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Malaysia 2024: The unfinished agenda

Sustained good government and high standards of governance can provide the foundations for a better nation


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By Lim Teck Ghee and Murray Hunter

Now that we are well into 2024, it is necessary to remind major political players and stakeholders of the original reformasi agenda and change that has been repeatedly promised to the people over the last two decades.

The promises and espoused agenda not only 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 which identified the major failings and obstacles to Malaysia’s progress and advancement towards a more developed and democratic nation.

The Spirit of Merdeka declaration asserted:

Our mission is not only with the restoration of 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 to join us in promoting a strong democracy in which the separation of power of the executive, legislative and judiciary is maintained, and checks and balances preventing the monopoly or abuse of power by the executive branch are in place. The alternative is to see our nation and people be driven down the road of authoritarianism towards an illiberal and shackled society.

Here is a link to the original declaration.

Today, we call especially on fellow activists and advocates for a better Malaysia to join in reaffirmation of commitment to this declaration and to do battle in protecting and enhancing 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.

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

  • Secular state erosion: where the Malaysian administration is being continually Islamised
  • Local government: where the spirit of democracy should be restored to the nation’s third level of democratic government
  • 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 concerned public should be be watchful that media control agencies are under direct scrutiny and full public accountability
  • 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
  • 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
  • Law reform: where restrictive and repressive laws including the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, the Sedition Act 1971, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, and defamation laws remain largely unreformed
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: which Malaysia subscribes to and should provide that, amongst other individual rights, people possess the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion, speech and expression, and equality before the law without discrimination
  • The electoral system: where its integrity should be protected to enable free and fair elections; and where the redrawing of electoral boundaries is urgently needed to correct long-standing electoral malapportionment and gerrymandering
  • 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 religion of the nation, and the special position of the Malays and other native peoples, and indigenous communities.
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Malaysia’s political parties themselves 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 Malaysian government and society.

These are the aspirations of the people who want the realisation of the Malaysia that was promised to them and the Malaysia that 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, in order that the true nation-building work can no longer be delayed or denied.

Viewers of this call for the renewal of the spirit of Merdeka may be concerned about why major economic issues and challenges such as socioeconomic inequality, growing impoverishment amid endemic corruption, shortcomings in education, falling competitiveness, civil service and the government-linked companies bloat have not been addressed here.

Our belief is that sustained good government and high standards of governance can provide the foundation for the better nation that the people of Malaysia deserve.

Dr Lim Teck Ghee and Murray Hunter are well-known commentators on Malaysian affairs

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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