‘Orang Itu’ aims to change narrative on homelessness in Malaysia

 Last Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of attending the private screening of Orang Itu, a new film produced by Low Ngai Yuen, the founder of Kakiseni and Women:Girls. The audience also consisted of members of civil society including some of the lead actors of the film such as Sofea Jane, Carmen Soo and KK Wong.

Without revealing much details, Orang Itu is a story about Mawar (acted by Sofea Jane), a homeless lady who tries her best to make a living in KL. The film takes you through her journey being a homeless person and the social stigma imposed on her including several characters that Mawar comes across with as she strives to preserve her dignity.

What’s more interesting after the film was the discussion. Syed Azmi, a famous activist was among the audience spoke about his experience visiting homeless people living under the bridge. He shared about how homeless people continued to offer their hospitality by offering him water although the quality may be questionable.

At the outset, I must say that I don’t do much activism work on the homeless people. Therefore, when I offered to contribute, all I could do was to offer some findings  of my research carried out during my legal aid many years ago on the topic of homelessness.

In my short speech, I spoke about Destitute Persons Act, a law which had existed since colonial period. The law aims to maintain ‘social order’ by outlawing begging and homelessness. Under the law, the  welfare officers is empowered to apprehend and detain a homeless person in a rehabilitation centre for up to three years. 

I also raised the need for civil society to consider the role of government. We should have a discussion on whether the existing regulatory framework is adequate to address homelessness. I also said that we should sit down and discuss the merits and demerits of the existing law.

To respond to this, Syed Azmi said that the government has agreed to abolish the law two years ago. I think the fact that the law is to abolished is more of the reasons why we should be discussing it. Firstly, it’s crucial for us to know whether the law will be replaced with something else? Secondly, what existing safeguards will government have in addressing homelessness in Malaysia.

I do hope that Orang Itu will be available at all cinemas soon. I hope that there are generous donors out there that might be willing to sponsor the film as the film will indeed create an interesting discussion on homelessness in Malaysia.

Georgetown Literary Festival – A view from an aspiring writer

I got lucky this year for being able to attend the Georgetown Literary Festival for the first time.

The festival has been ongoing for the last seven consecutive years since 2011 when it first started.

This time round, we were pleasantly surprised with the free event booklet detailing the itinerary and the speakers and moderators of the panel sessions. The way how the event  was done was through multiple panelist tracks. In other words, there were several panel discussions ongoing at the same time. It was difficult  at times deciding which panel to join at times as the other seem interesting as well. I found out later that only the Q&A with Anwar Ibrahim was recorded and published on Youtube.

If you’re an aspiring writer, there were various literary workshops hosted by practitioners. There’s a nominal fee (around RM50-70 per pax) payable to join the workshops. Some of the workshops were quite interesting such as basic poetries, mastering language tools such as metaphors and other writing techniques. 

One area for improvement perhaps might be on the itinerary itself. It was quite hard to step out  to grab a quick lunch as the intermission between every panel session is merely fifteen minutes. I guess the organiser’s idea was to pack the discussion as much as possible so that the event can end earlier so that people can proceed with their own excursion.

It’s a fantastic festival and I think you will enjoy it as well if you’re a fan of Asian literature and anything books.

Hit Refresh by Satya Nadela

I was pretty excited to get my hands on this book as soon as I read the review by none other than his former boss Bill Gates on his Gates Notes.

At the outset, the book is like a bible for every Microsoft new employees as the new Microsoft chief puts out his grand plan for the company. I found out later from someone that works in Microsoft Malaysia that everyone gets a copy of the book as well.  

In the book, Mr Nadella summarised three areas of innovation, augmented reality, artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing. There is a chapter as well discussing on sensitive matters for technology companies such as privacy and security.

The book is great in describing some of the technologies that Microsoft has come up with so far. Project Emma is one of such example. Microsoft came up with a watch (which is a form of a wearable device) for people with Parkinson’s disease. The watch is aimed to help the patient stabilise his or her wrist movement so that the person may be able to write again. You can watch the video below as well.

To be honest, I was hoping that Mr Nadella would share a bit more of his personal life and how he ended up becoming the Microsoft’s chief. To Mr Nadella’s defence, there were some initial chapters discussing his family and his initial years of growing up but I guess the book is not meant to be written as a memoir, but more of a ‘work in progress’ at Microsoft.

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much from this book as I really don’t know exactly what I could learn much from a standup comedian. I was dead wrong.

Firstly, Trevor isn’t like any other typical comedian. He’s super smart and is well read too (something which he credited to this mother for getting books to read when he was young). The memoir is essential a homage to his mother which is reflected in his tribute to her.

I’m mesmerised by Trevor’s ability to write his life experiences in such a positive way despite the setting of the book which is about a ‘coloured’ kid growing up in South Africa’s apartheid period.   On a side note, I  also got to know that Bill Gates too had read and even reviewed this book as well.

In summary, it a great memoir and I really enjoyed reading Trevor Noah’s experiences growing up and the challenges he had to face as he was growing up. The book is a page turner. For instance, Trevor explained a time when he was so close to getting beaten up just for being ‘different’ due to his skin colour. He was able to get out from the situation because he managed to figure out the language as he pretended as if he was part of the same tribe as well. 

Putting aside all the good stuff, I think there were few gaps in his book which weren’t discussed (or deliberately omitted). For example, it wasn’t clear when exactly did he decided to leave and how he got his ‘breakthrough’.  Also, I guess many people may also want to know a thing or two about his  romantic life (which I’m sure it’s plenty). I sure hope that Trevor Noah will continue writing again  or perhaps even a sequel to this memoir someday.

See you at this weekend’s Georgetown Literary Festival

I’m excited to share that I will be in Penang this weekend for the Georgetown Literary Festival.

To be honest, I’m  pretty excited for the weekend as I’ve been meaning to attend the festival for many years! I guess it’s quite fortuitous that I just happen to be jobless at this time of the year for the festival! The events line-up seem pretty exciting which you can find on their Peatix’s website here. 

We decided to drive  to Penang as we found that other transport options available quite impractical. For example, we couldn’t find any train or bus schedule that would leave just in time so that we can arrive in Penang on Saturday morning. We also considered flying straight but since we’re making last minute bookings, the price is so  expensive that it’s actually more than the total expenses of the two days trip itself.

Anyway,  do let me know if you so happen to be in Penang as well. Perhaps we can meet for a cup of coffee!

A bright musical night

Last Saturday, I attended a dinner organised by the law faculty of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM). This year’s event also marks the 50th anniversary since the inception of the faculty.

The dinner was held inside the Dewan Agong Tuanku Canselor (DATC), a fairly new building erected near the stadium. I remember the building’s construction started sometime when I joined UiTM. It was only completed a year before I graduated.

The stage was never empty throughout the evening. The guests were presented with a myriad of performances ranging from zapin, ballad, jazz and even Bollywood dance. I I suppose this  represents quintessentially what I may say the UiTM’s style. Just in the last decade the faculty can be attributed for producing not just litigators but also  famous celebrities such as Yuna Zarai now making Malaysian proud in the West. I do remember her performing once at a faculty’s dinner and nobody was actually paying any attention to her. I think it should be a complement that the faculty of law is an extension of the faculty of music.

Anyway, the highlight of the evening was the speech by the Chief Justice of Malaysia, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Richard Malanjum. A proud alumnus of the faculty, Tan Sri expressed his gratitude towards Tan Sri Arshad Ayub, the founder of UiTM, who is also a staunch educationist.  “If it wasn’t for UiTM and (Tan Sri) Arshad Ayub’s efforts of taking me out from my village to study, I might never be a judge. I’d just continue being a farmer planting crops in my village”, as he spoke in his thick Malay native accent. 

To commemorate the golden jubilee, the outgoing dean, Dato Rahmat also launched a book consisting of 50 legal essays written by the lecturers and other practitioners. 

On a side note, I was grateful to meet some of my lecturers as well. It is heartening to note that many of them are aging gracefully. From the brief conversations which I’ve had, I realise that some of them were quite unhappy with the students these days. Many do not read cases anymore but rely solely on notes. I think many of these students will be disappointed once they enter the workforce.

Outside the hall, several booths were set up by the faculty and sponsors of the evening. Some law students were selling the upcoming mock trial performance at a nominal entrance fee. I’ve heard good stories about the mock trial. Perhaps I should sign up this year.