Fulfilling aspirations of Generation Y
By Wilfred Pilo
Not many people, especially youths, have been given the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.
Hani Iryani Bonny Leong, the first runner-up of the 2007 Miss Fair and Lovely World Harvest Festival (WHF), is one of the exceptions.
With a job waiting for her at the Works Ministry in Putra Jaya, the 24-year-old wants to share, especially with the youth, her experience as an intern in the Ministry — and how she, as a youth herself, has added to the voice calling on the government to fulfill the aspirations of people of her generation.
Hani who recently finished her law degree at a local university, was picked to join a Parliamentary Youth Programme (MANTAP) together with 60 other young people from different social and academic backgrounds as gatherers of information on the needs of young people in Malaysia.
She said the programme was jointly designed by Umno and PBB to build a bridge between the present government and the youth of the country.
“Perhaps, the government can come up with plans on nationbuilding, particularly in terms of fulfilling the aspirations of our youth today or Generation Y.”
She hoped Datuk Fadillah Yusof who leads the Works Ministry, could guide her and listen to her suggestions on the development the youth she represents.
“So far, the Minister has been supportive of our proposals and hopefully, he can channel them to the cabinet.”
Hani said ever since she was young and during her secondary education in Junior Sciences College MARA in Kuching, she has been “very active” in school debates and would always articulate her ideas the best she could — win or lose.
“Until recently, I was still very active in public debates, especially at the university where I studied. But my role now has changed and these days, I’m more a trainer, of other university students, especially in public speaking,” she revealed.
“Due to this, I decided to change my degree course and opted to read law which is very helpful, especially for public speaking and debating. The qualification gives me more options to join any related professions.”
PARLIAMENTARY YOUTH PROGRAMME: Hani with her boss and mentor, Works Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof, when she was attached with the ministry for the Parliamentary Youth Programme.
Hani said joining MANTAP had boosted her confidence in voicing her ideas to others, especially young leaders such as Fadillah.
She was thrilled when told she also got a job in the Works Ministry and has started working there in September.
She hoped as a young staffer in an important ministry, she could help young people achieve their goals.
“Young people want transparency and action — they want to believe in future leaders who have such qualities otherwise there will be change – it is inevitable.”
Describing MANTAP as a good programme, Hani said it would create a dynamics to clear some bureaucratic process.
“The world does not come to you —you need to go to the world and I consider myself lucky when I was accepted by Datuk Fadillah Yusof to join the programme under his ministry.
“From day one at his office, he would knock at our door and ask whether we had anything new for him. His personal assistant is always accommodating. They all are very cooperative. It’s an added bonus when you have an MP who is very friendly.”
On brain drain, she said qualified people would seek greener pastures elsewhere if opportunities for advancement at home were limited.
“This is where we will lose our human capital. So there must be facilities in place to meet the needs of our young professionals.”
She believed the income gap in the country was also contributing to the brain drain.
“There must be a solution otherwise people with talents will be the first to pack and leave.
“We have many talented Sarawakians — for example, a young singer like Zee Avi. Talented people like him seldom made it here because there are no facilities to nurture and promote their talents. Our mentality and approach must change and we have to start now.”
Hani felt it was easier for young people to change their mentality than older people who tended to stick to their beliefs and ideologies.
“I suggest we create a database on the demographics and status of our graduates — what are their expertise and present location so that when we want to get in touch with them, we know where to look.”
She said if the government wanted to change, they had five years to do so, adding that the government must be consistent and persistent in keeping their promises to the people, especially the younger generation.
Where possible, she pointed out, implementation of any good programme should not be left to the last minute.
“People now want transparency — otherwise, they will source for information somewhere else and the data obtained may not be accurate as facts could be changed, leading distortion and misconception.
“People are thirstier for information nowadays and while it’s true no goverment can reveal everything, efforts should still be made to reach out to the people and listen to what their needs are — if not, they will not support your course.”
Gone are the days when Hani was a bubbly 18-year-old from Kuching who took the runnerup spot in a local beauty pageant plus two subsidiary titles – Miss SMS Voters’ favourite WHF 2007 and Miss Fair and Lovely Talent Anggun.
Today, she is more mature and believes the future of Malaysia rests on the shoulders the younger generation who, as the leaders of tomorrow, will form the backbone to propel the country to greater heights.
Recalling the final night of the pageant, she said although confident of winning, she thought the winner Hazel Desmond fully deserved the title.
“She is very beautiful but I was happy with what I got. I think the score was very close.”
She is happy that the pageant — Miss Fair and Lovely World Harvest Festival (WHF) — is still going strong, hoping the organisers will get in touch with former contestants for some feedback to help make the event even better.
“The pageant is a good platform for many young girls build up their confidence and realise their dreams. It gave me the direction I wanted and I’m happy for that,” she said.
Although Hani does not deny her ideas can, at times, be conservative, she, nonetheless, wants the youth to come forward and give ideas to youth organisations either in the private or public sector so that they can help shape the nation’s destiny in the way they aspire it to be.