Liberalism and Faith

November 6, 2015

Liberalism and Faith

by Rom

J Locke's QuoteFor many, ‘liberalism’ in what is often described as a ‘plural’ society like Malaysia has meant anything from John Locke’s belief in the individual’s right to life, liberty and property to the broader assertion that liberalism, as a political philosophy, ‘supports ideas and programmes such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, and democratic societies’.

But what is liberalism largely seen as in the context of contemporary Malaysia?From the way our political leaders, our religious pundits, some of our mainstream media, and even our education system have begun to put it, liberalism seems to have shifted from being seen as something neutral, desirable even, to something that is negative and not suitable for Malaysian society.

This is similar, I would say, to the way ‘democracy’ was criticised in the 1980s and 1990s as being an invention of the West, a tool meant to continue subjugating us to Western interests.

Philipp RoslerThen there’s this concept or assumption of a ‘plural society’. Despite the many valid scholarly critiques of this description of Malaysian society, it is one that still enjoys wide currency.

Pluralism implies equal, competing voices and centres, and a free market of ideas competing in a fair environment. This, for quite some time now, has become rather doubtful in Malaysia. Competing voices, ideas and practices there certainly may be, but it would be unwise, indeed delusional, for us to believe that they exist in a fair environment. In many, many cases, there is indeed no level playing field.

Take the media system in Malaysia, for example. Since the 1980s at least, there has been oligopolistic control over the mainstream media.

UMNO in PowerThe tentacles of the ruling parties, especially UMNO, are spread far and wide, ably aided by the virtually all-encompassing 1984 Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) and the increasingly (ab)used 1998 Communications and Multimedia Act.

And not to mention, of course, the Sedition Act.It used to be said, especially in the bad old days of the Internal Security Act, that there’s freedom of speech in Malaysia but NO freedom after speech.

But now, despite a short period of respite, it would seem that even such limited freedoms are being taken away by what appears to be a desperate regime that blocks news websites that provide crucial information, suspends publications that don’t toe the line, and detains respected, flea-bitten journalists for no valid reason, save to intimidate them and others.

It is also hardly a fair environment when we look at the education system – one that provides homogenised fare for the masses, arguably with the aim of dumbing our children down, rather than liberating their minds.

Then, of course, there’s the Judiciary, once reputed to be one of the finest and fiercely independent in the region if not the world, but now the less said about the better.

And when we locate what I would kindly call this ‘mess’ within the wider context of a political economy that is rife with practices that scream ‘inequality’, I think we would find it quite difficult to call ours a ‘plural society’.

Liberalism and whose faith? And whose version of that faith?

Recognising the lack of plurality in Malaysia allows us to ask a number of questions of the term ‘faith’. Is there plurality of faiths? If there isn’t, which faith dominates? Whose version of that faith dominates?

Does this dominance lead to a benign situation where other faiths are not only recognised and tolerated but, more importantly, seen as legitimate and respected?

If it doesn’t, is it the fault of the faith, the followers, and/or the keepers and ‘controllers’ of the faith? Knowing this non-plurality (or inequality of the position of different faiths) enables us to recognise power relations.

In this regard, let us address some of the main issues often raised about liberalism and faith in contemporary Malaysia.First, the myth of Malaysia being a liberal society. Two clear facts rubbish this myth – impediments to freedom of speech and inequality before the law.

Freedom of speech remains a myth when we have, among others, the PPPA, the Sedition Act, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma), the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), PPPA, and now Section 124C of the Penal Code (`attempting to topple the government’).

Then, there’s the myth of equality before the law – opposition politicians, civil society members, dissidents, are even now hauled before the courts; civil servants have been ordered to remain silent, and, more recently, top civil servants have not only been silenced but also have been removed from office.

Hence, what currently exists in Malaysia is NOT the purported greater freedom that a liberal society provides, but the lack of a liberal environment.It is precisely this environment that is leading to greater polarisation and the construction of narrow ethno-religious silos.

This has led to a lack of exchange and interaction between different, aggrieved, indeed oppressed groups and communities.

Divide and rule is evidently still the mantra of the regime.

Within this environment, greater exchange, greater understanding – which can only come about through acknowledging and respecting each other – is needed.Not greater control (political, cultural, religious, ethnic).It is perhaps the only way forward if genuine liberation, genuine participation by all Malaysians is what is envisioned.It is freedom that is required, not control.

Is liberalism incompatible with faith and religion?

It is often asserted by some hard nosed quarters in Malaysia these days that liberalism is incompatible with their version of their religion.But surely it rt really depends on what one’s perception of one’s religion and its role in society is? For many it’s a choice between liberation, the freeing of human beings, on the one hand, and control.

Sure, there are grey areas in between. But right now, unless there is political will – which we see very little of among our ruling politicians and their apparatchiks in our religious organisations, our education system and, certainly, in our media – we appear to be drifting towards greater repression than liberation.

Faith and religion are being manipulated by this class of individuals to legitimise their control, to further their self-interests. In so doing, aware that liberalism, if not something more radical, would indeed challenge that hegemony, defy that control, those, certainly those dominating faith and religion in this country, will invariably disparage, deride liberalism – or indeed anything remotely questioning that control.

Bearing this in mind, I would like to leave it to a wise and, certainly, sad Malaysian, Philip Lok, former president of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, who wrote in The Malaysian Insider (September 16, 2015), in the aftermath of the red shirts rally of hate in Kuala Lumpur:

“But for me, there is nothing we can boast of, if my fellow Malaysians are living in fear of one another. There is nothing to celebrate if Malaysians are still differentiated by the colour of their race and the faith in their hearts. There is nothing to rejoice over, if freedom to live together as one ‘bangsa’ is still a distant dream.”

Congratulations, Malaysiakini

October 30, 2015

To my friends Premesh, Steven, Guna, and the men and women behind MalaysiakiniDin Merican@Rosler and Kinibiz, congratulations on this significant award from me in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. May it be Gold the next time.

Because of the Internet, I,  as a loyal subscriber and keen reader, am able to access your portals and as a result, I am up to speed on political, economic and social developments in our country. I thank you very much for this service, and urge to keep up your good work. Please try to challenge yourselves and explore ways and means to communicate better. Being in the news business, you know, as well as I do, that we cannot please everyone. But we must never fail to try to be balanced and fair.

Your portals and I have been identified as being pro-Opposition. Nothing is further from the truth than that. We may be critical but we are not pro any coalition or party and certainly not anti-government which is elected by Malaysians, irrespective of the flaws in our electoral system. Unfortunately, I have had a hard time to convince UMNO and BN supporters that I am not the “enemy”. I have not stop trying.

Since coming to Phnom Penh and being an academic at Cambodia’s top private university, I am conscious that my friends and associates here look at me as a Malaysian and judge me on how I conduct myself as a Malaysian and on the quality of my pedagogy and research work, although when they read my blog, they know that I have been critical of my country’s leadership and their policies. Stereo-typing is convenient, but never helpful.

We are going through difficult times, to put it mildly. But as an optimist, I am embracing myself for better times ahead, anchored in my belief that tough times do not last, but tough Malaysians do.  Lest we forget,  Malaysia is not just Najib and his henchmen in UMNO-BN. Malaysia is all of us. We must work together for a great future.–Din Merican

Congratulations, Malaysiakini

Independent news portal Malaysiakini has been hailed as one of the top brands in Malaysia at the 6th Putra Brand Awards (tonight). While Malaysiakini has won awards on two previous occasions, it is the first time the portal bagged the silver in the Media Network category.

It picked up the bronze award last year and at the inaugural Putra Brand Awards in 2010. Wayne Lim (photo, left), CEO of Malaysia SME, handed over the award to Malaysiakini CEO Premesh Chandran at a gala dinner in Majestic Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.

The other media outlets that won awards in the Media Network category were Astro, TV3, and Era (Gold); Hitz FM (Silver); and The Star, ntv7, and The Malaysian Insider (Bronze). Meanwhile, Maybank, Malaysia’s leading bank with the widest network, won the Putra Brand of The Year award.

According to the brand awareness award host, the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As), the Putra Brand Awards is unique as Malaysian consumers themselves are the judges.

A consumer research polling system involving 6,000 people helped select Malaysia’s most preferred brands across a spectrum of 24 categories, with the top three brands in each category being honoured with a gold, silver, and bronze ranking.

This is the largest consumer research sampling of its kind nationwide, covering both East and West Malaysia.

We thank our subscribers, readers, advertisers, and most of all the Malaysiakini team, who work tirelessly to give the country the news and views that matter. “The awards reflect that the internet today is the mainstream, with two internet brands winning awards,” said Premesh (photo).

Malaysiakini, launched in 1999, is the country’s top news website.According to comScore, the portal has the highest number of visitors in the first half of this year, ahead of both Star Online and The Malaysian Insider. American-based comScore is a global leader in digital media analytics.

Malaysia : Investigate Corrupt Prime Minister, not punish the Fourth Estate

July 24, 2015


Malaysia : Investigate Corrupt Prime Minister, not punish the Fourth Estate

by Malaysiakini

Gan and ChandranSteven Gan and Premesh Chandran–The Malaysiakini Dynamic Duo

The media as the Fourth Estate serves as an indispensable pillar in a democratic nation. It has the sacrosanct task of monitoring those in the seat of power to ensure that the people and their rights are safeguarded. To use a draconian legislation to silence or punish the media is an act that is detrimental to parliamentary democracy and press freedom.

October 1987

That was the last time a major mainstream newspaper was shut down for publishing dissenting views. The Star – labelled as ‘Suara Tunku Abdul Rahman’ by certain pro-government forces – was among the dailies suspended as part of Operation Lallang in a bid to silence detractors of then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Over 100 activists, politicians and intellectuals were incarcerated without trial.

Now, twenty-eight years later, The Edge Weekly and The Financial Daily – both part of The Edge Media Group – have been suspended for three months. This comes hot on the heels of the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission blocking access to whistleblower website Sarawak Report.

Mahathir is now raising the alarm on the alleged wrongdoings of the country’s top man. But Najib Abdul Razak would probably laugh it off while inviting the former Premier to take a good look at himself in the mirror.

Ironically, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who is now Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications Director, had criticised DAP statesman Lim Kit Siang for “shooting the messenger”. Perhaps Abdul Rahman should also school Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on this. Alas, we have to live with such ironies under the 1Malaysian sky.

The suspension today of The Edge Weekly and The Financial Daily by the Home Ministry is an outrage, unwarranted and unjustifiable. It is a case of punishing the messengers rather than the criminals.

At the heart of the attack against The Edge and Sarawak Report is the matter of whether their reporting on the 1MDB scandal is true or false. If based on the evidence they have, public funds have indeed been siphoned away to serve private and political interests.

If indeed these media companies had fabricated evidence in a bid to topple an elected government, they can be charged with publishing false news. The matter would then go to court, where surely 1MDB, banks and the parties involved can produce conclusive evidence of fabrication.

The Edge has handed over all the documents it obtained from former PetroSaudi International executive Xavier Andre Justo to the authorities.  Till today, neither 1MDB nor the government is able to back up their claims of tampering, nor have the authorities charged The Edge with any other offence.

Rosmah Exposed by Sarawak Report
For a leadership that has nothing to hide, silencing the media does nothing for its credibility. Instead, this suspension sends an indelible message to Malaysians that the government has indeed something big to hide.

Malaysiakini calls on the government to immediately lift the suspension of The Edge and the blocking of Sarawak Report. It must allow the media to do its job to hold power to account.

Watch out: Malaysian Big Brother is snooping on Us

July 13, 2015

Watch out: Malaysian Big Brother is snooping on Us

by John

john-berthelsenIf you live in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam and you are an activist, the government probably knows a lot more about the inside of your computer than you think, and more than you want it to.

On July 5, unknown hackers broke into the computers a shadowy company based in Italy that has become notorious across the world. With offices in Milan, Washington, DC and Singapore, its name is The Hacking Team, and it is one of a half-dozen such firms identified as “digital era mercenaries” because they sell products to governments to spy surreptitiously on their own citizens.

Najib in anxietyHe can go to sleep because he is using technology to snoop  and spinners to dupe Us

Top Asian clients among the countries using The Hacking Team’s services are Malaysia, the seventh-biggest spender, paying The Hacking Team US$1,861,131 for its assistance in spying on its citizens. Singapore is 10th, just behind the US, which is 9th. Singapore paid The Hacking Team US$1,209,963. Vietnam is 21st, at US$560,735, followed by Thailand at US$466,482.

According to the Massachusetts-based CSO cyber-security firm, the US Department of Defense apparently had a contract with The Hacking Team but no longer does. The FBI had an active maintenance contract until June 30 and the Drug Enforcement Agency has a renewal in progress.

The hackers, whoever they were, downloaded 400 gigabytes of internal documents, source codes and email communications with governments and dumped the haul onto the Internet. The documents tell a chilling story of helping some of the world’s most repressive countries including Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Azerbijan and Kazakhstan. In all, 38 countries are on the list of clients. According to other sources,  The Hacking Team also expressed the intention to go after Human Rights Watch and other such activist organizations. 


And what do they get for their money? Here is a presentation on the company’s website to entice governments to spy. It is well worth listening to:

“You have new challenges today. Sensitive data is transmitted over encrypted channels. Often the info you want is not transmitted at all. Your target may be outside your monitoring domain. Is passive monitoring enough?  You want more. You want to look through your target’s eyes. You have to hack your target.  You have to hit many different platforms. You have to overcome encryption and capture relevant data. Being stealthy and untraceable. Deployed all over your country. That is exactly what we do. Remote Control System Galileo. The hacking suite for governmental interception. Rely on us.”

Big Bro1

“Without advanced technology, authoritarian regimes would not be able to spy on their citizens,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They sell products that are used by authoritarian governments to commit violations of human rights and freedom of information. They are Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat.”

Bahrain’s royal family has used Trovicor’s surveillance and interception products to spy on news providers and arrest them, according to Reporters Without Borders. Blue Coat’s deep packet inspection products have made it possible for Syria to spy on dissidents and netizens throughout the country, and to arrest and torture them. Amesys provided products to the Libyan secret police during the late Muammar Gaddafi’s reign. The Hacking Team and Gamma have provided malware to capture the passwords of journalists and bloggers.

“Online surveillance is a growing danger for journalists, citizen-journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Regimes seeking to control news and information increasingly prefer to act discreetly. Rather than resort to content blocking that generates bad publicity and is early circumvented, they prefer subtle forms of censorship and surveillance that their targets are often unaware of.”

The contract with the Malaysian government apparently was routed through the Prime Minister’s Office, “Malaysian Intelligence,” both listed as “active,” and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, now listed as “expired” according to documents made public by CSO.  Thailand’s contract, with the country’s department of corrections, was listed as expired. A full list of curated documents made available by CSO can be found here.

The Singapore government’s Infocom Development Agency is the unit that apparently purchased the Galileo software. That agency, according to its website, “formulates and develops short- and medium-term infocomm-related policies, as well as standards, codes of practices and advisory guidelines – all of which are enforceable by IDA – pertaining to issues such as licensing, interconnection, resource and competition management, to name a few. IDA also monitors local and global infocomm market trends, developments and regulatory measures, while remaining technology-neutral, to ensure that the current infocomm policies and regulatory frameworks are effective and relevant.”

According to The Hacking Company’s website, “In today’s connected world, data is moving from private devices to the social cloud. Encryption is everywhere to protect the users’ privacy from prying eyes. In the same way, encryption is hiding criminal intents from you. Don’t you feel you are going blind? Sometimes relevant data are bound inside the device, never transmitted and kept well protected … unless you are right on that device.”

The government’s target, according to the website, “can be anywhere today, while your hands are tied as soon as he moves outside the country. You cannot stop your targets from moving. How can you keep chasing them? What you need is a way to bypass encryption, collect relevant data out of any device, and keep monitoring your targets wherever they are, even outside your monitoring domain. Remote Control System does exactly that.”

The system allows governments to take control of target computers and monitor them regardless of encryption and mobility. “It doesn’t matter if you are after an Android phone or a Windows computer: you can monitor all the devices. Remote Control System is invisible to the user, evades antivirus and firewalls, and doesn’t affect the devices’ performance or battery life. Hack into your targets with the most advanced infection vectors available. Enter his wireless network and tackle tactical operations with ad-hoc equipment designed to operate while on the move.

“Keep an eye on all your targets and manage them remotely, all from a single screen. Be alerted on incoming relevant data and have meaningful events automatically highlighted. Remote Control System: the hacking suite for governmental interception. Right at your fingertips.”

Malaysians feeling down with negativity in Local News and Politics

July 12, 2015

Malaysians feeling down with negativity in Local News and Politics

by Dina

If Malaysians are feeling depressed with all the negativity in local news and politics, it could partly be their own doing as they are both consumers and producers of news, say media observers and academics.

For nine years, just before the watershed 2008 general election when the ruling Barisan Nasional lost its hold on two-thirds of seats in Parliament, Malaysians have been bombarded with almost daily headlines of negativity and divisive politics through numerous platforms.

Social media and instant messaging applications now take the Internet further and expand its reach faster as people make use of these tools to spread and share news and information, verified or not, about the country’s political and corporate players as well as the latest and on-going scandals.


But long-term and high-tension exposure to online news and information can be negative. “Naturally that there would be a sense of tension in the air,” Lina Esa Osberg, a life coach said.While the media has a role in bringing information to the public, Osberg said, other realities also impacted people’s reactions to the news.

“Malaysia is no longer a prosperous country economically. This is not the fault of Malaysia alone. The world is going through an economic crisis. And Malaysia is a part of it. The middle class is diminishing. The working class is not getting enough to fulfill their daily needs.

“But at the same time, the rich seemed to be more extravagant in their ways of living, and have no qualms about flaunting it. Malaysians see more and more scandals about those in power, and those who were entrusted with public monies squandered the same monies without guilt, remorse, or adverse consequences,” Osberg said.

Throw Malaysian news and politics into the mix and people’s reactions can get more complex.But why is it so hard to disengage? Dr Tessa Houghton, Director at the Centre for the Study of Communications and Culture at University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, said Malaysians themselves were contributing to the 24 hour news cycle which has become “infinite”.

There is constant “supply and demand” of news and information, she said, as people respond to output by news organisations, which in turn respond to their readers.

“Digital media now mean that we have the means to effect a 24 hours news cycle – the news hole has become infinite. Most news organisations try to keep pushing out as much content as possible, as quickly as possible.Because this is what people respond to, they’re basing their decisions on web analytics of what their readers respond to. And social media is the same, the more you up date, the more attention you’re likely to get.Both the producers and consumers of information get easily sucked in to this endless stream of information,” she added.

It becomes addictive to receive and aggregate news – at the expense of the need to analyse, reflect and act on the information – and this can lead to a sense of feeling overwhelmed. Yet, it is not easy to disengage for some people who fear missing out.

Malaysians, however, are as capable of critical thinking as anyone else, Houghton said, but these are skills that have to be learned and practiced constantly. The barrage of news and politics daily may not help create room for such reflection.

A bigger problem, said another academic, is the weakness in national leadership and lack of information transparency.Zaharom Nain, Professor of Media and Communication Studies and Houghton’s colleague at the Nottingham campus, said the daily onslaught of information was due to little clarification by the powers that be that could potentially resolve many current issues.

Bad news is a constant, and the perpetrators are not punished.“Where justice is not done, where injustice is so evident and blatant, many Malaysians now despair and give up hope.  There is lack of leadership, there is (increasingly) less credibility,” he said.

Zaharom does not believe that the Internet played a huge role in disseminating information.“The Internet only conveys the bad news generated by Malaysians themselves… that has impacted the nation. It’s the lack, indeed failure, of leadership,” he said.

Amid the constant flow of negativity, Tariq Ismail, the grandson of Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s second Deputy Prime Minister, is worried that Malaysians have “lost the ability to read and the ability to understand one another”.

Tariq is active on social media with his views on politics. He founded Aura Merdeka Ikatan Sejagat (AMIS), a lively Facebook group that discusses everything and anything under the sun. But he feels that social media and the Internet cannot be wholly blamed for the hostility.  Instead, the root causes are the content creators themselves: the politicians and the elected representatives who have forgotten that they are representatives of the people.

“When idiotic statements are made and singling out a single community it will create distrust, and the lack of accountability regarding these statements has made the citizens of this land angry. This is not healthy,” Tariq said.

“A nation is not built in a day. It is a continuous process which requires dialogue and compromise. Fortunately, our basic foundation is still intact. We still have the federal constitution and various bodies that hold this nation together. We have a collective responsibility to not only to ourselves but to all the communities that make Malaysia.”

Malaysia’s Ms. Reformasi speaks her mind in OSLO

May 26, 2015

Phnom Penh

Malaysia’s Ms. Reformasi speaks her mind in OSLO

OSLO, May 26 — Five years ago my father, Anwar Ibrahim, delivered a speech right here on Nurul-Izzah-Anwarthis very stage entitled ‘Half A Century of One Party Rule’. He was talking about my country, Malaysia, which has been dominated by the same party for more than 50 years.

That same year here at the Oslo Freedom Forum my father spoke on the same stage as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who declared that: “When you meet Anwar, be careful.” During his visit to Malaysia, Julian was detained by secret police just hours after speaking to my father.

My father – a popular and unifying figure in my country’s history – is seen as a very dangerous man by the UMNO party regime. When he served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in the 1990s, he amended the corruption act to further strengthen it – which displeased the political elites – and by September 1998 his anti-corruption campaign led to his sacking from government, arrest, his beating under custody whilst blindfolded and handcuffed, and his eventual sentence and imprisonment in trials that were condemned by rights organisations and governments worldwide.

Initially, it was announced that at least 20 charges would be brought against my father; including treachery, being an American and Israeli agent, corruption and sodomy. They did forget to throw in the kitchen sink. They jailed him for six years, much of which he spent in solitary confinement.

Anwar’s trials earned Malaysia our own International Commission of Jurists report– the very same body that observed Nelson Mandela’s flawed trial. It was entitled: Justice in Jeopardy, Malaysia 2000.

As I speak to you today, Anwar, my father, and the former Opposition Leader of Malaysia, is behind bars again on his second trumped-up charges of sodomy.

I have been told that of the nearly 200 speakers in this conference’s history, only four are in jail right now: my father, Nayeel Rajab from Bahrain, Thulani Maseko from Swaziland, Leopoldo Lopez from Venezuela. The Malaysian regime keeps some very authoritarian company.

Malaysia without AnwarSpecifically, for my father, this is his third incarceration since 1998. He is now in urgent need of medical attention. My father was also a political prisoner in his youth; when he was about my age. Thankfully, he grew more handsome over the years but no less rebellious.

The year 1998 brought the historic Asian Financial Crisis and my father’s imprisonment to Malaysia. Equally important for me, it marked my own political awakening.

As a child I wanted to be an engineer, and I would have pursued that if it wasn’t for the events of 1998. Well, I owe the Malaysian government many thanks for getting me involved in politics. Really, I do.

If my government didn’t abuse institutions – influencing the Judiciary, rigging votes, controlling the media, if they didn’t use force to shut their opponents up – my father would be free, and I might be working for Shell or any other decent oil and gas company. Or maybe not – not with oil at 60 dollars a barrel.

Well, now it is not just Anwar who is Malaysia’s most wanted. It also includes me and the whole opposition, the movement for free and fair elections (Bersih), and many others demanding for a democratic and just Malaysia.

In our last national elections in 2013, Anwar Ibrahim led the opposition to victory, winning 52 per cent of the popular vote. But he was defeated by extreme gerrymandering, malapportionment and election fraud. The ruling coalition clung to power by holding on to 60 per cent of the seats.

The Electoral Integrity Project, based in Sydney and Harvard University recently rated Malaysia as having the worst electoral-district boundaries in the world and among the worst election rules. This places Malaysia alongside countries like Zimbabwe, Angola and Egypt.

The government’s gerrymandering was compounded by the abuse of postal votes. In fact, out of 222 seats we lost almost 30 to postal votes and early votes alone! And since those flawed elections in 2013; almost 20 Members of Parliament and state legislators have been charged, arrested, and locked up, along with 150 others including lecturers, students, journalists, even cartoonist and ordinary citizens.

So now you might be thinking, “What about you, Izzah?”

Growing up, I was a prefect, and like the rest of you here – never smoked pot in my entire life. I played by the rules. I was a model example of a compliant citizen who wanted to go along and get along.

But, mind you, thanks to the corruption, oppression and sheer injustice of the Malaysian government, this girl scout is now a second term Member of Parliament – defeating two sitting Ministers along the way – thanks to my electorate who voted in favour of reforms.

In March, I was recently arrested and locked up for a speech I made on behalf of my father in Parliament.

Yes, beautiful, sunny, twin towers-clad Malaysia. But Members of Parliament have zero parliamentary immunity and can be arrested for sedition.

The whole experience of being a political prisoner in Malaysia is quite bizarre. We have a draconian 67-year-old prison rules that forbid slippers, for example, as the government claims they could be used for suicide. The colonial British laws the Malaysian government loves to preserve.

So you spend the night sleeping on the floor only to be asked questions such as:“Who is this Devil you referred to in your speech made in parliament?”

You see, I had condemned the Federal Court judges in my father’s case for having sold their souls to the Devil. I said this because Malaysia needed judicial reform. Along with electoral reform and fighting for a multiracial Malaysia – where diversity is seen as a strength, not something that divides us.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (L) and his wife Rosmah Mansor (R) arrive at the airport in Tokyo on May 24, 2015. Najib is on a three day visit to Japan.   AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (L) and his wife Rosmah Mansor (R) arrive at the airport in Tokyo on May 24, 2015. Najib is on a three day visit to Japan. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO

Reformists in my country are the most wanted, and the most feared by our government. Why? Because we are the future – with a zeal for reforms.

Malaysia’s most wanted are those who clamour for an end to the unequal distribution of wealth and against corruption and extravagance of the men or women who govern over us.

Malaysia’s most wanted are those who despair that our children receive low international education rankings – at one point we were surpassed by Vietnam!

Malaysia’s most wanted are those, who reject the use of racial and religious extremism to scare indigenous Malays into voting for the status quo.

Malaysia’s most wanted are those, who realise anti-terrorism laws are often just guises to justify the detention of political dissenters in the name of ‘security and stability.’

Malaysia’s most wanted, who are sick to the bone with failed governance and mammoth financial scandals. Most recently is the controversial government investment fund, 1MDB has burdened Malaysia with a RM42 billion debt.

The Prime Minister also the Finance Minister is the chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisors. Dubious financial dealings now go hand in hand with the Malaysian government.

Shout out to Mr Tom Burgis – meet our very own Sam Pa.Malaysia’s most wanted are the young generation of Malaysia, who up to 88 per cent voted for my party in the recently concluded Permatang Pauh by-elections.

My father’s seat – which he lost upon his conviction – has been retained by our party, despite the enormous political and financial obstacles put in our way by the regime. Malaysia’s most wanted will not give up. Just last week, the Opposition Coalition chose my mother as Malaysia’s Opposition Leader. They can’t lock all of us up. The reformist might be behind bars but the reform agenda stays true.

We know that more of the world will see beyond the Petronas Twin Towers and give more attention to us, Malaysia’s most wanted, the rising dissidents and democrats who refuse to accept the current government.

So what of the future you ask? I’ll tell you. The future belongs and will be determined by Malaysia’s most wanted.

Long live reforms. Long live reformasi!And thank you Thor and the selfless team at Oslo Freedom Forum for allowing Malaysians to live in truth.

God bless you.

* The above is the text of the speech delivered by Nurul Izzah as the first speaker at the Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway.

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