Saturday, August 24, 2013


By: Muhamad  Bin Ali, Hayati Md. Salleh, Abd. Samad Hj. Nor
- Promotion of International Exchange With ASEAN Nations - strengthening the human network-

1.1 When the Look East Policy (LEP) was launched by the government of Malaysia, the main aim was to emulate the work ethics of the Japanese besides promoting the technology transfer. The reason was clear that the government felt the Japanese had succeeded in building a very strong and successful nation and Malaysians can also do the same. 
 1.2    As the outcome of this policy, a variety of programmes were made available by the government to bring Malaysian people closer to the Japanese community. Every year more Malaysian students are being sent to various universities in Japan for study. Apart from that there also in service programmes to cater for the people from government as well as private sectors under The Japanese Technical Cooperation programme.
1.3    Okinawa which is an island prefecture of Japan also receives a number of Malaysian students every year under this programmes. At present there are a few universities and an International Centre (OIC) located in Okinawa.
2.      SCOPE 
2.1    This paper highlights some issues and findings in the possibilities of      establishing an international networking between Malaysia and Okinawa, thereupon giving suggestions in initiating, strengthening and maintaining the networking.  However the basis of this paper is mainly from the experience and observation made during the writers stay in OIC as course participants. 

3.1 Malaysia Okinawa Relationship
History shows that regular trading contacts between Okinawa and the whole of the China Sea southward to Cambodia, Thailand, Malaya and Java have existed in the fourteenth century. It was during the period that Malacca became the meeting point of business transactions between East and West.
Apparently it was due to this exposure that Okinawa today has her own unique culture which shows various degrees of assimilation from neighboring cultures through essentially Japanese. 

3.2 Okinawa International Centre (OIC)
OIC is a training institution for participants from the developing countries under the Japanese Technical Cooperation Programme. Up to now, not less than 120 Malaysians were trained in various fields at this centre. Appendix 1: EX-OIC participants from Malaysia 1985-1992.

3.3      Life in OIC and Okinawa 
Almost all Malaysian participants selected to undergo training in the OIC have several years of working experience in their fields. Many considers the trip as a reward for services rendered besides acquiring new knowledge.
For Malaysian participants life in OIC as a whole does not differ very much from those participants from other countries. We share the joy and happiness and participate in various activities organized by OIC together. To the OIC staff, Malaysian participants generally are known to be more matured pious and discipline.
Although we are considered a minority group in OIC and quite often mistaken as Indonesian by the look and appearance, due to relatively good command of English language, many of us have elected as course leaders or group leaders or group representatives in many occasions.

Since majority of the Malaysian participants in OIC are Muslim, HALAL foods has always become an issue and most of the time created confusion among shukudo staff. What the Japanese usually don't quite understand is that how a Malaysian can be so precise about HALAL foods, and at the same time can afford to be adventurous trying out Japanese food like sashimi !

Malaysian participants keep abreast with the home news by reading Malaysian newspaper and magazines supplied by our government. Most of the time, the Indonesians too find it useful to share the news.

Above all the OIC experience, what really touches and remains in our heart is our close relationship with a very distinguished person to us who never fail to meet every Malaysian in OIC. He is known to us as Pakcik Higa. He has spent more than a quarter of his life in Malaya before the Japanese Occupation. He enjoys Malay traditional music as much as our local food. To us, his family has become our foster family during our stay in Okinawa.

3.4     Back To Malaysia 
After completing the course programme, most of us will continue to serve the same organization. For most of us, we don't have the chance to meet each other again and our Nihongo too gradually being forgotten due to lack of practice.
However some of us are still receiving Kenshu-in, Look Japan and The Japan Economic Review through JICA. These magazines have definitely helped us in sustaining our interest in many fields of Japan and the people. Apart from that, the JICA Alumni Society of Malaysia is another avenue for us to keep in touch with each other and to establish internal networking among us. 

4.       ISSUES 
Since 1985, not less than 120 Malaysian had been trained in 10 training courses in OIC. Several issues such as the following can be raised in relation to the program.

a)    What are the benefits from such programme to the participants, Malaysian Government and Japanese Government? 

b)    As the participants have enough preparation mentally and physically before the course? 

c)    What kind of follow-up programme can be arranged for ex-participants? 

d)    What kind of contribution if any can be offered by the Malaysian participants to the Okinawan? 

e)    How to establish and maintain a good networking with Okinawan , thereupon identifying areas where bilateral cooperation can be constituted?

5.       SUGGESTION 

5.1 The Need For Associations
Even though some of the issues above may have been looked into by certain government organization of both countries, a few can also be handled by Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) or associations, especially those related to social, culture or even economic endeavors.
In initiating a networking between the people of Malaysia and Okinawa, a kind of formal association has to be set up in both countries to serve as platform for the members to carry out possible activities within correct procedures and systematic way.

5.2     JICA Alumni Society of Malaysia
The JICA Alumni Society of Malaysia was founded in 1988. The Alumni's constitution accept any ex-JICA participants, any individuals who have studied in Japan and with certain provisions even accept any Malaysian citizens who are interested.
Since ex-OIC participants are eligible to joint the Alumni, there isn't a need to form another association. It is possible and there is no restriction in the Alumni's constitution for a sub group such as Okinawa Interest Group to be organized. In other words, it is only wise for ex-OIC participants to joint the Alumni's to expedite the establishment of the group.

5.3 Malaysia Okinawa Friendship Association (MOFA)
It is also recommended that our Okinawan counterparts to form an association namely Malaysia Okinawa Friendship Association (MOFA) whose members are Okinawan who are interested in fostering good relations with fellow Malaysians. We believe that the sooner the association being established, the earlier the networking can be materialized.

5.4 Proposed Activities
With the establishment of 'Okinawa Interest Group (OIG)  and Malaysia Okinawa Friendship Association (MOFA) several preliminary activities can be undertaken.
a) A follow-up forum with the objectives to:
i) Identify need and areas of cooperation 
ii) Identify the possible sources of fund and ways of acquiring them 
iii)   Set up the system of operation 
b)      Promoting foster family programmed both in Okinawa and Malaysia. 
c)      Establishing marketing channel of HALAL food from Malaysia to Okinawa for the consumption of Muslim in Okinawa. 
d)      Maintenance of membership database 
e)      Regular publication and exchange of latest news. At present JICA Alumni has a regular bulletin for the members. 
f)      Promoting inter cultural activities 
g)      Encouraging hobby-based activities 
h)      Organizing Malay/Nihongo language lessons for members 
i)      Organizing package holiday Malaysia/Okinawa for members 
 5.5     Special Project by JICA Alumni Society of Malaysia
As mentioned earlier, ex-OIC participants have a very special relationship with an Okinawan - Kyogi Higa or Pakcik Higa. The Alumni has so far succeeded in collection RM1,200.00 from members to sponsor him for a holiday in Malaysia. We hope to be able to collect more to make his dreams to visit Malaysia a reality.

This paper has highlighted a rough overview of the possibilities of establishing Malaysia Okinawa networking from the ex-OIC participants' perspective. Hopefully it can be food for thought and of some use to all of us.
As Malaysian, given the second chance to visit Okinawa again, none will reject the offer!. This forum is a milestone towards closer ties between the people of Malaysia and Okinawa. 

JICA Alumni Malaysia
8th. February 1994.

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