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Rebuilding the People’s Malaysia

  • Malaysians must take care of the business themselves. Trusting political parties has brought much pain and dismay.

By Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

Two events that happened recently struck a deep chord in my heart. The first was the announcement of the National Laureate by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and the second was the announcement of several ‘tokoh Maal Hijrah’. The thing that struck me hard was two issues.

First issue is …who are these people? Who are these personalities that won money and grants and accolades that we the people have never heard off coming to Bersih rallies, writing columns to engage discourses, organizing forums or publishing books that would impact the birth of the new Malaysia? Secondly, why is the Pakatan Harapan leadership not giving the awards to our civil society members who have struggled under the onslaught of the Barisan Nasional regime?

Even though many Malaysians could not care two cents about the two awards, I took it personally because it signals the idea that the government that we, the people elected into power, may not turn out to be ‘our government’. The government in power is not the people’s government but it belongs to the ‘parties-in-power’. Thus, it gave me a deep feeling of writing to Malaysians about thinking on how we, as the people, would now have to engineer our own future and that of our future generation. We seem to be ‘dianak-tirikan’ to use the Malay parlance of being an offspring that is side stepped by the parent. Thus, in this article, I would like to suggest a few things that we, as the people, can rebuild what I call ‘the people’s Malaysia’.

First of all, in the People’s Malaysia, I would like to suggest that we have our own awards to our own gallant civil society fighters. We can set up our own committee of awards, canvass for some funding and give our own ‘Maal Hijrah’ type awards and our own National Laureates. Our ‘Maal Hijrah’ awards can be called the ‘Malaysian Vision Awards’ given to civil society leaders like Siti Kassim, Dr. KJohn, Mariam Mokhtar, Dennis Ignatius, Dr. Tan Yew Sing, Reverend Sivin Kit and many others who fought the battle on the front lines sometimes with police firing gas cartridges. We should give our National Laureates to the likes of Faisal Tehrani, Kua Kia Soong as well as a host of other writers of different races and dialects including Sabahans and Sarawakians.

Secondly, we must have Malay and Malaysian civil society groups that would stand together with the Chinese, the Indians, the Christians and other minority groups when the rhetoric of race and religion is used by the opposition alliance. The opposition’s game is very simple. Separate, isolate and attack. That their reasons make no sense whatsoever matters not because they have the willing ear of the ignorant Malay middle class who all want to reach heaven in their old age but are too lazy to read or think critically. These two groups are being formed as we speak. The G25 is a group of Malay top government officers who had made a huge impact on Malaysian politics and it is such a group that Malaysians must nurture and grow. As it is in itself a private and elite group, other groups of Malays and Malaysian individuals must mushroom to barricade against the onslaught of the wave and tsunami of race and religious hatreds.

Thirdly, Malaysians must pool their financial base and set up a crowd funding for the free press. The rise of MalaysiaKini, Malaysian Insight and now Free Malaysia Today can be said to be a pivotal aspect of the Reformasi movement and the birth of the New Malaysia. Each cyber media must be given a trust fund in case the opposition alliance come to power or the PH government becomes a BN 2.0. When these free media warriors are threatened with police raids and court cases, we Malaysians must have the funding ready to support them. I consider the free media the people’s real heroes and deserve our standing ovation in an award ceremony that we must organize.

Fourthly, we must take care of the education of our young and our future graduates. We must help the UEC and private schools to grow by being more affordable without sacrificing quality. We must grow more schools teaching in the English medium while some subjects like History and Geography in Bahasa Malaysia but having a more liberal and global content. Malaysians must also think about building a People’s University of Malaysia (PUM) with an Institute of Civilizational Discourse and Nation Building as it’s core research and publication center.

The model of a people’s university college has already been started by MCA in the entity of Tunku Abdul Rahman College and this is the model of a quality and affordable learning environment with an institute that would rebuild the values of Malaysia as opposed to the extremism of religious bigotry in other learning institutions. We cannot hope for change in our public education system and public universities as the Malay proverb says ‘seperti menunggu kucing bertanduk’. We should set up our own scholarship funds to all Malaysians who cannot afford to finance their own. We must network with industries and organization in Malaysia and more importantly in the world to place our graduates in meaningful internship programs to be our ambassadors of peace as well as apprentice to professionalism as a global contributor. The group of academics, under the umbrella of the Institute of Civilizational Discourse and Nation Building will pool its academic talents to rewrite a better curriculum of subjects for the schools and university necessary to produce a citizen of Malaysia with a global perspective having an open mind and an open heart.

Fifth, I would like us to set up a group of mosques, churches and temples that would work together by cross administration and cross activities as well as prayer sessions. This requires great will and spiritual strength to overcome religious stigmas of institutions and religious departments. But mosques and other religious house of worship are manned and administered by Malaysians and this is reason enough to forge a cordial working relationship to stand against the tide of hate speeches and rumor mongering among irresponsible parties.

Finally, and this is the ‘strangest’ of all requests, I would like to set up a small group of the strongest civil society leadership to form what I call the ‘Coalition of Independent Candidates’. The purpose of this small group is to firstly identify 60 possible independent candidates that would represent the Malaysian people and not any political party. Secondly, these individuals will be trained and nurtured by the small leadership group to strategize election manifestos, vote canvassing and crowd funding. The main purpose here is to show the two opposing political groups of whatever coalitions will be reformed in the near future that the public wants to ensure this time that victory in GE15 will really and truly be the victory of the people and not just certain political parties. In Parliament, these independent candidates speak their own minds and will vote with any party they deem best represent the interest of the people at large. They will now truly be ‘Wakil Rakyat’ and not as it is now a ‘Wakil Parti’.

With these suggestions, I am actually saying two things. Firstly, enough is enough…the people must take care of the business themselves. Trusting political parties brought much pain and dismay. Secondly, enough talks and forums from civil society. Time now to act. No more talking in seminar rooms or assembly halls. Action! That’s what is needed. In this age of social media and a free press, the battle for Malaysia can be done without too much money or sweat. It requires all Malaysians of all races, of all faiths, of all cultures and of all social status to come together and fight for the only nation we have and love.

(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at a local university.)


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