The Official Launch of the Merdeka Statement
The Official Launch of the Merdeka Statement organised by the Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS), Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI) was held on 2nd August 2007 at the Eastin Hotel.
As stated by Tan Sri Dato' Dr Ramon V Navaratnam, Chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, in his welcoming address, the Merdeka Statement is a product of consultations between the CPPS and over 40 different organisations. It began as a draft prepared by Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam and has now grown into a broad consensus document, representing a diverse and wide cross-section of society. Dato' Dr. Michael Yeoh then shared the rationale and history behind the formation of the Merdeka Statement.
The Merdeka Statement was officially launched by En Mirzan Mahathir, the President of ASLI who emphasised that the Merdeka Statement is a 'living document' and hopes that it will continue to be discussed, debated and improved upon.
YB Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Bernard Giluk Dompok, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department delivered the keynote address. He began his speech by reminding all who were present that Malaysia is in actual fact only 44 years old as the nation was officially formed on 16th September 1963 by the union of Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya. The Minister's speech focused on national unity and how he longed for the day where all Malaysians would see themselves as Malaysians first instead of identifying themselves with any particular ethnic group. For example, we should be described as Malay Malaysians or Kadazan Malaysians with the stress being on Malaysian and with ethnicity being merely a description or an adjective.
The Minister stressed the importance of relying on the Rukunegara and the Federal Constitution as a constant reminder of the objectives and principles that were relied on by the founding fathers when Malaysia was formed.
The official launch was followed by a brief overview of the Merdeka Statement’s 8 strategic thrusts by Tricia Yeoh, Senior Research Analyst at the Centre for Public Policy Studies, which are as follows:
- Strengthening National Unity,
- Enhancing International Competitiveness,
- Creating an Innovation Economy,
- Redressing Imbalances,
- Reinforcing Institutions,
- Reforming Education,
- Ensuring Quality of Life, and
- Improving Governance and Fighting Corruption.
A lively panel discussion followed on the Merdeka Statement by Rev Dr Hermen Shastri representing the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism; Ms Ivy Josiah, Executive Director of the Women's Aid Organisation; Mr Andrew Khoo representing the Malaysian Bar Council and Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim, Member of Parliament for Kota Bahru who was represented by Mr Dipendra Harshad Rai.
All the panelists emphasised the importance of national unity and how no group should be left behind in the development of the nation. Both Dr Hermen Shastri and Mr Andrew Khoo lauded the suggestion in the Merdeka Statement for a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to be set up as there were hurts that had been sustained by different communities that needed to be ventilated and acknowledged before the nation can move on.
Ms Ivy Josiah, speaking on women's rights reminded us that although many policies, government bodies and laws were in place to protect women's rights, the implementation on the ground still left much to be desired. She stated that although on paper, women's rights were protected to a certain degree, there remained however a deep seated attitude amongst all levels of society that women are somehow not equal to men. She reminded us that the Merdeka Statement in promoting gender equality includes all the women living in Malaysia including the refugees, migrant workers and trafficked women in our midst.
The question of implementation became a topic of discussion during the dialogue session with several participants from the floor questioning how the Merdeka Statement would be monitored and the necessity for a report card process to assess its efficacy.
Several members of the floor desired the Merdeka Statement to make a stronger, bolder stand on issues such as the New Economic Policy (NEP), the Secular/ Islamic State debate and religious freedom. Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam and Ms Tricia Yeoh, Senior Research Analyst at CPPS responded that although the CPPS did indeed have specific stands on some of the issues raised, the Merdeka Statement was deliberately couched in broad terms as it was a consensus document, which took into account many diverse views in its formulation.
The lively discussion ended with the expression of hope that the Merdeka Statement would be a document of reference for civil society organisations to chart the progress of the nation for the next 50 years. The Merdeka Statement will be distributed and also made available on the CPPS website and further comments and input are welcomed from all.
Although Malaysia has no doubt progressed over the past 50 years, the CPPS is of the view that a new paradigm is needed to take the nation forward for the next 50 years. There has been an erosion in national unity as well as trust and confidence in the Government and corporate leadership. These need to be built up and regained and therefore new ideas and thinking are essential. The CPPS believes that the principles encapsulated in the Merdeka Statement are important in ensuring that Malaysia remains at the forefront of its social, economical and political development as one of the more unique multicultural, multilingual and multi-religious countries in the world.
For the PDF version of this report (with pictures), please click here.
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