Sunday, March 30, 2008

Northeast Malaysia Forum 2008 - Karim Raslan

Next speaker for Northeast Malaysia Forum 2008 at Harvard University is Karim Raslan, who is a lawyer, columnist and author.

He is now spending most of his time in Indonesia, so hard to look at our country. He is 43 years old, so 19 years older than median age of Malaysia.

Malaysians are strange bunch of people. So, it is very hard to generalize.

When Karim speaks with Malaysians across the country, from Tawau, KK, Belud, to Johor and other parts in Malaysia. Now, many younger Malaysians are much more interested in political scenario in Malaysia.

Channel where young people are voting are hitting 90-95% for Keadilan. So, this seems a good future for Keadilan in the future. MP of Bukit Bendera says that they are quite confident of the younger generation, but hope to win over the older people.

Karim hope that it is not just that we are voting out people that we don't want anymore. But it is more looking like whether to take on a service provider. The young people should remain very engaged in the process, and not just voting once in every 4-5 years.

Can play a role in new media. But can still play a role in mainstream media. Karim reads blog, but still is a mainstream media. It is important to stay the course.

Another point is that networking and confidence building. This is what is so important, and it should be across all racial lines. It should get everyone around that table, and then get everyone to talk. We shouldn't avoid any issue, and should take it heads-on. Have discussion sessions with people who are even different in opinion.

1st. Keep active
2nd. Network and keep together.

Then, use those group to do something. Malaysians come together, for instance, a group where to mix between UK and US, Australia, Egypt etc. Reaching across people across the divide. Reach to those in Taiwan and Middle East. And not forget the students at local universities. Lets not hold against those in local universities. We shouldn't think that foreign vs local universities. The students in local universities do not have the opportunities as others who are in overseas universities.

Do reach across the divide. Use as much as possible the alternative media, and keep those in power at their toes. Maybe if you are interested in this kind of engagement, maybe can be a politician. Or else, can be journalist or author.

Every election shows a snapshot of Malaysia changing. It is a lot of flaw to apply the past election as an indication for this election. Karim made the mistake earlier of thought that this election is not going to make any difference.

Christian, younger Malay, Chinese etc all have different issues against government, and also all have an across of arrogance of the government and also the corruption.

Q: People have concern on freedom of speech, eg: ISA, sedition act, are these concerns over ex-aggerated.
A: Karim says that since the students are in US, they should use the opportunities. Should use opportunities out there, and be counted. Have courage to say that. He quoted example like Malik Imtiaz and Irene Fernandez to use that space to say it. When students are young, just use the opportunities to do so.

Q: Karim praised Tun Abdul Razak for introducing new and young leaders into UMNO, but today when Pak Lah trying to inject this new breed of young leaders, he got lambasted.

A: Should introduce a number of people, and not just one person. Karim identified the person as Khairy. Should bring in more grassroot politician. UMNO has failed to regenerate itself. A lot of young candidates are poor and very disappointing.

For example, Nik Nazmi and younger chaps in DAP stand out, but not all of them from Keadilan and DAP stands out. This kind of talent is very rare. If people sets in because of parents', then it is going to be tough for UMNO to get good talent. There isn't many top grade talent joining UMNO, or if they are, they are obsessed with making money.

Q: Different ethnic groups have their own concerns. What consequences do you see from this fragmentation of interest and what solutions do you see. It is obvious that one government cannot please everyone.

A: Fragmentation is a very nice way of putting it. The challenge of opposition, now government in many states, now need to bring across all interests to coalesce. Karim met with Guan Eng yesterday. And in fact, Karim looked at Guan Eng has the ability to bring across a plan to get everyone together. He sees potentially for Guan Eng and Tan Sri Khalid to be established government in the future. Karim would speak to Tan Sri Khalid, hopefully next week.

Q: How can a banana engage?
A: Karim came from a background that spoke English. BM has been turned into a language of control and a language to "memperbodohkan" orang Melayu. But we have in Malaysia reduced it to an amalgam of conversatism and orang kolot. Students should go out and read Kompas, where they will be discussing issues like christianity and discuss it in Bahasa. And then we see how much potential BM can it be.

It is the question of how much we are willing to engage

Q: US has 2 terms maximum, do you see that happens in Malaysia?
A: MCA has introduced the term limit. UMNO should do that too, and perhaps Keadilan should too, but Karim does not see that goes down well with Keadilan future leader.

Pak Lah seems to be too weak. Dr. Mahathir, a lot of people hate him, but he is very clever and outwit others, so people have to respect them.

Question is do we want the repetition of Dr. Mahathir. This GE shows that we want a very strong leader.

On 2 terms idea, it is a good idea, but may not get those in power to agree. Guan Eng may not agree too, since he is still very young and capable.

Q: Why we are getting suddenly become so manarchist, and where do you see where this is going.
A: Melayu tetap ugama, raja, islam etc. Karim feels so. Even when Karim sees Sultan, he would sembah. Sultan Selangor (by heart) and Raja Nazrin (by his education) both play an important role to shape the coalition in their states. These two try to take the interest of their subjects, to interfere. However, he does not see why other Royalty are doing so.

This is going to be something unfold. 20 years after our constitution issue, and we are back to square one.

Q: How do you see the separation of powers and the check and balance vs simple majority
A: Sense of monarch and house of commons in UK, have a long history. In Malaysia, we don't have a free media. Good media can shape opinion very constructively. Karim hopes to free up the media. That would make an enormous difference in the country. Put the government and opposition player under equal glare, and that would put more balance in them, including the police, army etc.

A: Malaysia is so much more organized, and that cause is very tough to live with. Make friends with those in Indonesia. That is a very important learning curve there. We don't have much for us to learn from Singapore on democracy. We have a lot to learn from Indonesia on culture, democracy etc.

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