Hey all. I hope everyone reading this is doing well. My love goes out to my family back in the States. We just lost Uncle Harry, a man who is responsible for our family being able to have the opportunity the US provides and a man who has raised a kind, loving family.
I haven’t posted in a while and mostly because my adventures have left me exhausted. It has been filled with soccer (football) games, motorbike adventures, sunrise and sunset at holy sites, late night clubbing and great food. I promise to do them all justice eventually.
For now, I’ve started my study abroad portion of my SEA adventure. I flew into Kuala Lumpur (KL) yesterday morning. There has been fires in Indonesia, on the island of Sumatra and has caused terrible haze here in KL and in Singapore. Everyone spoke about the pollution in Jakarta, but since the haze, the air quality is even worse in KL!
There are 8 students in the program, 4 men and 4 women, all from different backgrounds and fields of study. We will be studying globalization, traditional and non-traditional security and governance with respect to Malaysia, Indonesia, the ASEAN region and US and Chinese relations. An ambitious agenda, made possible by our professor, Pek Koon Heng, a native Chinese Malay.
to Indonesia, the Chinese influence is much more apparent here in KL. Radio stations are in Chinese (both Cantonese and Mandarin) and walking up and down the street you can here Chinese dialects being spoken. The amount of English speakers also far outweighs Indonesia.
We are staying at HELP University, in a beautiful residence, on the top floor of the dormitories. This floor is usually reserved for visiting professors and scholars and has great amentities including a huge TV with all the movie channels and a great view of KL.
Today after meeting the President of HELP and taking a quick tour of campus, we had our first lecture. Although Malaysia has a long rich history, essentially many of the issues boil down to one thing: ethnicity. Since its independence from the British, the struggle to find equilibrium between the large Chinese population and the Malay population has colored most of its political history. The Chinese has generally been the elite class being the main business owners in Malaysia. Particularly after the riots on May 13, 1969, policies favoring Malays in everything from quotas for government posts, interest rates on loans and educational scholarships have been in place. Even HELP University itself is a private university, established because many other ethnic Chinese and Indians were unable to gain admission to public universities. While the ruling party, UMNO, who favors these Malay special privileges, has held power since independence, we are witnessing a turning point in Malaysian politics. An opposition coalition, comprised of Chinese and an emerging Malaysian urban middle class, has been gaining more power within the government, winning the popular vote in the 2013 elections and gaining 7 seats in the parliament. While it has yet to gain a majority, the concept of “one Malaysia” and equal rights for all Malays is gaining traction. It is through this lens that we will be having site visits and guest lectures by some of the leading experts and practitioners in Malaysian economics and politics. It is going to be a fascinating learning experience.