Saturday, 23 July 2011

Statement on the launching of the forum “NGOs are Always With The People”

Statement on the launching of the forum

"NGOs are Always With

The People"

(held in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Friends of Suaram Working Committee Johor)

“Non-Governmental Organizations” (NGOs), also known as “Civil Society”, vis-à-vis the government (or governmental organizations), are organizations formed by the people to satisfy their needs and aspirations. They are organisations relating to welfare, recreation, social clubs, sports and culture, etc. The Chinese community has been outstanding in running the traditional NGOs.

Since 1980s, along with the rapid development of NGOs globally, due to our country’s political, economic and social changes since the founding of Malaysia, new NGOs have emerged. They are organisations for consumers’ rights, environmental rights, human rights, women's rights, cultural and educational rights, indigenous people’s rights, the oppressed people’s rights, etc. They exist and develop for the purpose of upholding people's basic rights.
The excellent performance of these NGOs present a fine image to the public.

Before the 8 March General Election in 2008, Barisan Nasional was in control of not only the federal government, but also the 12 state governments in Malaysia. Under the BN rule, UMNO hegemony intensifies national oppression and racial discrimination. Its cronies control the national resources and fleece the Rakyat. Its high and mighty officials are wealthier than a king, while the people are utterly impoverished. Corruption and abuse of power are rampant.

Since Independence, as expected, NGOs have remained steadfast in their stand and put up resistance against the UMNO’s hegemonistic rule. They often align themselves with the pro-people opposition parties. They oppose the “Internal Security Act” (ISA) and other oppressive draconian laws. They oppose the unpopular policies and measures adopted by BN government in the form of the petrol price hike, police abuse of power, privatization of healthcare, the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English, etc. They demand for restoration of local council elections,

After the 2008 General Election, the three major opposition parties [i.e. Democratic Action Party (DAP), People's Justice Party (PKR) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS)] formed a coalition - Pakatan Rakyat (PR). They managed to seize political power in 5 states. As ruling parties in the 5 states, whether they are against the people, or for the people; the manner they deal with NGOs, and how they look after the interests of the people, will constitute the most important criteria for evaluation of their performance.

As of now, discriminatory polices are being implemented in the political, economic, cultural, educational and religious fields. Will Pakatan Rakyat revoke such discriminatory policies? Will it restore local council elections – the long outstanding aspirations of the people? As ruling party of the 5 state governments, Pakatan Rakyat will have to undergo the greatest ordeal to prove their genuine concern for the interests of the people.

Besides, a considerable number of important activists in NGOs have been absorbed by Pakatan upon its taking over the 5 state governments. This has led to the splitting of the strength of NGOs. It has caused some confusion between some NGOs and the state governments as to their mutual relationship and different positions taken by them. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss and define the role and position of NGOs on an urgent basis.

Early this month, Bersih 2.0, a coalition of 62 NGOs initiated and took the lead in the 709 Rally cum “walk for democracy”. It advocates electoral reform, demanding for clean and fair elections. However, the BN government headed by Najib chose to ignore such justified, legitimate and appropriate demands and aspirations of the people. Instead, it resorted to violence and repressive action against Bersih leaders and those who took part in the rally. Such harsh measures had spurred a huge number of people, estimated at 50,000, to go on the streets.

People from all ethnic communities took part in this mass struggle. 709 rally has become an unprecedented event in our history. NGOs with their clear-cut stand have projected themselves as a force to be reckoned with in our social movement. They truly represent the interests and aspirations of the people.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is an independent nationwide human rights NGO. It is willing to take part, discuss or express opinions on any human rights related issues. It always focuses attention on human rights issues, and show concern for the interests of the people in the political, economic, cultural and educational spheres. It is always prepared to work with any organizations that fights for human rights. It always puts forward views and level criticisms on any organizations or individuals who have violated human rights.

Friends of SUARAM (FOS) Working Committee Johor is a mass-based support group for SUARAM, pioneering human rights activities in the State of Johor. It was established 10 years ago on 9 September 2001, by a group of former Labour Party members, ex-political detainees, former trade unionists, Chinese educationists, social democrats, and young intellectuals with tertiary education in the State of Johor. They work hand in hand to oppose the UMNO hegemony, to fight against racism and to fight for democracy and human rights.

In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the FOS Working Committee Johor, we are holding a forum on the current and future role and position of NGOs. There will be a dinner immediately after the forum. We have invited 3 well-known NGO leaders, who are or were involved in human rights and democracy movement in Malaysia, to present papers, expressing their views in our forum. They will also answer questions from the floor.

The forum will be conducted in Bahasa, English or Mandarin (at the convenience of the panelists). Translations in Bahasa and Mandarin will be provided. Details of the programme are as follows:

Date: Sunday 11 September 2011
Time: 2.00pm - 6.30pm (Forum: 2pm to 5pm - Dinner: 5pm to 6:30pm)
Venue: Taman Universiti Sports Club (Skudai, Johor)
Coupon: RM35 per person

We welcome all concerned citizens of different races and different classes to be with us at this anniversary. For more information, feel free to contact Ms Fang, h/p No. 016-7782707.

Friends of SUARAM (FOS) Working Committee Johor
23 July 2011


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