More Women, Better Nation: Proposing Women-Only Additional Seats

Taken from Facebook

Currently, there is an obvious gender gap in political representation. The ongoing debate on increasing the number of women representatives in our state and national legislatures was focused on changing the current First Past and Post (FPTP) to a more proportional electoral system (PR). Since the current federal government and the Elections Commission is unlikely to embark on such an electoral reform, the Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC) and the Penang Institute aim to raise awareness on another possibility which may be implementable at the state level via the introduction of “Women-Only Additional Seats (WOAS)”.

WOAS is an innovative way of providing gender quota through the creation of “non-constituency seats” to be proportionally allocated after election to all parties, based on their vote shares. Through this initiative, specialized lawmakers from civil society will be provided a seat at the have the table. Such allocations also have the possibility to increase overall representation from minority groups.

In the long run, WOAS can pave the way for full-fledged switches to other electoral systems such as “Mixed Member Proportional” (MMP) in Germany and New Zealand, or the “Mixed Member Majoritarian” (MMM) in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Both MMP and MMM also have “non-constituency seats” where gender and other quota can be easily introduced but voters will have two votes, one for their constituency representative as in our current system, and another vote for their preferred party.

Is Malaysia ready for such an electoral reform? Would WOAS reduce the gender gap in politics in Malaysia? Are such reforms constitutional? Come and join the discourse with us this 20th May (Saturday), from 10am at the University of Nottingham KL Teaching Campus.

Global Human Rights in the Era of President Trump

Poster taken from Penang Institute Facebook event page

Poster taken from Penang Institute Facebook event page

2017 will likely be a very grim year for human rights advocates around the globe, with looming challenges including the continued backlash against the flow of refugees from the Middle East, the continued anti-globalisation and anti-free trade backlash and the uncertainty generated by the policies of the Trump administration.

While it may seem like too big of a ‘fish’ to swallow in Malaysia, society should be encouraged to have open discussions on the different challenges confronted by human rights on a national, regional and global perspective. Doing so will not only help create an educated, well-informed and contextualized discourse but also enable the formation of strategies in response to these global challenges.

Penang Institute in Kuala Lumpur will be organizing a forum entitled “Global Human Rights in the era of President Trump” as a platform to debate these issues.

The forum will be held on Friday, 3rd of March, 2017 at Bookmark, APW, Jalan Riong, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur from 8p.m. to 10.30 p.m.

The panel will feature distinguished speakers including Ms Navi Pillay, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, Secretary General of the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia (PROHAM), Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia and Andrew Khoo from Bar Council, with Dr Ong Kian Ming, General Manager of Penang Institute in Kuala Lumpur, moderating the discussion.

It is inevitable that any discussion of global human rights so early in 2017 will be somewhat speculative. Nevertheless, certain actions taken by the U.S. government have already raised disturbance, to say the least. This forum is but a small step towards a larger discussion that is ongoing in Malaysia and around the world.

Affirmative Action & Human Rights

Source: Penang Institute


Affirmative Action (AA) is a form of state intervention in economy and society to address inequality and marginalisation, especially when inequality and marginalisation are group-based and intergenerational. AA is used as a complement or supplement to universalise welfare state or safety net. Its implementation in different countries from India, US, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and South Africa has sparked vigorous debates on its merit and effectiveness.

Penang Institute is honoured to host Judge Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2008-2014) and a South African of Indian origin, who will lead us to revisit the idea of and issues surrounding AA. She will speak from the standpoint of human rights, and provide insights for such debates surrounding the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programme in South Africa and elsewhere, in particular:

  • What are the human rights arguments for and against AA?
  • What are the relevant categories to identify marginalisation and introduce categories?
  • What are the policy scopes suitable for AA?
  • Under what circumstances AA will cease to be effective or viable? What are the alternatives?

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Reforming Higher Education: Scholarship Or Vocationalism?


Malaysia has a vibrant higher education system which is set to grow student numbers from around 1.5 million now to more than 2.4 million by 2025. This massive growth is driven by the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2015-25 (Higher Education) which has at its heart the aim to create, “HOLISTIC, ENTREPRENEURIAL AND BALANCED GRADUATES,” industry-ready and fit for the labour market.

This is a challenging aim which raises a huge number of questions including:
• What does this labour-market focus mean for the future of Malaysian higher education?
• How will student experiences change?
• Are universities sacrificing scholarship for the sake of creating employable graduates?
• Is the scope of subject options changing for the better or worse?
• Are academics able to produce entrepreneurial graduates when many have never been employed outside of universities let alone run their own enterprises?
• Does the focus on a, “vocational programme,” pay-off in investment terms for students paying high fees with fewer funding options?

These important questions will be discussed by leading experts in higher education drawing on the experience of our oldest research driven university and our newest industry-driven university.

The forum also reveal new and challenging research from the Penang Institute’s education team on the value of higher education: Is the investment worthwhile or not?

Keynote Address:
YAB TUAN LIM GUAN ENG, Chief Minister of Penang

Key Research Findings:
Professor Dr Geoffrey Williams, Visiting Fellow, Penang Institute
Dr Paul Lim, Visiting Fellow, Penang Institute

Leading Panellists:
Professor Dr Garry Clayton, Vice Chancellor & CEO DRB-HICOM University of Automotive Malaysia
Professor Dr Terence Gomez, Faculty of Economics & Administration, Universiti Malaya