Former intern Paula Tena describes her internship with the most #ohsem Pusat Rakyat LoyarBurok.
I’m very grateful for having had the opportunity to do an internship at MCCHR for the past 3 months. It has been a very enriching experience which has opened up the world of human rights in Malaysia to me, specifically in some areas in which I did not have too much experience in. This internship has also allowed me to work with a great group of professionals and share in their objective to raise the public awareness of Malaysians on a number of issues related to human rights, especially civil and political rights. Team work has been a plus. I couldn’t have asked for better partners to work with on a daily basis.
One of the projects I dedicated most time to was the MyMP Project, aimed at encouraging a greater representation of youth in Malaysia with regard to their right to vote and voter participation. It introduced me to a new way of promoting accountability and transparency between voters and their representatives. The aim of the first part of this Project was compiling basic information from the 222 MPs in Parliament. Firstly, they were asked to respond to a questionnaire with personal and professional information and answer questions such as their plans for their constituency during their elected term, what would make the role of an MP more effective, and their personal recommendation regarding a book that Malaysians should read. Once all this information was gathered, a website would be created as an information service making the gathered data available to constituents and fostering more a dynamic relationship between the MPs and their constituents. Through this website electors will be able to consult the information on the MPs in their constituency and vote according to the information they have in the first phase of MyMP . Thus representatives will be more accessible to voters who will in turn be able to base their choice on information well-known before hand.
Even though in my opinion the idea of this Project is great and necessary it was harder than expected to reach out to every MP. Not all of them had an email address, so communicating with them was hard sometimes. Other means such as phone calls, letters sent by post, fax, etc. had to be used. Another problem was the lack of quick responses, and consequently the need to send reminders quite often.
I also had the opportunity to attend Sekolah Aktivisme‘s anti gerry mandering campaign launch, which was very informative. It was an open door event for anybody interested. It turned out to be very successful, with the attendance of two MPs (Ong Kian Ming and Saifuddin Abdullah), who gave out their thoughts on this issue. We also enjoyed having a chance to see them get involved and play in the games organized by Sekolah Aktivisme. It was a great way of learning more about malapportionment and gerrymandering, and in particular the situation in Malaysia concerning this. I admire all the work the young people in Sekolah Aktivisme do, increasing awareness on this issue and working hard for a fair delineation of electoral districts that will enable an equal translation of votes into number of seats for the political parties during the elections. Observing the way they work and how active they are was motivating and an example to learn from.
I appreciated the chance to visit the Orang Asli villages with Mazni and thus learning more on how UndiMsia! helps in the indigenous villages in terms of land, education and housing, the main concerns of the indigenous community. I admire all the effort and work put into this issue, especially helping these people not only to have decent living conditions , but also informing them on their land rights, and promoting education where its regarded unnecessary or useless. Without the dedication of people such as Mazni and the whole team, remains a community with bad housing conditions, no interest to receiving an education, and unaware of their land rights. If I ever do come back to Malaysia I would love to get more involved in this project.
I was also asked to help to research on matters such as of freedom of religion in Malaysia, and the importance of education for children and adults. Even though I had done this previously in other not related/related fields, I can say my skills have undoubtedly improved since I received good feedback and tips on how to effectively carry out a research. I also helped Khairil with the resource center (last time I checked it was looking great, and it is a must visit!)
I consider myself lucky to have worked with a great team (Seh Lih, Ka Ea, Mazni and Khairil). They have welcomed me with open arms, have taught me about their work and their country and have helped me to understand the objectives and goals of a Malaysian NGO who is doing pioneering work in Malaysia.
Last but not least, I also have a big debt of gratitude with Andrew Khoo, who gave me the opportunity to attend conferences and seminars with him and learn more on issues such as: the defence of insanity in Malaysia, police abuse in Malaysia reported by Human Rights Watch, Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review 2013, the indigenous community in Malaysia and their rights, the death penalty in Malaysia, among other issues. Andrew’s strong commitment and passion for what he does was truly an inspiration for me.
I recommend this experience to everyone and especially anybody interested in working with and learning more about human rights, especially in a country where much is yet to be done. Terima kasih to the MCCHR team and all the wonderful Malaysians I have met; I will be back soon!