Ambiga: Malaysians more open, rejecting racism and racist undertones

  • Penang hotels full, florists overrun with orders for Karpal
    Penang hotels full, florists overrun with orders for Karpal

    GEORGE TOWN, April 20 — Some hotels here are reporting full occupancy as people flock to pay their last respects to the Tiger of Jelutong, Karpal Singh. Waterfall Hotel receptionist T. Kalpana,... …

  • Despite Karpal’s death, Anwar has five days left for sodomy appeal in apex court
    Despite Karpal’s death, Anwar has five days left for sodomy appeal in apex court

    The late Karpal Singh's funeral is today but his most famous client, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, has a more pressing matter at hand - to meet a deadline this Friday to appeal against his sodomy conviction by the Court of Appeal. The petition has to be filed in the Federal Court by April 25. Karpal, 73, died in a road accident on the... …

  • Karpal’s ‘angel’ Michael heads home to India
    Karpal’s ‘angel’ Michael heads home to India

    IPOH, April 20 —  ”Michael was nothing short of an angel”.  That is the poignant description given by Sangeet Kaur Deo about Michael Cornelius, the assistant to Karpal Singh. “From the day... …

  • In hour of grief, helping hands keep Karpal’s flame burning
    In hour of grief, helping hands keep Karpal’s flame burning

    GEORGE TOWN , April 20 — Since news first broke of Karpal Singh’s sudden death Thursday, a steady stream of volunteers have been turning up at the late Penang-born’s home at 144A, Jalan Utama here.... …

  • Umno MP admits to Facebook photos of Karpal in death
    Umno MP admits to Facebook photos of Karpal in death

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 — Under-fire Umno lawmaker Datuk Nawawi Ahmad admitted today to uploading photos of slain DAP leader, Karpal Singh on the Internet using his smartphone. The Langkawi MP... …

  • We love you, Tiger of Jelutong, grandchildren bid Karpal farewell
    We love you, Tiger of Jelutong, grandchildren bid Karpal farewell

    The late Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh was given a moving tribute and farewell by his grandchildren tonight, who vowed to take up the mantle of Tiger of Jelutong. The 11 grandchildren, aged between 1½ years and 11, showed the media a poster which they had made together. "Singh is King. We love you, Tiger of Jelutong. We will miss you. Jangan... …

Bersih Chairman Ambiga
Sreenevasan gave a talk at the Third State of The Nation Dialogue on Saturday, organised by the Imperial College Alumni Association Malaysia in partnership with The Malay Mail, Redberry and the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs.

At the dialogue, she gave a 50-minute talk on the state of the country, pointing out the challenges that needed to be addressed by the government as well as the political changes that have been taking place in Malaysia.

Dubbed as the 'Iron Lady', Ambiga exuded a strong sense of optimism for a better Malaysia as she expressed her views on how Malaysians are shifting away from racial issues. She also expressed encouragement over the empowerment of citizens.

Moving away from racial issues

Ambiga feels that Malaysians are moving away from the worry of racial problems, mostly as a result of open conversations about issues that were thought to be thorny in the past.

Ambiga illustrated this point by using the Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) video as an example.  She shared that the racist undertones taken by the moderator saw her (the moderator) getting 'hammered' by all, 'not just by the Indians or Chinese'.

The UUM video went viral last week, involving a student and Parti Sosialis Malaysia member K S Bawani being publicly berated at a university forum by Sharifiah Zohra Jabeen, the president of Suara Wanita 1 Malaysia.  The video sparked outrage amongst the online community and saw Higher Education Deputy Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin calling for Sharifah to apologise for her behaviour.

“I think there is a shift and it is going to be difficult for the government to use the racial wedge that they have used in the past. The youth of today don't think in those terms, not all of them,” she said.

“The attacks on the moderator were also sexist and nasty and that is unacceptable,” she added, referring to Netizens' attacks on Sharifah Zohra.

Ambiga pointed out that Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians like Saifuddin and Khairy Jamaluddin were quick to respond to the video because they were in touch with issues on the ground and they could see the danger of allowing such an issue to carry on.

To a question from the floor on the issue of racism and fears of racial riots in Malaysia, Ambiga felt that the Bersih movement took away those fears.

“There are some people who still want to keep pushing this point (racial riots) and that we are a tinderbox. But I didn't see it in Bersih or in the KL112 gathering. They were multiracial gatherings,” she said, adding that racist arguments do exist on the Internet but die down soon after, probably a result of a maturing Malaysian society.

Role of police and armed forces

She also expressed her optimism about the roles of the police and the army during the upcoming general elections. 

"I think what is so promising about KL112 was that the police behaved exactly as they should, professionally and in accordance with the spirit of assembly,” said Ambiga.

She says she does not foresee any problems during the upcoming polls if the Inspector-General of Police stuck to the judgement made on January 12 - that the police have to be professional and non-partisan.  She said the same of the army's role, as she believed it was not as intrusive in political affairs as in other countries. 

“I don't see it happening. I hope I'm right,” she smiled.

Close to 100,000 Malaysians gathered peacefully in Stadium Merdeka last Saturday in a “People's Uprising Rally” and KL112, organised by various groups championing different causes including Bersih, the Abolish ISA Movement and the National Association of Felda Settlers' Children (ANAK).

The gathering was seen as 'historic' as many had expected clashes with the police as in previous demonstrations, despite the enforcement of the Peaceful Assembly Act.

Wishlist of reforms

In the
talk, Ambiga highlighted a wishlist for Malaysia's next government to improve Malaysia's current state of affairs, regardless on whether it would be led by BN or Pakatan Rakyat.

First, she stressed, the new government must strengthen the rule of law, using the best legal experts and resources to review the country's laws.

She also
said the next government must have the political will to 'attack corruption with a vengeance'.  Ambiga had pointed out that Hong Kong tackled corruption in just three years and believed Malaysia could do it as well.  She explained that Malaysia could look at asset recovery and make sense of anti-corruption treaties while dismantling the burden of dishonest contracts.

She also suggested a Truth and Reconciliation Commission be set up for Malaysia, similar to the one set up by the South African government to deal with problems from the apartheid system.

The commission could review the injustices of the past or breaches of human rights but not necessarily prosecute individuals.

“It is about allowing people to talk about it and to confront their accuser.  It is a cathartic process and is good for the conscience of the nation,” she explained, adding that the May 13 racial riots, deaths in custody and crime rates could be brought before such a commission.

Ambiga also called for efforts to limit the terms of power for leaders and overhauling the elections system.

“There should be economic reform and politicians should stop deciding education policies, it should be educationists deciding these policies.”

“We have to stop racism, sexism and we have to look at women's issues more holistically, look at minority rights as well as migrant workers (rights). We should not underestimate environmental issues,” she cautioned.

Ambiga ended the talk by giving a response to the late American civil rights leader Martin Luther King's famous 'I have a dream' phrase.

“We (Malaysians) don't have to dream anymore.  Our bright future is within our grasp. I don't think we need to wait for it to be done in 2020, it can be done in 2013, at least it can start being done in 2013.  We should know that it is possible and that we have to make sure our leaders get it done.”

Follow @YahooMalaysia on LINE for daily news updates.

Comments on Yahoo pages are subject to our link to Comments Guidelines. You are responsible for any content that you post. Yahoo is not responsible or liable in any way for comments posted by its users. Yahoo does not in any way endorse or support comments made by its users.

  • Langkawi MP unrepentant, continues insults on late Karpal, says Facebook user The Malaysian Insider
    Langkawi MP unrepentant, continues insults on late Karpal, says Facebook user

    A Barisan Nasional MP whose Facebook posting poking fun at the death of Karpal Singh shocked Malaysians has again insulted the late DAP leader, this time comparing him to a hostile figure in Islamic history who fought against Prophet Muhammad. Facebook user Shamsul Kamal Ariffin Mohd Nasir, 42, told The Malaysian Insider that Langkawi MP,... …

  • Karpal’s car crashed into lorry, not the other way around, says Perak police The Malaysian Insider
    Karpal’s car crashed into lorry, not the other way around, says Perak police

    Initial investigations have revealed that Karpal Singh’s Toyota Alphard crashed into a five-ton lorry in the accident yesterday that claimed his life and that of his assistant, Perak police said today. State police chief Datuk Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani also dismissed rumours and speculation that the accident was caused by the lorry crashing... …

  • Interfaith group ‘worried’ that ex-judge can have such ‘racist’ views The Malay Mail Online
    Interfaith group ‘worried’ that ex-judge can have such ‘racist’ views

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 — An interfaith group expressed shock today at the “racist” views of a former high-ranking judge who had called the presence of large Hindu and Buddhist statues in the... …