Get Adobe Flash player

Jenny Oliveros Lao: In a quest for a brighter future

by Natalie Leung

Describing herself as an introvert, Jenny Oliveros Lao this year is "bold" enough to come out from behind the stage and join "Plural Voices" to be its third candidate running for the direct legislative election.
Having been born and educated in Macau, Ms Lao is not only the co-founder and president of the Association of Stories in Macao, but is also a freelance writer, lecturer for two local higher education institutes, and a PhD student in organisational behaviour all at the same time.
Speaking to the Macau Daily Times in the office of "Plural Voices", Ms Lao declared her love in Macau, both the old and the new ones, and thus she wants to see it continue to advance.
She hoped that if an "introvert" like her is dare to speak for herself and society, more "young and qualified" people will be motivated and willing to follow suit.

MDTimes: What made you run for this year's direct legislative election for the first time?
Jenny Lao: I was invited to join the group. Another candidate of the team, Guiomar Pedruco, contacted me and said they were forming this team, all young people from different professions in Macau, to try to support the local culture and the development for young people. I believe that this is something which I've been doing with my own company/magazine, so I agreed to join. Then I went for the first group meeting where I heard everyone's idea and I agreed with them. Everyone wants a better future for Macau and we believe that it's time for the young generation to start speaking up and giving opinions. In the candidates list there are just 12 of us, but it's not all, we invite different people to join us and that's why we want to create a platform that will allow the young generation to speak.
We have candidates from different backgrounds, such as Portuguese, Chinese, Macanese, Filipino, Indian and African. We all believe that everyone belongs to Macau and hope that Macau can continue to be a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic and diversified place which will be able to provide more opportunities in terms of personal development for local young people.
In Macau, it's mostly about the gaming industry, that is the core. But in terms of art, culture and even health and architecture, other kinds of professions, there haven't been enough opportunities for these people. We hope that the next generation can receive the education which they want to. In our political platform, we suggest opening a faculty of medical or architecture in the University of Macau for people who are interested in these areas.
We also want to fight for more support for local artists. There are many good local artists and writers. There were some artists who got invited to exhibit their work abroad, but people in Macau didn't know about it.
Overall, we hope that young people can actually have a dream. They can do what they want and what they are good at.

MDT: What was the idea behind of forming a team with people from different ethnic backgrounds?
Ms Lao: We all share the same belief that in Macau there are people with different backgrounds who are all Macau people. We don't look at the ethnic backgrounds of our team members, what we see is we all belong to Macau, working here, living here, having families here, and we share the same ideal for the future of Macau.
Ethnically we have different skin colours, but our team sees us as all Macau people, and this is what Macau is.

MDT: What particular role do you play in your team?
Ms Lao: Basically we do everything together. We have meetings together, make decisions together, plan activities together and also meet different groups together. Everyone knows what others are doing. And the good thing is we have 12 candidates to share all the work.

MDT: You just mentioned that the team is doing what you've been doing. Can you explain more about that?
Ms Lao: Personally I want to see Macau as what it is, a place with cultural and historical significance. Macau is a place with long history and where east meets west. We want to see Macau continue to be a special place and the preservation of its culture. A few years ago, I set up the Association of Stories in Macao with some literature scholars from the University of Macau to promote local culture and encourage local writers. It's still what I wanted to do. And then I set up my own publishing company. But that's not just writers or literature that we want to promote, it's more than that such as other kinds of art and professions. That's why I join this [election] team because it creates opportunities for people with different backgrounds, we have athletes, architects, doctors, teachers and law people. From our group, you can see how Macau can be developed and how everyone can choose their own paths.

MDT: Did you go through any struggle or have any concern when deciding whether or not to run for the election?
Ms Lao: Probably yes, because I worked behind the scene most of the time. As a lecturer, student and writer, I work better when facing a computer rather than people. It was a dilemma. First, I was worried about meeting people and also concerned about time [management]. I already have a few jobs but it could be an important opportunity. Then I thought everyone could come up with the same reasons that they are busy and have no time for this [election] and so no one would stand up eventually. There are a lot of people who have been for a long time fighting for a better future, it's time that the younger generation has to step up so that the spirit and the work can be carried on.
If there is a chance that we can do something, even for just a little bit, we need to stand up and we hope to stimulate and inspire more young people to look inside society and give opinions.

MDT: People are saying this year's direct legislative election is going to be tough, how do you see this?
Ms Lao: It is good that there are new groups and young people participating in the election. It is considered as a change in Macau, more people care about society and care about this place.
We're confident to have at least one candidate getting a seat. I'm sure there are a lot of people who share our ideas, and I believe these people will support us. As for our movement or activities, we don't just ask people to vote for us, a very election thing, instead we're inviting people to join the association which we're going to establish… This election is our first step and also to create some noise and show people that we're serious, we're not just going to set up an association and then forget about it.

MDT: As a lecturer, what do you think about Macau's students – the pillars of a better society?
Ms Lao: Before joining IIUM (Macau Inter-University Institute) I started working as an English lecturer at the Polytechnic Institute for around eight years now. At that time I already noticed that the reason of students being passive in studies was probably that they were not doing a subject which they were passionate in. Instead they chose on a practical term so that after graduation it would be easier for them to find a job. They're driven not by their talent or goals in life, but the limited opportunities we have in Macau. That's what we want to change. We advocate diversification in the economy, to develop other parts of society in art, events or culture. Hence students can choose what they really love to study and as such they will be able to do well in their courses.

MDTimes: What would be the first issue your team plans to raise if they're able to get into the Legislative Assembly?
Ms Lao: The main issue is education. The centre of our belief is to create opportunities for our young generation, including equal opportunities for local and non-local children to receive education. We don't want to see in 10 years time, people are all working for casinos and have no other choices. Of course gaming is the core industry and we believe this is important to Macau, but around gaming we have other possibilities to develop entertainment related industries such as good local singers, dancers and stage performers.

MDTimes: Since you say education is essential, how will you comment on Macau's education system?
Ms Lao: Macau has a rather traditional primary and secondary education so that students are used to absorbing ideas – studying, reading and memorising. But when they go to universities it's different. Universities require more critical thinking. That's why we want young people to think more, learn to analysis, criticise and express their opinions, and to do research on their own. At the end of the day, what makes a good scholar or specialist is, apart from being a reader, having his or her own opinions. Students don't have the initiative to look at the textbooks, find the problems, go out and look for other books and opinions, so they're not open to different ideas.
In order to change this situation, first of all we need more qualified professors. Of course we want to see more local professors teaching at local universities, but it takes time. So in the meantime, we need to have good teachers to teach the students, and thus we have to introduce better remuneration in a bid to attract more outstanding professors from abroad to come to Macau.

MDTimes: Are you in favour of the University of Macau's (UM) relocation to Hengqin Island?
Ms Lao: We definitely need an expansion and I don't think it's a bad idea. But personally I don't agree to move the whole campus to Hengqin. Instead to have an additional campus will be something good. Because the current site in Taipa will stay there anyway and facilities are all there. UM can relocate certain faculties to Hengqin such as if in the future they're going to set up a faculty of medicine which requires a lot of space for equipment, Hengqin will be a great location. Yet since the land area is not far from Macau and Macau will take control of the jurisdiction, so it's still an acceptable solution to have the campus even outside of Macau.