The Globe as you know it is changing.
Coming June 2019

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To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

Malaysia: a country in crisis?

By: Daniel Besant - Posted on: October 19, 2015 | Featured

Scandals, disasters and financial mismanagement have hit Malaysia hard in recent years. Southeast Asia Globe finds that the nation’s young people are beginning to talk of a country in crisis

On the weekend of August 29-30, thousands of Malaysians rallied as part of Bersih 4.0,
a series of demonstrations held across Malaysia and in 70 further cities across the world. Wearing trademark yellow T-shirts, the protesters, who were mostly of Chinese and Indian descent, were there ostensibly to rally for electoral reform. But given the circumstances – including a prime minister embroiled in a multimillion-dollar corruption scandal, a tanking economy and dissatisfaction over a general sales tax – it was seen by the world’s media as a manifestation of widespread discontent with the government and the direction the country is taking.

Najib Razak
Embattled: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak Photo: Olivia Harris/Reuters

This feeling of general malaise and a buildup of pressure for change were underlined by the appearance at one of the rallies of 90-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, the influential former prime minister and ‘kingmaker’ of the country’s political scene. Of late, he has been doling out sharp criticism of his former protégé and current prime minister, Najib Razak, and is now openly calling for “people power” to topple Najib if he does not step down.

However, it is the younger generation that has to live with the consequences of Malaysia’s current quagmire, and it seems that many in this segment of society are more than a little concerned about the country’s future.

“This is a government that has failed to explain issues, again, again and again,” said Liew Jia Teng, 28, a business journalist. “There are so many controversial issues surrounding the government, from 1MDB [a strategic state fund $11 billion in debt] to the $700m [allegedly] found in Najib’s private bank account, that were never appropriately explained.”

Such situations have certainly engendered misgivings towards the government in some quarters. For example, Beatrice Goh, 23, who works in hotel management, said the government is “losing the rakyat’s [ordinary people’s] trust. If our government carries on with their current way of governance, things will definitely get worse.”

In turn, Chan Ooi Leng, 30, a housewife, said she feels “frustrated” and has “lost hope in the government”. She added that she fears “the poor leadership and attitude of the government will continue and that citizens may turn against each other”.

Malaysians are renowned for placing great trust in their government and, in particular, their leaders. “When the leader is perceived to not be trustworthy, he will be blamed for all that’s wrong in the country,” said Greg Lopez, a Malaysian research fellow at Murdoch University’s Asia Research Centre in Perth, Australia.

Last year was a traumatic one for Malaysia. The country suffered three aviation disasters, along with the worst floods since 1972, and the government was heavily criticised for its responses. Meanwhile, the ringgit plunged 7% against the US dollar, and global crude oil prices plummeted by 40%, causing the stock market in Kuala Lumpur to drop by 5%.

Tun Razak Exchange
Dark clouds: a woman walks past the construction site of the1MDB flagship Tun Razak Exchange. Photo: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP

This year has not been much better for the country. The currency has continued to crash, reaching its lowest rate against the US dollar for 17 years, and confidence in the stock market remains weak, which has not been helped by the continuing 1MDB scandal.

Liew feels that no country’s economy can be completely impervious to outside influences, such as oil prices and changes in major nations’ economies, “but financial scandal and money politics are internal issues, something within our control”. He believes the federal government and the ruling party deserve blame for the current meltdown. “Today, we’re not sad [like in 2014]. We’re angry,” he said.

For many in Malaysia, it seems that the financial scandals involving the prime minister are the final straw. “There’s a sense that the PM’s scandal might give their cause the momentum needed to bring about real change,” said Julian C H Lee, a Malaysian scholar at Australia’s RMIT University and author of Second Thoughts: On Malaysia, Globalisation, Society and Self.

But that change may take a lot longer than some Malaysians would like.

The country has the world’s longest-serving ruling party; it is clearly adept at retaining power. Therefore, the kinds of electoral reforms that Bersih and others are pushing for have been stymied by the powers-that-be for decades. “Furthermore, many will be concerned about the lengths the government will go to to retain power,” Lee said.

The expectation that change will be slow is shared by Tammy Chan, 28, a public relations manager. For her, the government is the perfect example of “all talk, no action”, something she links to a lack of motivation and genuine talent. “They keep the useless and greedy people in the cabinet and not talented people,” she said. “They come out with plans that sound brilliant for the country, spend a lot of money, but nothing gets done properly for one reason or another.”

But however many people are currently pining for change, there remains a majority of Malaysians – particularly ethnic Malays – who like things just the way they are. Ahmed Kamal Nava, founder of Politweet, a Malaysian research firm that studies the use of social media in politics, has found that the opposition is not well perceived by the majority of Malay-speaking youth who post online.

Furthermore, Nava believes that 1MDB’s debts will be settled soon, perhaps as early as this month, and that Najib might use that to accuse the opposition of lying about his mismanagement. In fact, Nava added, the opposition is currently so weak and divided that, even in the current climate, it would be unlikely to win an election.

For decades, Malaysia has been seen as a moderate and tolerant Muslim nation. But that tolerance is fading. Hardline Islam is gaining ground, manifesting itself, as Nava pointed out, in stronger views by Muslims on how fellow Muslims should behave, the use of Arabic words for Islamic practices and a rise in the practice of female circumcision. It seems inevitable that issues of race and religion – certainly not absent before – will become a focal point in the next general election, scheduled for 2018. Indeed, in the wake of the Bersih 4.0 rallies, pro-government critics branded it a demonstration dominated by ethnic Chinese who wished to challenge the political power of the Malays.

Mahathir Mohamad
Éminence grise: former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at a Bersih 4.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Olivia Harris/Reuters

Yeoh Seng Guan, a senior lecturer in media and cultural studies at Monash University Malaysia, does see positives, such as the increasing sophistication of Malaysian civil society and the necessity for at least some long-term change if the ruling party is to hold onto power.

“To their credit, the powers-that-be have been cognisant for more democratic reforms in line with these aspirations, especially among the younger and urban demographic,” he said. “For many, however, these changes have not been fast enough nor comprehensive enough.”

Many Malaysians yearn for the days of Mahathir – for the most part a time of economic success and national unity. Liew believes the country needs a figure of the calibre of Nelson Mandela, and Chan is sure that the country’s current rulers are nowhere near this level. “I can tell you now that some of my friends at 28 years old don’t even know who our PM is, let alone our deputy – which sucks,” she said.

Strong leader or not, change cannot come quick enough for some. Joaan Foo Pui Yan, a 32-year-old Malaysian music teacher based in Phnom Penh, is frustrated at the state of play. She helped organise a Bersih 4.0 rally in the Cambodian capital and was taken aback at how many fellow nationals attended. Although only a handful were expected, more than 45 showed up to show their discontent.

“It’s insane. Things are so shaky right now,” she said. “If we are going to wait until 2018 and push for a change, I’m just worried that things could be really, really bad by then.”

Keep reading:
This is Malaysia” – Meet the Malaysian skinheads who are fighting off the subculture’s fascist stereotypes and striving to laud the 1960s scene’s original anti-racist ideals