Kapil Sethi

Kapil is an advertising strategist based in KL, who likes nothing better than to figure out why people behave the way they do. Naturally this forces him to spend most of his time lounging in coffeeshops and bars. He can be reached at

Lolita anyone (Part 2)

JUNE 6 — “There are many cases of men marrying underage girls. I do not see why my case should be any different”. This a quote from Riduan Masmud,... READ MORE

A smaller victory for BN, a bigger one for Malaysian democracy

MAY 7 — A system which results in an 80 per cent turnout, where there are no more fixed deposits, where there is a healthy opposition voice in... READ MORE

The emotional aftermath of loss

APRIL 30 — Attending an opposition ceramah, one is struck by the urgency and passion exhibited by candidates and supporters alike. It seems like... READ MORE

Taking the rural voter for granted

APRIL 19 — Most political pundits are predicting a close race between Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in the upcoming general... READ MORE

Collective amnesia

APRIL 4 — Five years is a long time in politics. In the hurly burly of the 24-hour news cycle, it is hard enough to keep up with the events of the... READ MORE

Food for thought

MARCH 11 — The last few weeks have seen the upping of the political ante with the approach of the general election. But apart from the usual... READ MORE

How much is enough?

FEB 21 — How many TVs in your house? How many mobile phones? How many shoes? How many shampoos, outfits, bags and accessories? How many cars, how... READ MORE

Instant citizenship and a maturing democracy

FEB 8 — Does it mean anything to be a Malaysian? Is anybody entitled to call herself such if she so desires and can arrive here? The recent Royal... READ MORE

A sense of humanity

JAN 17 — Imagine this. A man of mixed Caucasian and Malaysian Chinese parentage, owning up to no religion, close friends with people of all races,... READ MORE

Rape and rage: A time for hope?

JAN 3 — A visitor to India this week would have been greeted with the spectacle of civil society across all walks of life all over the country in a... READ MORE

Words and actions: Politicising education

DEC 19 — In a recent article in the International Herald Tribune, the prime minister expressed concern about the challenges caused to Muslim... READ MORE

It’s the economy, stupid!

DEC 10 — A health director-general is demoted for khalwat, two non-Muslims are summoned for the same, underage girls are legally married off, Hindu... READ MORE

Calling the election: The elephant in the room

NOV 29 — Between rows over unisex hair salons in Kelantan and what Nurul Izzah Anwar said or did not say about there being no compulsion in Islam... READ MORE

Vice and crime: The role of corruption

NOV 9 — Despite official claims to the contrary, there is certainly a growing sense of unease at not just the frequency of crime occurrences, but... READ MORE

Messaging and electoral success

OCT 15 — How does a politician write off 47 per cent of his electorate by portraying them as having a “victim” mentality and still gain support?... READ MORE

Much ado about nothing

OCT 3 ― After all the hoopla in the preceding weeks about the government’s annual Budget, there is a strange feeling of it having been to all... READ MORE

Breathtaking stupidity

SEPT 19 ― No, this article is not about PSY’s horsing around Gangnam Style. Hard as it may be to imagine, within the last couple of weeks details... READ MORE

The gender gap and rape

SEPT 4 — Two recent cases of young men avoiding custodial sentences for the proven crimes of statutory rape of minors have met with howls of... READ MORE

Why brain drain will continue (Part II)

AUG 29 ― In my last column, I touched upon the role of education, media and politics in contributing to brain drain from Malaysia. In this piece,... READ MORE

Why brain drain will continue

AUG 25 — On a trip to America, it is clear that all is not well with the United States. From George W. Bush to Hurricane Katrina, from rising... READ MORE

Too important to ignore

AUG 7 — The recent brouhaha over the logo for the upcoming National Day celebrations is emblematic of a much larger issue; the importance of design... READ MORE

Higher thinking, the Internet and censorship

JULY 18 — At a recent Malaysian Young Thinkers convention at UTM, the prime minister reportedly asked the country’s youth to adopt “higher... READ MORE

Crime and the economic divide

JUNE 19 — The media is to blame for the perception that crime is on the increase, according to the head of PEMANDU. According to him, in actual... READ MORE

Branding politics 101

JUNE 7 — As brands and branding become more central to the process of wealth creation by corporations, political leaders, parties and coalitions... READ MORE

The lack of political courage

MAY 18 — Barack Obama has come out in support of gay marriage and that too in an election year. One may have differing views on the merits of the... READ MORE

Coming of age: Malaysian democracy matures

MAY 4 — In my last column, I had argued that Bersih 3.0 was jumping the gun and it ran the risk of alienating its base of civil society supporters... READ MORE

Bersih 3.0 is jumping the gun

APRIL 13 — Consider this. Between Bersih 1.0 and 2.0, four years passed with no action on the demands of the group by the authorities. Between... READ MORE

Cowed no more

MARCH 27 — Till maybe a decade ago, the average Malaysian adult, when confronted with a political topic in a public place would shuffle uneasily,... READ MORE

Maid in Malaysia

MARCH 21 — The latest debacle about maids from Indonesia only allowed to do one chore has been met with howls of protest by prospective employers.... READ MORE

The politics of compromise

MARCH 8 — A vote for PAS is vote for the DAP, says Umno. A vote for the DAP is a vote for PAS, says MCA. The implication being that the Malays... READ MORE

It’s who you know: Changing the culture of big business

FEB 23 — Around the world, from Washington lobbyists to Indian businessmen turned politicians, there is a perceived nexus between business and... READ MORE

Cowgate, ‘jambu’ and the changing political ground

FEB 9 — It is entirely possible that Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and her family are innocent of any wrongdoing in the RM250 million National... READ MORE

Corruption and grand corruption

JAN 31 — If you have ever expressed a political opinion in public, taken part in a student demo, driven with an expired road tax disc, made out in... READ MORE

Politics and the media in cyberspace

JAN 17 — Why is it that when Sakmongkol AK 47 leaves Umno for the DAP, it seems completely natural to the blogosphere, but when RPK turns on Anwar,... READ MORE

Obey to disobey

DEC 19 —- Why is it that while out-of-the-box thinking is the flavour of the month with all administrators and politicians, there is very little of... READ MORE

Sports and national unity

DEC 12 — Harimau Muda or the Malaysian Thomas Cup team. Nicol David or Lee Chong Wei. In a nation increasingly fractured along racial and religious... READ MORE

Press freedom and feeding at the trough

NOV 24 — “There is no more effective check on corrupt officials, bribe takers, embezzlers, and those who waste public funds than a hard-nosed... READ MORE

Impotent rage

NOV 9 — So it’s final. No more PPSMI. Over a year of PAGE campaigning, petitioning, protesting and writing letters to the editors have come to... READ MORE

Sexual lunacy

OCT 28 — Any tourist drawn to Malaysia for its beaches, nightlife or diverse culture would not bargain on finding another aspect of Malaysian life... READ MORE

A fool’s paradise?

OCT 24 — Spot on! Screamed out page after page in The Star the day after the Budget 2012 announcement by the prime minister. Barisan Nasional was... READ MORE

After brain drain, now capital flight?

OCT 8 — PNB’s takeover bid of SP Setia, merger talks between OSK Holdings and RHB Capital and Sime Darby taking over 30 per cent of E&O have set... READ MORE

The hudud hubbub

SEPT 29 — Has PAS decided it is better to continue ruling a state or two than take a shot at running the country and maybe lose a state or two? It... READ MORE

Defer everything

SEPT 18 — Transparency and integrity in government decision-making seems more distant an objective than ever before. Individual businesses or... READ MORE

Prepaid recipe for chaos

SEPT 11 — Recent moves by telcos to pass on the government service tax to consumers have come in from heavy criticism from the government,... READ MORE

Communalism in a global age

SEPT 8 — Contemporary wisdom has us believing that when the economy grows beyond a certain point and globalisation becomes the norm, there is a... READ MORE

The other side of online news

AUG 26 — The online news community can be termed as equally, if not more, partisan as the mainstream media. Bloggers, commentators, columnists and... READ MORE

The evaporation of fear

JULY 28 — That feeling in the pit of the stomach or a dry throat and a quickening heartbeat; all of us have recognised and experienced fear. The... READ MORE

Dwindling competitive advantage

JULY 18 — There is a country built on oil money with glitzy infrastructure where citizens are pampered and armies of menials imported from overseas... READ MORE

Setting the bar too low

JULY 7 — The annual row over the award of government scholarships for  high achievers in the SPM exams is hopefully over with the prime minister’s... READ MORE

Technology and protest

JULY 3 — To an observer of the increasingly charged political rhetoric in the country, the lack of political acumen on display by the ruling... READ MORE

A nation divided?

JUNE 19 — On the one hand there are the Petronas Twin Towers, Malaysia Truly Asia, Vision 2020, the Economic Transformation Programme, the... READ MORE

The proof is in the writing

MAY 29 — Consider the following advertising headlines, if you will. “Does the car you’re considering have all the right criteria?” “All it takes is... READ MORE

Truly the second sex

MAY 15 — A few weeks ago browsing through one of Marina Mahathir’s columns, I came across a reference to a fatwa enjoining Muslims in Malaysia to... READ MORE

1 Malaysia at the crossroads

MAY 1 — The 1 Malaysia juggernaut has taken a distinctly peculiar turn. The bureaucracy in particular is betraying a very strange understanding of... READ MORE

Question to win

APRIL 21 — There seems to be something fundamentally flawed in a system where child marriage is allowed but PPSMI is abolished, a system where porn... READ MORE


APRIL 3 — The good doctor has done it again. In his new autobiography, according to The Malaysian Insider, Dr Mahathir Mohamad claims that Anwar... READ MORE

Mass Rapid Turmoil

MARCH 30 — On the face of it, any innovations to the Klang Valley public transport system should be embraced with open arms by the residents. The... READ MORE

Who wants to be a millionaire?

MARCH 4 — What would you do if someone knocked on your door and gave you a million ringgit to spend on the welfare of the people? I know what I... READ MORE

Corruption, repression and the economy

FEB 20 — The prime minister recently warned against an Egypt-style uprising in Malaysia. Is he just being paranoid or is there any reason for him... READ MORE

The right to information

FEB 3 — We are united by our hunger for information. For at least the last 40 years, we were content with whatever the mainstream media could... READ MORE

A tale of two faiths

JAN 25 — On New Year’s Eve, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb at a church in Alexandria, Egypt, killing 23 people. On January 4, the governor of... READ MORE

Is public memory really that short?

JAN 12 — Is APCO Worldwide really worth the money? Good public relations is not just about highlighting achievements and running down the... READ MORE

Lolita anyone?

DEC 29 — The recent case of a 14-year-girl schoolgirl getting married with the full approval of a Syariah court has raised more than a few... READ MORE

Of supremacists

DEC 13 — Ketuanan Melayu or ketuanan rakyat? Purely in terms of electoral numbers, the two phrases try and demarcate the voting population into two... READ MORE

100 storeys of doubt

NOV 28 — What a distance we have travelled. From a time when we were practically defined by our pride and obsession with having the tallest,... READ MORE

Patriotism and inclusiveness

NOV 17 — That age-old question has surfaced again: Which race is more patriotic? If we define patriotism in terms of being good citizens, then the... READ MORE

Beyond the economics of merit

NOV 8 — A new Talent Corporation is to be set up to reverse brain drain. Lots of glitzy new infrastructure projects will be implemented under the... READ MORE

Change for its own sake

OCT 20 — As reported recently, the Umno general assembly is going to see a call for holistic change and an attempt to define a new political and... READ MORE

Who wants to be a cabbie?

OCT 13 — Seriously, who does? Clunky vehicles, long irregular hours, traffic jams, rude customers, low variable pay, and no prospects of promotion... READ MORE

Putting some English on the ball

OCT 6 — My apologies for beginning this piece with an obscure phrase taken from the game of billiards, meaning to put some spin on the ball, but... READ MORE

Fact or opinion? No going back

SEPT 14 — In the last couple of weeks, the word sedition has been flying around so much as if it’s going out of style. A cursory search on this... READ MORE

How we eat

SEPT 8 — On a recent trip to the United States, I was struck, as a lot of people are by the signs of gross obesity all around me. It seemed as if... READ MORE

The typology of Facebook posts

AUG 22 — Why is it that whatever we are hooked onto, eventually starts to have elements that annoy and disgust us? Smokers cough, drinkers get... READ MORE

Debate this!

AUG 13 — We are united by our growing appetite for debate. Somehow, looking back it seems that a whole generation in between the heated kopitiam... READ MORE

Sports betting: Acceptable vice or deadly addiction?

JULY 29 — The current controversy over the legalisation of sports betting has looked at the issue largely through the economic or the religious... READ MORE

Driving us mad

JULY 21 — We are united in our contempt for other Malaysian drivers. Lane cutting, double parking, overtaking from the wrong side, not using the... READ MORE

Shopping malls and identity

JUNE 28 — We are united by our love for shopping malls. After food and international football, malls seem to be a national obsession if you go by... READ MORE

Matters of faith

JUNE 10 — We are united by faith. By this I do not mean religion specifically, but the idea that we are a credulous people, who believe strongly... READ MORE

Matters of symbolism

JUNE 1 — We are united by our love of symbolism. Be it the red paint used by Ah Longs, a cow’s head or a Molotov cocktail, it is the idea rather... READ MORE