed to save RM 16 million whereby previously their accounts were in deficit. This is indeed a truly magnificent accomplishment.

I have much more to say about the Opposition as well as our current caretaker government but I digress from my purpose. This is really a call to all Malaysians to forget the politicking, mud-slinging and violence. Let’s join hands and paint our respective neighbourhoods yellow to send a clear message to, not just the government, but to everyone watching that we stand behind the ideals of a true democracy which naturally starts with free and fair elections. I also want to do this because I want to remind my fellow Malaysians that we are a peace-loving people. Being disrespectful, racist and intolerant is not congruent with our values and we need to remember that during these important times.

Come joins us tomorrow (Saturday, 4th May) at 10 AM at the following venue: 

AWAM centre @ No. 85, Jalan 21/1, Seapark, 46300 Petaling Jaya

We will conduct a short briefing for everyone and then split into groups. We will aim to start walking-about by 10.30 AM. The idea is to spread the yellow wave, spread the word, get others to do so and also do voter education. We have 4,000 Chinese and Bahasa flyers on ‘How To Vote’ which we can distribute along with yellow ribbons and bookmarks.

There is an events page on Facebook, feel free to share this as well:

Please help me spread this news around and bring your friends. It’s going to be a super fun and YELLOW day. See you there people!!



Nurul is top woman in media coverage

Dismal performance for women in parliament, Nurul is top woman. Go Izzah!


By Priscilla Prasena

But a survey finds that the press pays much more attention to male personalities in articles on the general election.

PETALING JAYA:  Nurul Izzah Anwar is the most frequently mentioned woman in media articles on the run-up to the May 5 general election, according to a survey conducted by the Centre of Independent Journalism and the Malaysian branch of Nottingham University.

The survey, part of a media monitoring project called Watching the Watchdog, found that Nurul scored 0.66% in “value of coverage”, a figure that the surveyors said was way below the average score of male personalities.

The survey analysts found that the value of coverage of the average male political figure was nine times higher than that of the average female.

The 13-day survey covered 29 publications and identified 18,821 articles in Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil.

Among women, caretaker tourism minister Ng Yen Yen, scoring…

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Biggest political rally in Malaysia’s Negeri Sembilan

Paste a Video URL

“Tonight I don’t see Malays, Chinese and Indians. Tonight I can only see Malaysians.”


Nurul Izzah Anwar: Ayah Saya (My Father)

Watch the passionate Lembah Pantai MP talk about why she decided to contest for the seat and the injustice wrought upon her father that has remain unresolved until today. May justice prevail for all those who sacrificed for our country. INI KALI LAH!!!

An open letter to BN about the elections:


I just had to re-blog this Open Letter to the Barisan Nasional – please read and have a good laugh!



Dear Barisan Nasional,

How have you been? Looks like you’ve got this whole election business in the bag! Everyday I open the newspaper and there is nothing but praise for BN! Turn on the TV and it is the same thing. You never let me down. Not like those opposition jokers who are always fighting among themselves.

I hope it’s not too pre-mature, but CONGRATULATIONS on bagging the coming elections! That is how much I believe in you. Just look at all the election flags and buntings! Driving around town, all I can see is the white ‘dacing’ boldly standing out against a sharp blue background. Beautiful. It’s like Mardi Gras, if the Mardi Gras was only blue and white. Even in Selangor where I live, your colours are everywhere. Way to show them who’s boss.

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Musings at 2 AM: Hope and Power of the People

Protest is Patriotic - BersihI just got back from an intense and enlightening evening of Malaysian politics with two beloved friends. I imagine that similar conversations are taking place all over Malaysia as the elections loom near. I feel the winds of change in the air, but I feel a lot of scepticism and fear too. Fear of the unknown? Or fear of change?

We imagined, just for a moment what it would be like if the Opposition won – would there be certain people behind bars? Wouldn’t it mean also stripping them of their power, which my friend imagined would be like stripping them naked, which they probably want to hold on to? Are they going to give their power up? Why would they?

I have to admit here, it was hard to imagine any other party winning. It has hard to imagine that after all these years, there might finally be justice for all the wrongdoing wrought by a careless government?

Hard, but not impossible.

Just imagine people…what if?

Because actually, the power is in our hands. Let’s keep talking and arguing and doing and hoping and praying. This is how Malaysia will grow its political scene. This is how we can be on the road to free and fair elections. This is how we can make a change together.

I found hope in this book called ‘Small Acts of Resistance’ by Steve Crawshaw & John Jackson. I read about ordinary acts by ordinary people that managed, over time, to topple the most brutal of governments. To them, it was a simple matter of expressing their desire to live in dignity and freedom. These courageous individuals sent a clear message of dissent to the government of the day with their actions.

“A person with inner freedom, memory, and fear is that reed, that twig that changes the direction of a rushing river.” – Nadezhda Mandelstam

Here is the preface, written by Vaclav Havel, first president of the Czech Republic and all-round playwright, poet, dissident and essayist.

In 1978, I wrote an essay that explored the untapped “power of the powerless.” I described the incalculable benefits that might follow, even in the context of a highly repressive government, if each one of us decided to confront the lies surrounding us, and made a personal decision to live in truth.

Many argued that those ideas were the work of a deluded Czech Don Quixote, tilting at unassailable windmills.

In many ways, that scepticism seemed justified. Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet Leader who just ten years earlier had sent tanks into Czechoslovakia to end political reform, was still in power in the Kremlin. The Solidarity movement – whose remarkable victories in neighbouring Poland against unwanted rulers would give comfort to other eastern Europeans and millions of others seeking to live in truth in the years to come – did not yet exist. I myself, like many of my friends, had spent time in jail and would do so again in the years to come.

And yet, just eleven years after I wrote what ordinary people can achieve by living in truth, I saw and lived through a series of extraordinary victories all across the region, including in my own country. In what came to be known as the velvet revolution, Czech and Slovaks defied official violence to ensure the speedy collapse of the seemingly impregnable bastion of lies in November 1989. It was all over in barely a week. After the revolution, I was privileged to become the president of my country as it moved into a democratic era.

Today, millions around the world live in circumstances where it might seem that nothing will ever change. But they must remember that the rebellions that took place all across eastern Europe in 1989 were the result of a series of individual actions by ordinary people which together made change inevitable. Small Acts of Resistance pays tribute to those who have sought to live in truth, and the impact that can have.

In my lifetime, I have repeatedly seen that small acts of resistance have had incomparably greater impact than anybody could have predicted at the time. Small acts of resistance are not just about the present and the past. I believe they are about the future too.

Prague (March 2010)

This preface was taken from: Small Acts of Resistance: How Courage, Tenacity, and Ingenuity Can Change the World. Crawshaw, S., Jackson J. 2010. New York: Sterling.