by Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive of IDEAS
Monday 8 February 2010
Memorial Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj
Yang Teramat Mulia Tunku Datuk Paduka Khadijah,
Yang Teramat Mulia Tunku Datuk Dr Sofiah Jewa,
Yang Mulia Tunku Muinuddin Putra,
Ahli keluarga Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj,
Yang Berbahagia Dato Haji Sidek, Ketua Pengarah Arkib Negara,
Yang Berhormat Mulia Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah,
Yang Amat Mulia Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin Tuanku Muhriz, Presiden IDEAS,
Yang Mulia Tunku-Tunku, Tan Sri Tan Sri, Puan Sri Puan Sri, Datuk-Datuk, Datin-Datin, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking everyone for being here today. Today is a momentous day. It is the birthday of our Bapa Kemerdekaan, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.
We chose his birthday to launch the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) because in our organisation Tunku is the source of our inspiration. The official launch of IDEAS today is our small gift in memory of the great man.
I am delighted that three generations of Tunku’s family are with us today. Tunku Khadijah, Tunku Sofiah, Tunku Muin, Sharyn, thank you very much for gracing us with your presence today. We are deeply deeply honoured.
I want to also thank Dato Sidek and his Arkib Negara team for supporting us by providing this marvellous venue. We are indebted to you Dato.
Ladies and gentlemen,
IDEAS is an independent think tank dedicated to promoting market-based solutions to public policy challenges.
We are driven by four principles: rule of law (kedaulatan undang-undang), limited government (kerajaan terhad), free market (pasaran bebas) and individual liberty (indvidu merdeka).
These are the principles we believe Tunku Abdul Rahman referred to when he said, in the Proclamation of Independence, that our country should:
“be for ever a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice”.
The story of IDEAS started in 2006, when the three of us, Tunku Abidin, Firdaus and I, were still in London.
At that time, Firdaus was active in various charitable organisations. Tunku Abidin was working for the British Parliament before moving on to the World Bank in Washington DC. And I was working at the Conservative Party Research Department, after a short stint at the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit.
Despite being thousands of miles away, we were committed to playing our role for Malaysia. That gave birth to an organisation, in October 2006 in London, initially with the working name: Malaysia Think Tank (MTT).
We spent the last three years putting together the building blocks, and, today, we celebrate the official launch of IDEAS, which replaces MTT.
If you asked me this time last year what my plans were, I would have told you that I had no intention at all of moving back to Malaysia at least until retirement. I have lived in the UK since 1993. For the last 17 years, life was comfortable, my children were happy in school there, and I was doing well in my career.
But I could not resist the lure of coming back to set up and run IDEAS with my two friends Tunku Abidin and Firdaus.
Yes, the money is lousy. We have to ask for donations and grants in order to run our operations and pay ourselves and staff. I now have to think twice before taking my family out for a meal. And I can only afford a small Proton Saga thanks to the excessive tax and import duties imposed by the government to protect Proton.
But the prospect of actually running an organisation to promote the ideals espoused by our founding father proved too strong to resist.
I said just now that we are an “independent” think tank. By “independent” I mean we are not bound by partisan politics, and we are committed to propogating our ideas on a cross-party basis.
Our freedom from political partisanship is our strength. We can speak freely about the government and about the opposition, and we will speak withour fear or favour.
Our sole commitment is to our principles, not to any political party or to any politician.
I would like to thank the members of our Cross-Party Advisory Group: YB Datuk Nur Jazlan (from UMNO), Mr Wong Nai Chee (from MCA), Mr Khaw Veon Szu (from Gerakan), YB Yusmadi Yusoff (from PKR), YBM Tunku Aziz (from DAP) and YB Dato Kamaruddin Jaffar (from PAS). Their advice and suggestions have been fundamental in ensuring we remain cross-partisan.
Of course I must mention our Advisors, Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim, Datuk Seri Azman Ujang, and Anthony Cooper who are with us today, as well as all the other Advisors who cannot be here at this event. Thank you very much for all your guidance and support.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In terms of activities, we have a very ambitious plan for this year.
In research and publication, we will research and we will publish policy proposals in topics ranging from school reform, to agriculture productivity, to property rights, among others.
If we get the funding, we would also like to conduct a study on how to strengthen our Dewan Negara.
All these studies will have one thing in common: we will be looking for ways by which market solutions can be applied so that more people benefit and we will try to reduce the level of government interventions.
In terms of events, we want to correct misconceptions about the free market. Capitalism is a dirty word nowadays. So we will conduct a series of public seminars across the country to explain the true meaning of the free market. And we will also be publishing articles in the press so that we can have a wider reach.
We will organise weekend courses targeted at university students to teach them the principles of a free society. We have already run four Akademi Merdeka since August 2008. The most recent one concluded just yesterday where 36 students studied in detail the concept of constitutionalism and its application (or lack thereof) in Malaysia led by our Senior Fellow Professor Aziz Bari and supported by another of our Senior Fellow Professor James Chin.
We believe that as a federation of states, it is important that state legislators are empowered. That is why we will hold workshops in different states to inform state politicians about state-federal relationship according to our consitution. There has been too much concentration of powers in Putrajaya and it is about time we start talking about greater devolution.
With such an ambitious plan, we will need as much help and support that we can get. If you have thoughts, ideas, suggestions, please do not hesitate to drop me an email. You all have my card in your folder.
So, that is a little bit about IDEAS. Once again, thank you very much for joining us in this celebration today.