Moving forward to a progressive Malaysia


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  • Sunday, 17 Nov 2019

From the people, for the people: Maju’s council is made up of just regular folks, says the writer (left) – like all the Malaysians at the NGO’s inaugural forum.

I WROTE this in the dead of the morning after our first stop of the Maju (Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity Foundation) roadshow: “The battle is not over after May 9 – Be empowered to save Malaysia” at the KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) on Wednesday. It was in all sense, and truly as billed, a conversation with ordinary Malaysians who are hungry to see real and meaningful change to our nation’s destiny.

If ever there was a need for proof that this hunger for change in the country is real, the night provided it strong and clear. We expected a couple of hundred to attend the inaugural event, but more than 2,000 Malaysians turned up that we had to abandon the original room and move to the main hall. And still the crowd kept streaming in to the point that only standing room was left in the tsunami. I believe that if we had moved all the ceramahs at Tanjung Piai here, we would have dwarfed them all.

So while the media’s attention was focused elsewhere, to me the real story for Malaysia was at Kampong Attap, where KLSCAH is situated. As we Malaysians in the hall recited the Rukun Negara, preambles and all, and sang in unison our beloved Negara Ku, I looked at the crowd and it hit me: “History will remember tonight.”

Maju came to the people and the people had come to Maju. A true movement of the people for the people and by the people was what happened.

We explained, we talked, we were asked, and we answered.

We built Maju with a bold vision. We hoped that it would be the pre-eminent platform by which Malaysians can support, organise and work together to drive the agenda of civil liberties and human rights advancement for a progressive Malaysia.

We intend to uphold our Rukun Negara for a liberal, moderate and progressive Malaysia and bring about a more just, fair and equitable Malaysia for everyone, irrespective of race, religion or status.

Our advisory committee of Professor Tajuddin Rasdi, Dr Lim Teck Ghee, Patrick Teoh, and Joe Samad may be known names, but our council members are just like all the Malaysians sitting in the crowd that night.

We are ordinary Malaysians trying to do an extraordinary thing with our fellow Malaysians, those in the crowd and beyond. We want to foster a greater unity of all our people, extinguish the voices and policies of racism and religious bigotry, get rid of unjust laws and reform an unsustainable education system devoid of real scientific knowledge but mired with religious-centrism and unacceptable quotas.

And Maju is the vehicle, the organisation, the catalyst, by which Malaysians have realised they need to be part of in order to change the landscape of the Malaysian narrative and hence, its destiny. Maju is not about politics but about values. It is not about politicians but about citizens. The time for politics and political parties are over. We intend to end them and build a New Malaysia, driven by its own people, not led by politicians.

Progressive, scientific, competitive and opportunity for all. The crowd of ordinary Malaysians that night got it!

The way Malaysians who voted for change on May 9 were ignored and treated, promises of change that were thrown back at our faces with little regard, in fact with contempt and arrogance by the very politicians we voted for and thus assumed positions of power, will no longer be met with silence and despondency.

It was palpable on that night, the utter disgust that permeated the air of the hall at the hypocrisy and arrogance that is Malaysian politics. From the highest politicians to their warlords and their cadres and minions, we Malaysians who voted for change, were nothing more than disposable diapers.

Progressive, liberal Malaysians of all races and religion, in the peninsula and in Sabah and Sarawak, formed nothing less than 48.1% of our population. We explained that with reasoned arguments, we can attract a substantial percentage of the silent majority that accounts for 43% of the population with another 8.9% undetermined. Most of this Malay-Muslim population just want to live a good neighbourly life absent from all the extremism you and I hear in society today. But they need leadership to show the way. They need people who can explain to them that race and religion is being used and abused by politicians and even by some preachers for pure greed of power and profit. Maju will do it.

With these numbers, are you surprised that together the liberals and progressives with a swing vote of moderates won the election for Pakatan Harapan in GE14? That, ladies and gentlemen, is the proof of what we at Maju believed when we formed this Foundation.

We knew the numbers were there. We just did not expect that GE14 to prove that our analysis was spot-on!

The very voters whom they ignored today had won them the election but instead they are placating the loud voices of extremists and racists. In my opinion, their calculation is that we, the right-thinking progressive citizens of Malaysia will have no choice but to stick with them, as the others are deemed worse. My apologies, Mr and Mrs Politicians, I am here to tell you that we Malaysians have a new game plan. Politicians and political parties will no longer matter. They will be the disposables.

We believe; no, we at Maju know, that racists and bigots are a small minority but a loud one, well financed by political parties and even the Government, and that gave them the impression of overwhelming numbers and the upper hand in dictating the narrative. Well, we are saying “NO MORE”. Maju is now the voice and platform that will be a rallying point for our progressive citizenry that is consistent, loud and unwavering in its cause.

Maju will change this narrative. We will not be beholden to politicians. We will always remain apolitical but we will fight for the values we uphold as thinking Malaysians. We will bring hundreds of thousands, if not millions into our fold as registered supporters with their contributions, big and small, and Maju will be the voice and the movement for a progressive Malaysia.

This is the “converted”, so to speak. We at Maju are not only trying to rally the converted but also all Malaysians.

Our challenge is for the converted to be united and speak in one voice, act in strategic ways backed by the numbers we obviously have – which is almost half the population.

Imagine if this 48.1% of us get organised and stand under one umbrella, our strength will come from our numbers; we can change this nation.

Politicians are not our saviours. They are beholden to their political parties, warlords and leaders – not us, the citizens who voted them in. Our hopes and the promises they made to us, be damned.

We need to be reminded that they are not our leaders. They are our elected public servants. For 60 years they have sold us the lies of race and religious division, creating a supremacist myth of a “social contract” that is non-existent – we remind them of the Federal Constitution that is the law of the land. That all of us Malaysians hold the same blue identity cards.

Everything in life starts small. For Maju, it is heartening to see that two months and 18 days since it was launched, on Aug 28, we have grown in leaps and bounds. The number of our supporters has passed the thousand and it is snowballing. The night at KLSCAH is the night an avalanche started.

I am always reminded that progress comes in incremental and continuous change. One small change or improvement builds upon another. Small incremental changes can reach a point to where they tip to unleash a flood of success.

History has also shown that politicians do not lead democratic progress. Slavery proponents in the US came from the abolitionist movement, women’s vote from the women’s suffrage movement and black equality via the civil rights movement. No politicians started out in the forefront of these movements all throughout history. The history of liberty is a history of limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it.

Therefore, it merely means that we, the right-thinking citizens of this nation, have more work to do. If we don’t then we are doomed to fail. And that failure is ours. We need to be louder in the right way. Be more organised, more strategic and smarter. Be determined and we shall persevere.

Reform will have to come from us, the progressive citizens of this nation in an organised fashion, putting pressure and demanding change and making our presence always felt including BEFORE and AT elections.

So, we have to act on every other issue that will come upon us, the rights of minority citizens to voice out and have their concerns be addressed in a civil and positive manner, protection of our marginalised communities, a progressive education for all, devoid of religious indoctrination and environment, abolishing quota in education and in jobs, and many other policy issues. The work of perfecting this Federation that we call Malaysia is a continuous one.

What we must aspire for is a nation that is progressive, modern and scientific that will make its citizens competitive and ready for the challenges and be a success in this 21st century. We want a government of the people, by the people, for the people and a nation like this shall not perish from the Earth.

We want to formulate policy and be involved in pushing for legislations to promote universal human rights, civil liberties, progressive education, promotion of a more equitable and just education and work systems where affirmative action means for those in need rather than for those who are born to certain positions, defending citizens against abuse and the like.

We also believe we will have then the capability to demand political parties to establish and hold onto progressive political values and election promises that will satisfy our constituencies. And if our strength in both numbers and monetary funds are such, do not discount the possibility of Maju influencing capable citizen candidates to be fielded in the next general election that will ensure the aspirations of our progressive Malaysian citizenry are met and maintained.

Maju has shown the way that citizens will stand by their conviction and courageously put their name and money where their mouths are. No longer faceless and anonymous but proud to embrace being liberals, moderates and progressives, and just Malaysians.

By and large, the voices heard from the crowd on the night of Nov 13 showed that Maju supporters are growing and will continue to grow. Our number is our strength. Malaysians that night and now everywhere know time is of the essence. If we do not change it, it will change us. It is time to organise and stand together in an uncompromising voice, demand and shape a progressive nation.

Activist lawyer Siti Kasim is the founder of the Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity Foundation (Maju). She believes Nov 13 is the night real change arrived for Malaysians.

The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own and do not reflect those of Sunday Star.


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