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Akan Datang: Big issues in the Malaysian Parliament

Akan Datang: our contributors’ take on the stories to watch in Southeast Asia this week, curated by Regional Editor Aisyah Llewellyn.

Hello New Naratif readers and welcome to another week in Southeast Asia! This week we have a number of stories to watch across the region, including a defamation case in Indonesia, a potential amendment to the constitution in Malaysia, and good news for students in Singapore.

This week over at New Naratif we published our first commentary: a piece on the complexities of the Criminal Law Reform Bill in Singapore and what it really says about marital immunity for rape. We also published this photo essay on the people who live in limbo between Mae Sot in Thailand and Myawaddy in Myanmar, and the challenges they face in a place where trafficking and smuggling is rife.

Also new on the site, we have this special podcast which features our managing director PJ Thum sitting down with author James Minchin, to discuss his book, No Man Is An Island: A Portrait of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew.

Here are all the stories to watch in Southeast Asia this week…


We start this week with Indonesia, and a break from constant election coverage. Instead, I’d like to take a moment to focus on International Women’s Day on 8 March and the spate of excellent articles it brought with it.

First up, we have this piece by Febriana Firdaus who wrote for Lowy Institute on the long struggle of the women’s movement in Indonesian politics. There’s also this piece by Kate Walton, writing for Al Jazeera, on Indonesian women’s double burden of having to take care of both the home and their careers. Last but not least, I really enjoyed this courageous piece of writing by Hera Diani, the managing editor of Magdalene, on getting divorced in Indonesia.

In other news, we also have the case of Saidah Saleh Syamlan, a woman in Surabaya who was sentenced to ten months in prison for defamation for having sent four Whatsapp messages to two banks about a textile company. It seems that Syamlan is yet another victim of Indonesia’s UU ITE law, and the case seems flimsy at best for a number of reasons, including the fact that she says her phone was stolen from her several months previously. Syamlan has been released pending an appeal, so we can expect to hear more about this case in the coming weeks.


In Sabah, Consulting Editor for Sabah, Jared Abdul Rahman, has this dispatch:

On 16 September 1963, Sabah and Sarawak, along with Singapore and the Federation of Malaya, agreed to form the new Federation of Malaysia. Despite its name being indicative of one of the member states’ dominance over the others, the agreement was that all members enter into the union as equal partners. After more than a decade of questionable conduct by the central government in Kuala Lumpur towards the safeguards and guarantees promised to the Borneo members, on 13 July 1976 the status of Sabah and Sarawak were downgraded to states akin to those under the Federation of Malaya.

After more than 40 years of seemingly neo-colonialist rule, Sabah and Sarawak may have their equal partner status restored when the federal parliament meets to debate the amendment to the Constitution of Malaysia, Article 1 (2), on 11 March 2019.

Peninsular Malaysia

Over in Peninsular Malaysia, our Deputy Editor for Bahasa Malaysia/Melayu, Adriana Nordin Manan has this update:

Malaysia will see its first Parliamentary session for the year taking place come Monday. There’ll be follow-up from the October 2018 announcement by the Federal government that the death penalty will be abolished. One can also look out for progress (we hope) on abolishing or amending security laws, among which are the notorious Special Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012; the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA) 1959 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) 2015.


From Singapore, our Chief Editor, Kirsten Han, has this:

After 40 years of living with this system, Singapore will be abolishing streaming in secondary schools by 2024 in favour of subject-based banding. In the current system, students were sorted into Express, Normal (Academic), and Normal (Technical) classes based on the results of their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results. The different streams have different curriculum, which creates a fairly stratified school environment. Phasing out streaming means that students can now mix-and-match subjects at different levels based on their abilities.

This is a great move by the Ministry of Education—streaming has long been problematic (and I can attest to this from firsthand experience). It’s high time we found a better way for students to learn, without having to be classified into these rigid bands.


From Vietnam, our contributor Mike Tatarski has this news:

Vietnam’s Trump-Kim summit hangover should be ending soon, though much of the international and domestic coverage remains fairly focused on the meeting. I wrote about the event from the ground level, in case you’re wondering what it was like to be in Hanoi when the two leaders met.

In corruption news, two former information ministers have been arrested. They are under investigation for “violation of regulations on the management and use of public capital causing serious consequences” relating to the purchase of a failing TV company that cost the government millions of dollars. This is the latest development in the central government’s ongoing corruption crackdown, which has sent numerous officials and businesspeople to jail.

And that’s a wrap on this week in Southeast Asia! If you have a tip on a news story you would like to see featured in Akan Datang, then send it to us via [email protected] !

See you next week!

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