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Wednesday

9 JANUARY
2008
thestar.com.my/lifestyle

MIND OUR ENGLISH:

Chinas exotic
food >13

RUM radio >15


By GLENN GUAN/THE STAR

Subprime, NINJA
loans, etc >11

HEALTH:

Taking it easy
The lepak culture among youths is a symptom
of a deeper malaise in their lives. > 2-3

T2

YOUTH

EDITOR: IVY SOON / youth2@thestar.com.my / 03-7967 1693

STARTWO, WEDNESDAY 9 JANUARY 2008

YOUTH

Hangin around

Harnessing
natures power
One lad is achieving fame by
doing what he loves
kitesurfing. >4

YOUTH

Bug hunter
Izuan Izham finds insects to be
a source of fascination. >6

MOVIES

Action for reel


Steel, skates and special
effects add to the excitement
of on-screen car chases. >14

MUSIC

A night with
Joey Negro
DJ Dave Lee aka Joey Negro
has always been a pioneer in
club music. >16

TV

From left: Muhammad Ilyas Hassan, Irsyaduddin Ishak, Muhammad Faiz Abdul Hadi and Rozaini Fitra are optimistic about their future, but
there is little guidance or motivation for them to pursue their dreams.
By NIKI CHEONG
niki@thestar.com.my

UHAMMAD Faiz Abdul Hadi is only 16,


but he does not have a curfew. In fact,
on most days, he waltzes in and out of
his house as he pleases. During school holidays,
he returns home at the break of dawn, when the
rest of his family is just stirring from sleep. He
then sleeps for several hours.

Dare to
be different

The day begins again for him in the evening


with a game of football behind his familys flat
in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.
Wed play for a couple of hours then head
over to the stalls for a drink. At Maghrib, wed
go home and by 9pm, wed meet up again
downstairs, he says.
On school days, Faiz might be home by
around midnight and spends his mornings at
school. But the pattern of sleeping, playing
games and hanging out with his friends pretty
much makes up Faizs daily routine.
Faiz and his friends, Irsyaduddin Ishak (or

Getting to know the


Kardashians can be a load
of fun. >17

StarTwo

EDITOR: LIM CHENG HOE

CONTACT
email: startwo@thestar.com.my
tel: 03-7967 1388
fax: 03-7955 4039
ADVERTISING:
Janet Khaw
janet@thestar.com.my
(03) 7966-8221
Peter Hoe
peterhoe@thestar.com.my
(03) 7966-8236
Jeanie Chiew
jean@thestar.com.my
(03) 7966-8224

Faiz (left) and


a video game. a friend watches as his olde
r brother, whom
he refers to as
angah, plays

Shah), 17, and Rozainin Fitra (Black), 19, are


caught in what many people call the lepak
culture. This phenomenon is not new, says
social psychologist Dr Chiam Heng Keng.
Previously, especially among the urban poor,
teenagers hung around flats, smoked and rode
on borrowed motorbikes. Following that; was
the bohsia problem. Now, we have these
teenagers who are basically another version of
the Mat Rempit, she explains.
These youths, especially those who hang
around in big groups, often have a reputation
for causing trouble.
In November last year, The Star published
an article reporting that shop owners at
Changkat Thambi Abdullah in KL were
complaining about a group of
boisterous teenagers hanging out at the
open-air car park in the area.
The shop owners claim that these
teenagers were engaging in numerous
vice activities including glue sniffing
and fighting.
While this example is one set in an
urban locale, the problem is nationwide.
Its the same in urban and rural areas.
The kids just do different things,
psychologist Karen Kow says. She adds,
however, that the perception that the city
is not safe makes people fear big groups.
Dr Chiam agrees. In urban areas, we
expect (children) to be home. So when
they are outside, they become very
obvious, she says.
Faiz and his friends are just a few of the
many teenagers who hang around the
Changkat Thambi Abdullah area on
Saturday evenings. They usually spend their
weekends at the shopping centres along
Jalan Bukit Bintang where they would play
arcade games or sing in karaoke booths.
Their last stop is the car park at Changkat

STARTWO, WEDNESDAY 9 JANUARY 2008

Thambi Abdullah as it is next to their bus


stop.
During a recent visit, the teenagers
appeared harmless. They could be seen
streaming out from the back of the nearby
Berjaya Times Square shopping complex, and
sitting around an open-air car park.
These youths came across as wellmannered, or as well-mannered as teenagers
could be. They took turns to salam each other
in greeting. And like most boys in packs, they
whistled at girls walking past while cracking
a joke or two.
There were no signs of anyone sniffing
glue, or instigating fights, but Faiz and his
friends have seen some of the youths there
do it.
Yes, there are a few kids there who do
sniff glue ... dalam belas-belas (more than 10),
Black shares. If I see them, I often tell them
not to do it, and to think about what they get
out of it.
While Black may not have been able to stop
the kids, the two psychologists feel that it is
important for young people to be told to toe
the line.
Many teenagers get caught up in the lepak
culture because they do not get enough
supervision from their parents, who may be
too busy with work to pay much attention to
their children.
Some parents simply lack parenting skills.
There are also those with large families who
are unable to keep track of their children.
Under the (United Nations) Convention of
the Rights of a Child, which we (Malaysia)
have ratified, a 16-year-old person is still
considered a child and is considered under
the care of parents. So, if it is after midnight,
he should not be hanging around outside,
says Dr Chiam.
Youths like Faiz and his friends are up and
about until the wee hours of the morning not
only on weekends, but almost daily.
While it is easy to criticise such behaviour,
there are also other factors to consider. One
major issue is the size of families and space at

Log on to www.rage.com.my
to watch a video of Faiz
and his friends daily
routine.

home. At Faizs home, seven people live in


a two-bedroom flat. In Shahs case, there
are 11 people living there.
It is natural for them to want to get
out of the house because it is overcrowded, explains Kow.
Many might argue that nevertheless, it
is the responsibility of the parents not
only to uphold discipline, but to protect
their children to ensure that they are
safe. The easiest way is of course to
keep their children at home but that is
not always possible.
Unfortunately, staying out makes
these teenagers more susceptible to
negative influences.
For some parents, such as Faizs,
they are confident that the system
they currently use is sufficient. Faizs
father explains that they belong to a
close-knit family and community, and
they always know where their
children are and what they are up to.
Faiz, who is in Form 5, says: I
dont smoke because my angah
(second oldest brother) is strict. If he
sees me smoking, or finds out, I
know that hell hit me.
Apart from relying on this
informal surveillance method to
ensure that their children stay out
of trouble, Faizs parents are rather
nonchalant about his carefree routine.
All three friends admit that they
have skipped school, gone to
school late and even slept in class.
Their parents and teachers have
long given up on reprimanding
them or disciplining them about
their lackadaisical attitude
towards their schooling.
When I was in school, all we
needed to do was show up and
the teacher would take our
attendance, says Black, who
did badly in his SPM.

YOUTH

T3

Faiz helping his


mother with the
dishes in the
kitchen.

Faiz notes that he wanted to be an


engineer, but that dream was crushed when
he was put in the Arts stream in Form Four.
Tak nak fikir dulu, tengok lah (Dont want
to think about it yet, well see how things
go), he says. As for how he feels about his

Teenage boys at a car park in Changkat Thambi Dollah in KL. While these youths appear harmless, their habit of hanging out in
groups do make some people feel uncomfortable.

crushed dream, he says: Sure I regret not


doing better in school but what can I do?
Dr Chiam comments: Just look at the
expectations for academic excellence today.
It makes them feel worse off and they are
always viewed negatively. We do not look at
what can be done for them. If they are doing
badly in school, they find their future is bleak.
They will feel that life is not worth living
anymore, get frustrated and so they seek to
add colours to their lives.
Some youngsters cope with their frustrations by turning to cigarettes, alcohol and
drugs. Others look for comfort in people going
through the same situation as them, hence
the gatherings of disaffected youths in large
numbers.
But while most of these youths are not
posing a danger to the people around them,
the question of what harm they are doing to
themselves begs to be asked.
Even if they are not a menace, it would be
great if they were doing something
productive, Kow says. She adds that youths,
as human beings, need to do something and
have goals and ambitions.
Dr Chiam does not think that the blame lies
solely on the youths. She says that the
community from parents, schools and
society at large has to take responsibility,
and not be too harsh in judging these
teenagers.
There is no point just condemning these
teenagers. We need to find a solution. We
need to meaningfully engage the teenagers,
she says.
Although they seem content to drift from
day to day, Faiz and his friends actually have
plans for their future. Black wants to become
a professional footballer while Shah wants to
be a businessman.
For now, however, there is little guidance
or motivation for them to pursue these
dreams.