MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Sunday, December 31, 2023

The spirit of Merdeka and the unfinished agenda

 As the nation moves into 2024, it is necessary to remind major political players of the original reformasi agenda to start taking action and change what has been repeatedly promised to Malaysians during the last two decades.

Even now, the promises and espoused agenda remain unfulfilled in most of its important aspects. It is one in which there has been deviation, perversion and regression.

In 2007, 60 of the country’s civil society organisations banded together to issue a declaration that identified the major failings and obstacles to Malaysia’s progress and advancement towards a more developed and democratic nation.

A movement dubbed the Spirit of Merdeka made a declaration that asserted:

“Our mission is not only with restoring democratic norms and practices. It is also to reaffirm our commitment to the safeguarding and support of vital institutions and processes that are the hallmark of vibrant and flourishing democratic systems.

We call on all Malaysians to support this cause and join us in promoting a strong democracy are in place, specifically in matters of the separation of power of the executive, maintaining legislative and judiciary roles with checks and balances to prevent the monopoly or abuse of power by the executive branch.

The alternative is to see our nation and people be driven down the road of authoritarianism towards an illiberal and shackled society.”

Today, we call on fellow activists and advocates of a better Malaysia to join in reaffirming the commitment to this declaration and protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms eroded by failures from both sides of the political divide during the past three elections since the declaration was released to the public.

In particular, we draw attention to the following recent developments that require heightened scrutiny and opposition:

  1. Secular state erosion: where Malaysian administration is being continually Islamised;

  2. Local government: where the spirit of democracy should be restored to the nation’s third level of democratic government;

  3. Continuing erosion in media freedom: where the media has yet to play its role as an institution that continually scrutinises and ensures transparency of government and governance and where the concerned public should be watchful of media control agencies under direct scrutiny and full public accountability;

  4. Diminution of the rule of law: where the rule of law should be separated from the executive government so the judiciary can perform a truly independent role and lawmakers and law enforcers are subject to the same laws and norms;

  5. In federalism: where the authority of various states should be upheld and respected by the federal government, and where the implementation of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the rights and entitlements of Sabah and Sarawak still await fulfilment;

  6. Law reform: where restrictive and repressive laws including the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (2012), Universities and University Colleges Act (1971), Sedition Act (1971), Printing Presses and Publicity Act (1984) and defamation laws remain largely unreformed;

  7. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: which Malaysia subscribes to and should provide other individual rights such as citizens possessing the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion, speech and expression as well as equality before the law without discrimination;

  8. The electoral system: where its integrity should be protected to enable free and fair elections and where constituency redelineation is urgently needed to correct long-standing electoral malapportionment and gerrymandering;

  9. Commitment to multiculturalism in a multi-ethnic society: where the nation’s diversity, religions, cultures, and languages should be protected while recognising the position of Islam as the national religion, along with the special position of the Malays and other native people and indigenous communities.

Malaysia’s political parties should enhance the roots of democracy at branch and party levels, where rank and file members have a direct say in who occupies both party administrative and public office candidates.

With fully internalised democracy within political parties, future governments will be in a much better position to democratise the government and society.

These are the aspirations of those who want the realisation of the Malaya and Malaysia that was promised to them at Merdeka 66 years ago, which is owed to the younger generation.

The ultimate ambition of this declaration is to ground the public, especially the mindsets of our politicians, with the above principles, so that true nation-building work can no longer be delayed or denied.

We believe that sustained good government and high standards of governance can provide the foundations for the better nation that the people deserve. - Mkini

LIM TECK GHEE is a former senior official with the United Nations and World Bank.

MURRAY HUNTER is an independent researcher and former professor with the Prince of Songkla University and Universiti Malaysia Perlis.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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