Malaysian Student Leaders Summit 2009

Termaktub in the Malaysian Student Leaders Summit III booklet and the MSLS website:

The Second Annual MSLS 2008 witness [-ed] the continuous success of this event and quoting an anonymous blogger, ‘the MSLS is fast becoming an institution in its own right.’

I am that anonymous blogger wtf.

Sad man. I even left a comment on their website but it didn’t survive the approval stage.

😦

Why ah?

***

Ooo ooh I finally registered to vote!

This was the first time MSLS got the election commission (?) to come. I thought that it was a very thoughtful and pertinent move on the part of the organizers. Very nice.

Stats: In 2010, the median age in Malaysia will be 24.2 years. (Economic Planning Unit and Statistics Department)

Which means that 50% of the population will be below 24.2 years old.

You politicos better watch out man. Condescend to us and see what we do to you lah.

***

I know the organizing committee probably isn’t going to like this lah, but I’ll be honest. And since I have been a loyal participant in all the MSLSs I think I’m qualified enough to comment. (Don’t hate me lah)

Caveat: Two years = wiser and more jaded, so my perception might be totally off.

I think that the last two MSLSs (1,2) were much more interesting and well organized; I think it was clear that many of the moderators had little or no experience, as opposed to previous moderators, so the flow of the conference was not as smooth as it could have been. Moderators could’ve been more forceful in making Q and As more succinct and pertinent, and also taken the initiative to poke the speakers (read: Mahathir) when they go off on rambly detours. So more preparation here; this is an experiential and mental thing.

Also what could’ve been helpful: Less prepared questions from the moderators. Most of the time the audience didn’t really care for most of them (read: too tame), and in a few cases the prepared questions did not add anything to the discussion. They were but a mostly unwelcome (and sometimes lengthy) barrier between the speaker and the Q and A session.

This year tried to fit too many speakers in too many sessions (five people for the Bahasa Melayu/PPSMI session? Really?). I think the UKEC tried to emulate the rousing success of the Tony vs Khairy vs Nik Nazmi panel format in MSLS II but failed for a few reasons. Too many speakers + Limited time = Less time per person. So either 1) cut down on speakers, 2) cut down on sessions, 3) expand time per session, or 4) a combination of factors. Quality over quantity man.

Also the problem with this is that the Tony-Khairy-Nik (see I’m being politically correct) panel of MSLS II is that its success and fun and amazingness depended on 1) the caliber of and chemistry between the speakers, 2) the moderator’s on-stage ability to structure the discussion (Shahril Hamdan was fantastic last year), and 3) the three YBs not having speeches (!), all of which, I think, were neccessary but not sufficient factors independently.

This time Khairy Jamaluddin was disappointing (to me at least). However eloquent, charismatic, and charming, he just didn’t do it for me. I’ve seen him at three forums (MSLS II, Asia 21, and now MSLS III) catered to a liberal, Pakatan-leaning, and youngish audience, and this is his worst (read: least stellar) performance by far. Khairy is like Anwar and Pakatan Rakyat — he shines the brightest when fighting (like debaters man). When the audience is clearly against him. When he has a rival that can match his tongue and his wit. This time Tian Chua didn’t live up to his reputation (if the editorials are correct — they always call him a “firebrand” and a “rabble-rouser”) so I think Khairy just wasn’t pushed enough to be brilliant. Didn’t step up his game.

That all panelists this year prepared (mostly long) speeches was unnecessary, I thought; most of the speeches were boring and uninspired — plus most of the audience were itching to ask questions anyway. The role of the moderator, I think, in this situation, is to understand the feel and mood of the floor to structure the discussion. Plus Tony and Khairy were (civilly and hilariously) verbally abusing each other — there is serious electricity between them — something saliently missing from all the panels this year, perhaps except the PPSMI and Kam Raslan/Zain HD sessions.

So politicians take note: we like humour. Crude or not — we like humour. Entertain (and feed) us —  bread and circuses.

(I slept — and even drooled — 🙂 during some sessions man. It was that boring.)

My favourite question was from a Jamie Khoo from the University of North Texas who asked a certain Zaini Hassan (Assistant Group Editor of Utusan Malaysia) how we could speak about a united Malaysia when, on the same day, he sees in the New Straits Times a cover story about Najib’s 1Malaysia, and then Utusan screaming “Bangkitlah Melayu” from its front page. Zha-dou. I think Jamie brought along a prop: a print out of “Bangkitlah Melayu.” Cute.

(Jamie is at 1:07)

Group sessions have two real motives. Firstly socio-intellectual: to get the participants to know people they would otherwise never have known (and thus different perspectives on issues) in a semi-structured environment, to give them the opportunity to talk since Q and A time is limited. Secondly political: to come up with “proposals” or “calls to action” to be presented to politicians or sponsors as the end result of the conference.

The latter is mostly bullshit, as all of you can probably tell from now. No Malaysian politician easily and readily implements well thought out-proposals from civil society organizations; what more hastily assembled shopping lists of what-I-want-for-Malaysia bullet points from a bunch of kids at a two-day conference. But the argument goes that they are a necessary evil: to show our sponsors that we are actually doing shit.

The former is more important. I was initially really hesitant in becoming a group leader per Joyce’s request: I go to MSLSs not for the intellectual masturbation but for social reasons — to catch up with friends, to meet new people. And my fears were founded: firstly participants were assigned into groups via seating (if you sit with friends how are you going to meet new people?). Secondly topics themselves were assigned based on seating as well, and there were only five issues (!?). Thirdly and most importantly, the limited time in a conference with VIPs and VVIPs means that time is often poached from non-vital sessions as such. By the end of the first day my group had just started our introductions when we were told to wrap up.

Now I’m making this seem more important than it really is in the big picture: one can always skip the discussion sessions or join different groups. Standard practice.

Again the role of the moderator is crucial here. Jing Pei told me that she told her group to screw the assigned topics and talk about anything they wanted. 😉

So I assumed the worst lah after Day 1. We were named Pulau Sipadan and at first I wanted to defect to Indonesia. But what I didn’t expect was to get one of the most amazing and fantastic groups I’ve ever been a part of. Eventually, and to my pleasant surprise, the discussion stuck to our topic (Keluhuran Perlembagaan wtf damn boring right) and transitioned to some of the most honest and thoughtful multilogues in the entire conference (one of the reasons for this was our small size: people could speak). We spoke about electoral politics, the role of the judiciary, ignorance/fear/apathy of the electorate and their roles in screwing up our constitution. We spoke with such intensity and participation that we were the last group to leave the conference hall for lunch (some 20? 30? minutes after everyone had left), and we even menjajah-ed a table in the lunch room to continue the conversation. So good man. So even with the lack of time we managed to talk about a lot of stuff, contrary to my expectations.

What made it for the group were the members. ❤ ❤ ❤ man. I tested them and they knew that the two most prominent thinkers who wrote about social contracts were Locke and Rousseau. I loved how contrary opinions were expounded upon and substantiated and challenged and rechallenged and how dynamic, respectful, and naked the whole proccess was.

The two people who really stood out, in my opinion, were Adrian from Sitiawan (Law, England) and Zhi Wei (LSE). Adrian talked about the impossibility of legislating the “social contract,” whatever it may be, into the constitution; laws just don’t function at that level of detail. This was the first time I’ve met Zhi Wei (Wira 2006 champion) and I dare say he deserves the title lah: eloquent, insightful, polished, structured. I keep my eye out for former debaters/winners to see whether they were lucky/full of bullshit/earned their laurels. The ones I’ve recently met and interacted with (Jin Tik, Jian Wei, Zhi Wei, Andrew Wong) can pass lah. 😉

And lest Pulau Sipadan members feel left out I’m going to list out you as well lah. I love you guys Muis, Dunca, Masin, the Sitiawan gang, and the pre-U students.

Thus I have mixed feelings here. On one hand I’ve been part of some really bullshit groups; we all have experiences where one idiot monopolizes the conversation or when the leader is too docile to intervene or when the group is just too large for anything. I still think that if group sessions are shitty we should cancel them and use the time for longer Q and A components and get-to-know-you/socializing sessions.

On the other hand the group session at MSLS III was a great experience: fruitful, fulfilling, and fun. It reminded me of Northeast Malaysia Forum 2009, where we emphasized discussion and dialogue. Our NMF group sessions were enriching as never before: in my group we shared stories –> the best thing I feel any group can do. The milieu was clearly different from what you would expect from a group session: the personal touch really softened and warmed the atmosphere; the sharing was honest, bare, heart-wrenching, and hilarious; and I came out of it, fuzzy wuzzy, knowing things about friends I would not have known.

Compulsory happy ending to balance the semi-scathing blogpost: Again, this is totally in the spirit of constructive criticism becuase I’m sure MSLS has google alerts. I did NMF, and boy was that interesting. (<3 you Joyce and Nithiya) 🙂 So got first-hand perspective also lah of conference organizing. So insha-Allah student conferences will become better, funnier, and more fulfilling. Malaysia boleh.

***

Edited August 11, 2009:

Some of the more interesting posts on MSLS:

  • Zhi Wei bases his post on Kam Raslan’s pithy opening comment
  • Wilson writes about political doublespeak
  • Wai Shan writes about being inspired
  • Alex writes about the “[surprising] level of hostility” –> I think he means me when he says “Tun Mahathir was called a hypocrite by a student.”

MSLS IV:

  • PLEASE INVITE STREAMYX PEOPLE . WE HAVE A LOT OF QUESTIONS.
  • Nik Aziz!!! Or the Perak Mufti Harussani Zakaria. Or ex-Perlis mufti Dr. Mohd Asri.
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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Malaysian Student Leaders Summit 2009

  1. oh wait i know why! ask me why!

  2. Why, thank you for the kind words. 🙂 I tried. 😛 Haha.

    And I have to agree with your choice of the favourite question! Haha bangkitlah melayu 😀 😀 😀

  3. Tara

    i love the prominent featuring of the oxford comma 🙂

  4. Khairy had to give the moderator his stress-ball. Hahahaha!
    I went to the event – it’s my first year, so comparison to previous events is impossible. But I loved the summit, the idea of such a summit. I am inspired, by some of the speakers, some of the participants, and the environment itself, though the organisation could be better, and I’d be happier if the speakers would stick on topic and not ramble on and on – it’s so hard to catch their point. And my group discussion was awesome too! I haven’t discussed anything to that intensity in a while. It’s amazing how I can put out a point that I didn’t even know about in those discussions, by building on other points offered by other students.
    And oh, I SAW you there! I wanted to say hie and how your blog is where I actually knew about the event from. But you were always busy, or talking to someone else. So a belated hello? And a thank you. =]

    • hahaha hi then!!! congrats on the group discussion. but why the thanks?

      –> i read your blogpost on msls. 🙂 haha we all have horror stories; oh well!

      • Thank you because you blogged about last year’s event>I read about it>I knew about the event>I went for it. Would not have knew about or went for it if you didn’t? So thank you. Does that make sense =p

  5. Eh…tipu lah…the rest of them pass la…I happen to think I’m actually filled to the brim with bullshit. 😉 Benefits of an American liberal arts education. Makes you aware of just how much shit you’re made of.

  6. Pingback: USApps2009 « Ironic Paradox

  7. Jamie Khoo is now forever embedded in history as a legend. And I think Zaini’s responsible for the ‘we have to repeat the same mistakes so we can fix those mistakes’ remark. Funny.

    The one moderating the final session is by far the worst! I mean who goes around saying, ‘I’m sorry, but this is my first time moderating.’? Speaks volumes of incompetence!

    And another thing, one question on human rights got everyone jumping on the bandwagon. LoL. Kopitiam politics for everyone to see.

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