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Wednesday March 12, 2008

Thumbs-up for public forum

The Star-ACMS Post-Election Forum
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5 

The political aftershocks of the 12th general election are still reverberating among the people. Many are still stunned by the massive losses of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, and they want to know why.  

Hence, it was not surprising that there was a big turnout of more than 500 at a public forum yesterday on The 2008 General Election: Review and Reflections organised by The Star and the Asian Centre for Media Studies. 

The forum was held at the Cybertorium in Menara Star, which was packed with people as early as 9.30am, an hour before the forum started. The audience overflowed into a nearby hall and the Star Cafe. Even then, many had to stand through the whole session. 

The panellists and the moderator of the forum: (from left) Jayasooria, Ng, Shamsul, Shahrir, Teresa and Wong.
The forum speakers were the previous Parliament's Backbenchers Club chairman and re-elected Johor Baru MP Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad, Social Strategic Foundation director Dr Dennison Jayasooria, Wanita MCA chief and former deputy finance minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen, Wanita DAP secretary and re-elected Seputeh MP cum new Kinrara assemblyman Teresa Kok and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Institute of Ethnic Studies founding director Prof Shamsul Amri Baharuddin. The Star group chief editor Datuk Wong Chun Wai was the moderator.  

The major issues touched on by the speakers concerned the electoral wind of change, the prospective political landscape of the future and the shifting alternative role of Barisan Nasional and the Opposition. 

Other matters raised include the political maturity of Malaysians, the call for the restoration of local government elections, the New Economy Policy, the emerging alliance and cooperation between the PKR, PAS and the DAP.  

The Cybertorium was decorated with flags of various political parties and election posters of 89-year-old Makcik Maimun Yusof, who contested the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat.  

The participants at the forum were given the opportunity to raise questions or present views from the floor.  

Among some of the hot topics raised were the relevance and role of ex-premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the influence and impact of Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin, the media coverage of the campaigning, and the future and prospect of foreign investment in opposition-held states.  

A quick survey among the participants after the forum showed that they were appreciative of The Star for organising it.  

Group chief editor Datuk Wong Chun Wai and the speakers were highly commended for their views and comments. 

Following are some of the views of participants:  

Maryanne Oon, secretary: 

“The forum was very informative for me as I believe many of the things said cannot be mentioned outside the room. 

“I learned so much more from this forum than I would from reading the newspapers. It makes me a more intelligent voter as the issues raised were practical and real.”  

Patricia Tan, 50, freelance writer: 

“This is one of the most exciting general elections we’ve ever had. I have my own views but I want to listen to the professionals’ views too. 

“We really looked forward to what they had to say. We don’t want the old story as we are still getting the same thing.  

Tricia Yeoh: ‘This is the time when Malaysians need to sit down and reflect’
“Nonetheless, this forum has enlisted a good array of speakers – from both sides of the political divide, together with an NGO analyst and a professional. Datuk Wong Chun Wai was a very good moderator who knew what he was doing.”  

Tricia Yeoh, 25, director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies: 

“The forum was fair as it allowed the people to present all their views. We have a good panel here and it is necessary to hear the views from across the spectrum. 

“This is the time when Malaysians need to sit down and reflect upon a very significant turning point of our country. We need to come together to decide what we want for the future.  

The Star has provided a good model to be followed by the state governments and the cabinet to make a civil society.” 

Joyrama Appusamy, 42, lawyer: 

“I am concerned about human rights and the role of component parties within the Barisan Nasional. 

“I am here to hear whether the panel of speakers will have similar views as what the public has, but they are still talking about issues that have already been raised before the general election. 

“Most political parties are still talking from the old line of argument instead of what are available for them in the future.” 

Engineer (who wants to be known only as Norman), 57:  

“I am an activist from my university days until now. That’s why I am here. 

“The forum was okay on the whole but I was a little bit disappointed because it didn't touch on the issues that matter. Some speakers shied away from these. 

“This is the beginning of the changing of Malaysian mindset. I never believe in the NEP and corruption, and I never want to benefit from the so-called privileges. “  

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