LoyarBurok: Agents Of Change

Zain HD and Woon King Chai, at the LoyarBurok Retreat | Credit: Pang Khee Teik

Zain HD and Woon King Chai, at the LoyarBurok Retreat | Credit: Pang Khee Teik

A reflection from the LoyarBurok retreat in Malacca, on 26 & 27 February 2011. This post was first published in The Star.

I am writing this piece from the inaugural LoyarBurok Retreat in Malacca where 32 people — “Loyar Burokkers” — have come together for two days.

LoyarBurok is a platform for intelligent and critical discourse, where Malaysians can come together by sharing their writings on its blog and views via its e-mail group. This gathering in Rumbia took some of this discourse offline.

Besides getting the “brain working,” it was a pleasure being in discussion with many good beings in a “safe space,” where everyone can speak without being judged. After all, many Malaysians often think well about food, but little of their people. The fact is, like good food, good people also exist. The bunch of people at the retreat is evidence of this.

Among them is human rights lawyer Edmund Bon.

Shafiqa Nabeera and Edmund Bon at Bon Fire | Credit: Woon King Chai

Shafiqa Nabeera and Edmund Bon at Bon Fire | Credit: Woon King Chai

For me, what is more significant than his work dealing with Internal Security Act detainees are his “extra-curricular” activities and initiatives such as the MyConsti campaign, which aims to educate the public on their fundamental rights and civil liberties as provided in our Federal Constitution.

Edmund is one of the founders of LoyarBurok, and he recently introduced PusatRakyatLB — the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights — that will be launched this month.

The centre will serve as LoyarBurok’s first physical on-ground presence to provide a platform for Malaysians to use for training, education, research and advocacy, among others.

Then there is June Rubis, a conservation biologist who has been working both in Malaysia and Indonesia over the past decade on orang utan conservation.

Fahri Azzat and June Rubis with new LoyarBuku merchandise! | Credit: Woon King Chai

Fahri Azzat and June Rubis with new LoyarBuku merchandise! | Credit: Woon King Chai

She is the first local full-time female field worker in our country, and also the first to initiate long-term orang utan research in Sarawak for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

She has since left that role to work together with the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) and Jaringan Orang Asal seMalaysia (JOAS) on land rights issues of the indigenous communities of Sarawak.

She flew from Kuching to be part of the retreat and is a firm believer of building stronger ties between Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, particularly within civil society.

The third, and final person I’d like to introduce, is Woon King Chai.

Melissa Sasidaran and Woon King Chai | Credit: LoyarBurok

Melissa Sasidaran and Woon King Chai | Credit: LoyarBurok

He might be recognised as a student leader and activist, but he made headlines as one of the four students charged with campaigning in the Hulu Selangor parliamentary by-election, known as UKM4.

King Chai’s main focus now is how to leverage on his legal battle to push for student rights, especially their involvement in politics.

It was very interesting to listen to him explain reasons behind his legal battle, and his opinions on why certain restrictions within the University and University College Act 1971 (UUCA) could potentially hinder the development of university students.

He argues that restricting a student’s freedom in deciding their learning experience — including participation in politics — would affect their thinking, growth and maturity.

I have only shared a little about three of the 32 people who participated in the retreat but I feel that people like these do the kind of work that affects many Malaysians. Theirs may not be glamourous work, but they make a difference.

Izmil Amri and Firdaus Husni at Retreat | Credit: Woon King Chai

Izmil Amri and Firdaus Husni at Retreat | Credit: Woon King Chai

But like you and me, they are not perfect. What they have done, however, is take action instead of just sitting back and these actions led them to where they are today. You can see this metaphorically, or even literally — today, they all put their minds together to create a voter education campaign.

I was part of this process, and it was one that I didn’t expect. After all, I coordinate flashmobs and I know little about voter issues. Yet, I was still able to contribute.

Daniel Albert, Syahredzan Johan, Kenneth Wong Poh Lim | Credit: Woon King Chai

Daniel Albert, Syahredzan Johan, Kenneth Wong Poh Lim | Credit: Woon King Chai

My journey on the “path” started two years ago when I decided to stop whining and to start doing something.

Today, the paths of 30 brothers and sisters crossed.

LoyarBerposing | Credit: Pang Khee Teik

LoyarBerposing | Credit: Pang Khee Teik

Zain runs RandomAlphabets and Wago Sdn Bhd. You can connect with him via Twitter at @ZainHD.

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Posted on 3 March 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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One Response to LoyarBurok: Agents Of Change

  1. AgreeToDisagree

    Try rescinding the amended Land Act 1960. No right of appeal now! Try removing Eminent Domain laws even. And granting Allodial Titles. And the legal fees to the below form. I can’t believe Bar Council does not take such matters seriously or worse, even facilitates or is accomplice to acceptance of such laws.

    Make lawyers charge a percentage ON the salaries or their customers, not a flat rate which make their services out of reach for most of the population!

    (I.e. For a person earning 1000 a month, a lawyer may charge no more than 10% of yearly pay of that person for the period of that year. 1200 at most for any legal service without added costs to keep it simple.)

    (I.e. For a person earning 10000 a month, a lawyer may charge no more than 10% of yearly pay of that person. 12000 at most for any legal service without added costs to keep it simple.) It should be salary based, not value based, otherwise it is profiteering instead of providing a service.

    For those earning 600 charges should be no more than 720 for the whole year. Only then could lawyers be considered doing a service to society, or that law becomes a respectable profession instead of a 400% money grubber. No equitable charges = no justice.

    Must be the corrupted political scene poisoning the Spirit of the Law in Malaysian lawyers. An alternative Bar Council perhaps?