23 October 2007 - Lim Kok Wing University, London
The Merdeka Statement Forum held at the Lim Kok Wing Universiry London by Malaysian Think Tank London and CPPS-ASLI drew in waves of countrymen with the promise of a stimulating day of formal discussion and intimation of the eight thrusts of the statement itself.
Wan Mohd Firdaus, former president of the United Kingdom and EIRE Council (UKEC) of Malaysian students chaired the event which had some prominent individuals such as panelists. Tricia Yeoh, the senior research analyst at the Centre of Public Policy Studies (CPPS) delivered the keynote speech for the forum by delving into the eight thrusts of the Merdeka Statement as agreed upon by CPPS and 42 other Malaysian NGOs with an aim to strengthen national unity in the country. Her fervent take on the importance of the Merdeka Statement was met with much approval and enthusiasm from the crowd.
Wan Firdaus then called upon the first panelist Professor Kamarul Rashdan Salleh of Badan Perhubungan UMNO UK to give his views regarding the labeling of the Merdeka Statement as "an attempt to disunite the people" by the Information Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Zainuddin Maidin. This prompted the Professor to shoot off into Malaysia's historical account of colonization and our forefather's fight for independence which resulted in the formulation of an agreed social contract between the diverse races in Malaysia. Thus said Professor Kamarul that we must remind ourselves and pay respect to our past leaders' struggle for independence by upholding the spirit of the social contract and adhering to its rules in any efforts to strengthen racial relations, not the other way round.
Way was then made for the second panelist Mohd Raimi of Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM) to represent the organization in airing their disapproval of the Merdeka Statement. ABIM, He spoke out, does support the idea of strengthening national unity by fostering better relations between races in light of the current disparities but for them the crunch point is because the statement is deemed to position itself against the special privileges accorded to Muslims in the country because it is essentially a statement that supports apostasy, citing the case of Nyonya Tahir. Thus in light of stern criticism from the liberalists, Raimi was steadfast on defending his views against the Merdeka Statement which ABIM feels impinges on the Islamic faith.
The third panelist was none other than Wan Saiful of Malaysia Think Tank. He propagated the view that the social contract is an antique, outdated instrument that cannot deliver on the objective of uniting the races in the country due to its ethnic-based politics which is fast losing relevance. Renegotiation of the social contract to reflect current times remains the only relevant course of action, he reiterated and thus should national education policies also be revised to better suit the homogeneity of the Malaysia that we live in today. He beseeches that although this revision is taking place in the National Education Blueprint of the Government, renegotiation of the social contract will expedite this aim of national unity by discarding the existent psychological mindset of Malay supremacy from the young minds of the Malay society.
All in all, Dato' Dr Michael Yeoh rounded off the lively forum with a closing speech applauding Malaysia Think Tank's effort in organizing such an enlightening nation-building event and at the same time, addressing the ambiguity surrounding the Merdeka Statement (The Merdeka Statement does not in any way support apostasy).
Let us celebrate Malaysia's 50th Independence Day by directing our efforts toward eliminating the racial divide and fostering better unity between Malaysians regardless of race or religion. We owe our forefathers that much at the very least.
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