FOR most people, the chance to have a conversation with their local politicians is pretty rare. The young Malaysians who were at the Cap10 Asean CEO summit, however, got to go one better – they chilled out with their Prime Minister. That’s right, around 100 bright young minds from Malaysia and the Asean region had the awesome opportunity to have a sit-down with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. We here at R.AGE were super psyched to be invited not only to participate in the exclusive dialogue, but to also nominate and bring along a few influential young people to represent the voices of Malaysian youth.


Over 100 millennials attended the summit last Thursday. Millennials are an important demographic in ASEAN because they represent 60% of the population in the region.

Ideas for the PM While the main Cap10 programme discussed issues like the dynamics of competitive cooperation in ASEAN and understanding ASEAN consumers, a “Millennials Programme” was held in a separate room where the 100 youth brainstormed ideas for a better Asean to be pitched to Najib. Malaysia is the chair of Asean in 2015, so Najib will have a huge role to play in making any of these youth’s ideas happen. The 10 young people R.AGE nominated to offer their unique perspectives to the dialogue included documentary maker Ahmad Yazid, filmmaker Quek Shio Chuan, YouTube star Joseph Germani, TEDxKL’s Daniel Cerventus, Malaysian Institute for Debate and Public Speaking (MIDP) CEO Maizura Mokhsein and our editor Ian Yee. RELATED STORY: Check out what R.AGE’s nominated youth leaders had to say about ASEAN. After 30 minutes of brainstorming in groups of 10, education and talent mobility in the region seemed to be the main topics they wanted to talk to Najib about. For example, one group identified the education gap in the region as a major problem, as some countries have swanky private schools, while others take boats to rural, makeshift schools. This makes it hard for the talent pool in under-developed countries to move around the region. Then came the moment of truth. After delivering the keynote speech at the main hall, Najib joined the Millenials Programme for an engaging – and very candid – 30-minute dialogue.

“It’s a journey to change people’s mindset.”


to talk Shaza Scherazade Onn, 25, a senior researcher on political economy and governance at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, pitched an idea to Najib for an Asean management trainee programme to increase talent mobility in the region.

implementing ideas

Shaza, 25, thinks there should be more ‘in-your-face’ youth programmes to get young people to participate in implementing ideas.

“The idea of an Asean management trainee programme is about actualising free labour movement. Executives should be able to be rotated within Asean as this encourages the transfer of culture and knowledge,” she said. This emphasis on employability in the region is a much needed one as youth unemployment in the region is at 13%, higher than East Asia and South Asia. Another young lady (who left before we could interview her) seemed to really impress the Prime Minister with her group’s suggestion that the region create a central talent bank, so that those with relevant skills could find jobs across Asean.

“Each government should think about education at an Asean level, because we are a community after all.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Najib. “I’ll definitely take that into consideration.” Calvin Teng, 26, assistant vice president of corporate finance and investor relations at Astro, spoke about the lack of a unified ASEAN identity, which Najib agreed is a very real issue. “It’s a journey to change people’s mindset,” he said. “We have been creating Asean programmes for women, youth leaders and young entrepreneurs, in an effort to spread the message of Asean, so people will feel this is a meaningful concept.” Philbert Tiki Yong, 22, a senior executive in Securities Commission Malaysia, suggested a harmonised Asean education system, with a standardised syllabus and a central education fund to help bridge the gap between member countries’ education levels and subsequent employability.

Asean education

Yong, 22, suggested to the Prime Minister that Asean standardise the school syllabus across the region, and develop an Asean education fund.

“Each government should think about education at an Asean level, because we are a community after all,” he said. Youth-powered future Asean is the world’s seventh largest economy and is home to 600 million people. Of this 600 million, research from McKinsey & Company indicates that a staggering 60% are under 35.

“Our youth are hungrier.”

This means that Asean leaders have the huge responsibility of ensuring that youth have the skills and resources they need to achieve their potential. Because if they don’t achieve their potential, neither will the region. “We have to set the stage for them,” said Najib. “We have to harmonise regulations and make it easier to do business in the region so the idea of Asean translates to tangible benefits for the new generation.” “Asean is for the younger generation,” agreed secretary-general of Asean, Surin Pitsuwan, in an earlier dialogue with Najib.


Kerry Taylor, the senior vice president, youth and music for Viacom International Media Networks and MTV, talked about how Asian music is exploding across the world.

Najib added: “There are 300 million youths in 10 different countries – the potential (of the Asean region) lies with them.” “Our youth are hungrier,” said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar. “But I would say there’s still work to be done before we reach the level we’re aiming for.” MTV VJ Hanli Hoeffer, who co-hosted the millennials’ programme alongside fellow MTV VJ Alan Wong, thinks the youth of Asean will pave the way forward. “I think the summit showcased the mindset of the younger generation and the fact that they are extremely driven.”

MTV VJs Hoeffer and Wong were the hosts of the event. Wong said: ‘Media has the power to amplify awareness of what it is to be ASEAN, and MTV is so honoured to be part of this.’



We were asked to nominate a few young movers and shakers to represent Malaysian youth at the dialogue with the PM, so we dusted off the old rolodex and called up a few of our peeps. Here’s what they all had to say after the dialogue was over and the rather chaotic #wefie with Najib was taken:

youth leaders

R.AGE’s nominated youth leaders (from left): TED xKL’s Daniel Cerventus Lim, R.AGE editor Ian Yee, BRAT Sarenraj Rajendran, singer Darren Ashley, BRAT Carissa Tan, YouTube star Joseph Germani, filmmaker Ahmad Yazid, BRAT Syahirah Khanum

Joseph Germani

Joseph Germani

“I always knew about Asean, but I never thought about the whole concept. I’m very excited about the opportunity to unify our region and hopefully one day be like the European Union.” – Joseph Germani  
Daniel Lim aka Daniel CerVentus

Daniel Lim aka Daniel CerVentus

“As an entrepreneur, I am hopeful that one day it’ll be easier to start businesses across the region. Currently the policies are really restrictive, and its difficult for foreign investors to come into Malaysia.” – Daniel Cerventus Lim  
Darren Ashley

Darren Ashley

“I’m very passionate about our cultural scene, and I hope we’ll be able to have a cultural exchange with the other Asean members. “But first, all the discussed initiatives need to be put in place, because without the basics of education and economy, culture will not be able to grow.” – Darren Ashley  
Carissa Tan

Carissa Tan

“I think Asean still has much to do to reach a common rate of economic integrity, as each country is currently progressing at its own pace and the difference between them is drastic. Awareness should be raised among youth to promote this, such as promoting Asean as a single tourist destination as the youth of today hold the highest spending power.” – Carissa Tan  
Sarenraj Rajendran

Sarenraj Rajendran

“Big corporations within Asean should allocate a quota for youth directors. More youths should be groomed to eventually sit on boards. In this way, youth directors will be able to provide opportunities to young people because they understand what we want.” – Sarenraj Rajendran  
Ahmad Yazid

Ahmad Yazid

“It’s good to see Asean corporations try to engage youth now as it was very rare to have such conferences in the past. Yes, they have to improve much more on their engagement, but it’s a great start.” – Ahmad Yazid   “I like how the Prime Minister took all the suggestions very seriously and shared the government initiatives currently in place that drive the Asean objective.” – Nur Syahirah Khanum




Literature grad-turned-journalist who loves our R.AGE team karaoke nights a little too much. While her literature background has left her with a slightly twisted sense of humour, it has also given her a passion for writing on social issues.

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