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“NGOs・Parliamentary Struggle・ Democracy and Human Rights” Forum

- In commemoration of the 12th Anniversary of
Sahabat Rakyat Working Committee

Since independence in 1957, people of all ethnic groups and all classes of society have been suffering from the UMNO-dominant Alliance/BN government’s racist hegemonic rule. The democracy and human rights that people should have enjoyed have been of deprived brazenly by the despotic ruling clique. After suffering for half a century, on 8 March 2008, a political storm broke out demanding reforms.

The result of “308” general election undoubtedly shows that the UMNO-dominant BN ruling clique was spurned by half of the voters and Pakatan Rakyat formed by the three main opposition political parties (i.e. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Democratic Action Party (DAP), and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS)) successfully seized political power in 5 states (however, the Perak State was subsequently snatched back by BN because three Pakatan members defected), although BN retained its power in the federal government.

After the general election, the BN (federal) regime led by Najib, Chairperson of UMNO rolled out various political and socio-economic transformation programs with a view to prolonging its hegemonic rule that hinges on institutionalized racism, and continued to oppress and exploit the labouring masses ruthlessly. Over the past 4 years, the broad masses of the people are still suffering from the BN’s racist hegemonic rule, corruption and abuse of power, ever-rising cost of living, and marginalization in culture, education and religion of ethnic minorities. The ruling regime oppressed and exploited the laboring masses using the state apparatus, and prolonged its control over the state apparatus via dirty elections are all too obvious, and the eyes of the masses are discerning.

Over 60 NGOs nation-wide formed Bersih 2.0, a coalition demanding electoral reform and a clean and fair election. Being driven by the strong aspirations and demands from the broad masses, Bersih 2.0, called for a incredible 709 rally-cum-“walk for democracy” in 2011, and initiated and led another massive “428 sit-in protest” in 2012. The “428 sit-in protest” participated by 200 thousand people received even more acclaim as it was a joint action and joint effort by Bersih 2.0 and Himpunan Hijau. This set a shining example in the history of popular struggle in Malaysia. These two mass struggles are of great significance and far-reaching implications. These 2 rallies have educated people of all ethnic groups and all classes to understand the great impact of the broad masses in democracy and human rights struggle, and to realise the importance of NGOs in the social reform movement.

Perhaps due to the 2 successful examples mentioned above, when GE13 was looming, a number of NGOs such as those working on environmental issues, human rights, women’s rights, culture and education, orang asli, religious groups, disabled communities , oppressed groups etc. actively carried out activities related to the elections. For instance, jointly or separately put forward GE13 demands, organised Voter Education and Polling Agent/Counting Agent/Barung Agent (PACABA) trainings, urged voters returning home to vote etc. These activities received positive response and participation from the people of all walks of life. Many NGO leaders also actively campaigned for political parties during election period.   

Wong Tack, Chairperson of Himpunan Hijau was considered the most outstanding figure amongst all NGO leaders who took part in GE13. He, in his capacity as the representative of NGO, contested Bentong parliamentary seat under the banner of DAP. He swore to bring the voice of the people calling for the closure of Lynas factory, and opposing environmental hazards to the parliament. At the beginning, this action inevitably drew suspicion and blame from some of the NGO leaders and democratic individuals. Some even urged him to resign from the Chair of Himpunan Hijau. However, he persisted with his idea and action, and of course he had his point. Eventually, he gained the understanding and acceptance of the masses and NGO leaders.

On the other hand, Waythamoorty, Chairperson of Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF MAKKAL SAKTHI), was the most disgusting NGO leader who was held in contempt. In order to seek a good position and personal interests, before GE13, he betrayed the position of HINDRAF that represents the interests of the marginalised poor Indian community. He broke his promises, stood against the people of all ethnicity and became subservient to Najib and UMNO’s bigwigs. People like Waythamoorty certainly will be contemned by the people of all ethnicity and NGOs. He will also leave a shameful record in the history of democratic and human rights movement.

GE13 held on 5 May this year marked the highest voter-turnout record in Malaysia history. However, the people’s common aspiration of “Dumping BN into the dustbin of history” still could not be materialised although more than half of the voters rejected BN’s camp. Therefore, we could easily understand why the populace were strongly dissatisfied and unable to accept the election result of this so-called “the dirtiest” election ever in Malaysia. After the election, some parties, groups and individuals who could not wait to change the government on 505 thought that the political awareness of the broad masses in our country had reached the level where they could force the ruling clique to have re-election via street demonstrations. But from the significant decrease of the participants of “black 505” rallies and with the ruling clique tightening their control over the state apparatus, the aspiration and idea on hoping to have a re-election via street demonstration, to deny the election results will be in vain.

In 2011, we held a forum entitled “NGOs are Always with The People” in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of our working committee, to discuss about the role and position of NGOs in Malaysia in current situation and in future. In 2013, we put forward the strategy and tactic of “Smashing UMNO hegemony, forming a democratic united front” for GE13.

This democratic united front should include not only the three parties in Pakatan Rakyat, i.e. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and Democratic Action Party (DAP) but also all parties, including Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM), Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), Human Rights Party (HRP), etc., NGOs and individuals from all walks of life who are opposed to the UMNO-BN.  We call upon all Malaysians to unite! Together we put an end to the UMNO hegemonic rule! We should welcome people from all walks of life, regardless race, class, party and religion, who oppose UMNO-BN’s corruption and their racist hegemonic rule to join the democratic united front, so that the struggle for democratic and human rights will be forged ahead relentlessly.

In commemoration of the 12th anniversary of Sahabat Rakyat Working Committee, we are holding a forum entitled “NGOsParliamentary struggleDemocracy and human rights” to explore the path NGOs should follow in becoming one with the people, and how to make use of all resources available to struggle against BN, and to promote democratic and human rights movement in our country. There will be a dinner immediately after the forum. We will be inviting a couple of well-known NGO leaders and political scholars, to provide paper with regards to the forum’s title, and to deliver their speech. They will also answer questions from the ground. We hope this forum will stimulate more leaders of democratic parties and groups, scholars, people from all walks of life to join forces in the endeavour of promoting democratic and human rights movement in our country.

This forum cum dinner will be held in Johore Bahru on 20 Oct 2013 at 2pm. We need your support [whether democratic parties, groups or individuals]. Your support is invaluable to us. We welcome all concerned citizens to be with us at this anniversary. For more information, feel free to contact Ms Cheng, h/p No. 016-7782707.

Sahabat Rakyat Working Committee
9 September 2013

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