Sunday, 11 September 2011

NGOS IN THE SERVICE OF THE MALAYSIAN PEOPLES

NGOS IN THE SERVICE OF THE MALAYSIAN PEOPLES

By Dr Kua Kia Soong, Director of SUARAM, 11 Sept 2011

[Note: This article is prepared and presented by Dr. Kua Kia Soong in the "NGOs Are Always With The People" forum organized in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Friends of SUARAM (FOS) Working Committee Johor on 11th September 2011.]

1. NGOs and the Peoples’ Interests

NGOs exist to defend, promote and develop the particular interest for which they were formed. It was during the crisis within the ruling party in 1987 and mass ISA arrests and detentions under Operation Lallang that SUARAM took shape. Upon their release in 1989, the Operation Lallang detainees and others in the Families Support Group founded SUARAM to campaign for the abolition of the ISA and to monitor, document and to defend human rights. SUARAM has since been the main NGO opposing detention without trial.

Since 1989, it has been the main coordinating secretariat for the Movement against the ISA and other detention without trial laws, the EO and the DDA. Our office serves as the refuge for those whose family members have been victims of state oppression. We send Urgent Appeals throughout the world whenever any detention or other violations of human rights happen.

But SUARAM’s mission is much more than that: “to work toward a society that is peaceful, free, equal, just and sustainable through empowering people to create new progressive democratic alternatives.”

In the last 22 years, SUARAM has operated with a skeletal staff of committed activists and volunteers. The funding we get goes into nurturing young activists in human rights work. We employ a handful of dedicated young staff who have chosen this path of service in human rights work.

Despite its small staff, SUARAM publishes the only credible and detailed Human Rights Report every year without fail and has been doing so since 1998. Such a report is an invaluable service to all the peoples of Malaysia irrespective of ethnicity, religion or creed and also to inform the rest of the world.

Throughout its existence in the last 22 years, SUARAM staff and secretariat have been involved in human rights and environmental education, giving talks, organising seminars and providing training. SUARAM has initiated fact finding missions and campaigns against the Bakun dam, the Selangor dam to protect the interests of indigenous peoples, the environment and the interests of Malaysian tax payers. We have also supported marginalised communities such as the urban settlers, estate communities and refugees when they have met eviction and state oppression. We are also in the campaign to bring back elected local government.

Our branches in JB (1999) and Penang (2002) were set up in order that we can serve the people there better and to improve our documentation and monitoring of human rights violations in the rest of the country.

2. NGOs and the Malaysian Peoples’ Movement

Since its founding, SUARAM has worked toward a healthy democratic movement in the country and we could well say that Gagasan Rakyat and all the efforts by SUARAM in the last 20 years have produced today’s two-front system and the political tsunami of 2008. Some leaders in Pakatan Rakyat have been members of the Secretariat of SUARAM at some time or other.

We have succeeded in building a network of NGOs and groups, notably on the drafting of the Malaysian Charter on Human Rights in 1994, the Malaysian Human Rights Report in 1998, the Coalition against the Bakun Dam in 1995 and Gagasan Democrasi Rakyat in 1998. We are of course part of the Bersih coalition. The process involved in forging those coalitions has been as valuable as the formation of the coalitions themselves in our mission to build a human rights movement in this country.

Reaching beyond Malaysia, SUARAM has also become part of the regional human rights network because we believe that a more meaningful way to promote understanding amongst the people of ASEAN and Asia-Pacific is to uphold and promote human rights in the region. Thus, we have played an active role in the Asia Pacific Peoples Assembly in 1998, Asia-Pacific Conference on East Timor in 1996, Burma Solidarity and other regional issues. This is consistent with the spirit of the universality of human rights and anti-imperialism which stretches beyond frontiers to every society on our planet, including Bosnia, Palestine and others. The campaign for disarmament and a culture of peace must also extend to the whole ASEAN community.

3. NGOs and Malaysian Politics

NGOs can and must play a constructive role in ensuring that the peoples’ interests are safeguarded in Malaysian politics. The recent Bersih coalition is perhaps the best example of how NGOs have raised the “yellow” demands relating to ensuring free and fair elections in Malaysia. The Lynas and Bukit Koman environmental campaigns are rightfully raising the “green” demands for environmental protection and peoples’ health protection in industrial projects. These demands will not be complete without the “red” demands of civil and political rights. These have been SUARAM’s concerns ever since it was founded in 1989.

It is vital for Malaysian democracy and sustainable development that communities are empowered in their struggle against the misconceived projects and the accompanying oppressive methods used to push them through. The cases of kampongs in which the communities stood firm against the developers’ gangsters, enforcement officers, the FRU and their water cannons. So is the case at Bukit Merah where the involvement and support of the local community was sustained throughout the campaign. They carried on the fight for a safe living environment free from radioactive contamination. Today, the communities fighting against the Lynas rare earth plant and the Bukit Koman gold mine are the front lines of this struggle for peoples’ interests before profits.

Their commitment to the struggle, leadership and community solidarity should be emulated by all Malaysian communities. They have shown us that direct action is about empowering people to unite as individuals with a common aim, to change things directly by our own actions.

The reality in Malaysia is a crisis of increasing disparities in the distribution of wealth in the country; between East and West Malaysia; between rural and urban areas; between men and women; the victimisation of marginalised groups including indigenous peoples, urban settlers, plantation communities and other minorities; and the depletion of forest, energy and water resources. The pattern has been that it is the rich and powerful backed by political leaders who decide what is to be produced, which resources to exploit and how much profits will be made. More often than not, it is the politically well-connected companies who get the plum contracts.

Our economy needs planning guided by a highly mobilised labour movement and high level of participation in civil society. There must be plural forms of ownership without unaccountable concentration of private power, a mixture of plan and market as well as a vibrant co-operative and communal sector. Within the workplace and in the wider society, there must be democratic forms of participation. The goal of production is to meet human needs although there is a role for regulated markets such as for intermediate need goods, eg. clothing, foodstuffs.

The peoples’ interests must extend to supporting peoples in other countries who are victims of imperialist aggression. Suaram has also been consistent in opposing and condemning US / western imperialism all these years. We are part of the “Stop the War Coalition” and have coordinated Anti-US demonstrations and protests against the US-led occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and Israeli atrocities in Gaza.

4. A Third Force against Neo-liberalism

Thus NGOs must continue to serve the people by building the third force that works toward the defeat of neo-liberalism and reclaiming Malaysian resources for the Malaysian peoples. Its first objective is the overthrow of the BN regime that has divided and oppressed the Malaysian peoples since Independence and thrived on neo-liberal capitalist exploitation. As in the 2008 general elections, we must forge a strategic alliance with Pakatan Rakyat to overthrow the BN coalition and to reinstate our basic freedoms, liberal democracy and human rights.

In the course of this strategic alliance and knowing the sizeable number of defections from Pakatan Rakyat to BN after the 2008 elections, we hope that Pakatan Rakyat will compromise realistically with the Third Force when the time comes for candidates’ selection.

Within the Peoples’ Front, NGOs can play a crucial role in adjudicating the selection of candidates and ensuring we do not have any more toads, donkeys or moronic oxen that we saw after the 2008 general elections. To avoid the usual horse trading and bad form it gives the federal opposition, NGOs can form an ‘Independent Peoples’ Candidates’ Selection Committee’ to objectively vet the suitability of the peoples’ candidates for the 13th general elections and prevent three cornered fights in any constituency. Respected leaders among the NGOs will be the most suitable impartial members of this committee. In the process, this will also help the Peoples’ Front by minimizing the bickering that invariably happens during the inter-party negotiations before every general election. This NGO committee should also adjudicate the claims by the PR parties regarding their claims to particular constituencies.

After the downfall of BN, the struggle against neo-liberal capitalism will certainly go on under a PR government as we fight for the rights and interests of the people. Pakatan Rakyat has not renounced neo-liberal policies which have allowed multi-national corporations and the big companies to plunder the country’s resources, buying up privatized resources at rock bottom prices. Powerful capitalist interests control our resources and markets and thrive on the cheap labour of Maslaysian workers and migrant labour. The price has been paid by workers and the poor whose living standards continue to be pushed downwards.

This resistance to unrestrained neo-liberalism is simultaneously to empower oppressed people in the process of democratic participatory socialism. Popular democratic participation is not just in economic but also political institutions. There is a need for state intervention and nationalization of basic resources such as oil and gas; utilities such as water, energy; health, education and social services. Unfettered capital transfers by speculators and finance capitalists must also be checked.

Only through direct action and mass movement will there to be true grassroots democracy. Power should be based on the self-organisation of workers and other communities in their struggle against capital. Directly elected workplace and community councils take responsibility for their own affairs and this is linked to decisions for society at large.

Real democracy will never be attained merely through periodic general elections and relying on parliament alone. To make democracy work, we must step up the demands we make from outside Parliament. Democracy is more than simply voting once in five years for as the saying goes,

“If voting in the general elections ever changed anything, they would have abolished it by now!”
 ---


Link: 
1) 我国非政府组织-志在为人民服务
2) NGO BERKHIDMAT UNTUK RAKYAT MALAYSIA

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通告 Notification

人民之友对下届大选意见书
英巫文译稿将在此陆续贴出

作为坚守“独立自主”和“与民同在”的立场的一个民间组织,人民之友在上个月对即将来临的第14届全国大选投票,发表了一篇以华文书写的意见书,题为:投票支持"反对国家伊斯兰化的候选人": 反对巫统霸权统治!莫让马哈迪帮派"复辟"!。

这篇意见书的英文译稿,将在近期内在本部落格贴出。马来文译稿将在下个月内贴出。敬请关注!

我们希望,我们在意见书内所表达的对下届大选的立场和观点,能够准确而又广泛地传播到我国各民族、各阶层的人民群众中接受考验,并接受各党派在这次全国大选斗争和今后实践的检验。


The English and Malay renditions of Sahabat Rakyat’s opinions about next election will be published here consecutively

As an NGO which upholds “independent and autonomous” position and "always be with the people" principle, Sahabat Rakyat had released a Chinese-written statement of views with regard to the voting in the upcoming 14th General Election, entitled “Vote for candidates who are against State Islamisation: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent the return to power of Mahathir’s faction!”

The English rendition of this statement will be published in our blog in the near future whereas the Malay rendition will be published next month (November). Please stay tuned!

We hope that our position and views pertaining to the next General Election expressed in the statement will be accurately and widely disseminated and also examined by the popular masses of various ethnicities and social strata through their involvement in the struggle of the next General Election carried out by various political parties and their practices in all fields in future.


Akan datang: Penerbitan penterjemahan pendapat Sahabat Rakyat mengenai pilihan raya ke-14 dalam Bahasa Inggeris dan Bahasa Melayu

Sebagai sebuah pertubuhan masyarakat yang berpendirian teguh tentang prinsip "bebas dan berautonomi" dan “sentiasa berdampingan dengan rakyat jelata”, Sahabat Rakyat telah menerbitkan kenyataan tentang pandangan kami terhadap Pilihan Raya Umum ke-14 yang akan datang yang bertajuk "Undilah calon yang menentang Pengislaman Negera: Menentang pemerintahan hegemoni UMNO! Jangan benarkan puak Mahathir kembali memerintah! "

Penterjemahan Bahasa Inggeris kenyataan tersebut akan diterbitkan dalam blog kita dalam waktu terdekat manakala penterjemahan Bahasa Melayu akan diterbitkan pada bulan hadapan.

Kami berharap pendirian dan pandangan kami berkenaan pilihan raya kali ini yang dinyatakan dalam kenyataan tersebut dapat disebarkan dengan tepat dan meluas untuk diuji dalam kalangan rakyat semua bangsa semua strata sosial melalui penglibatan mereka dalam amalan pelbagai parti politik dalam pertempuran pilihan raya umum kali ini mahupun masa depan.

Malaysia Time (GMT+8)