IDEAS celebrated its 5th Anniversary, in commemoration of what would have been Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj’s 112th birthday, on the 7th of February 2015.
The event was held at the Tunku Abdul Rahman memorial and was graced by many prominent Malaysians, including YAM Tunku Besar Sri Menanti, Tunku Ali Redhauddin ibni Tunku Muhriz, Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman’s children YTM Tunku Ahmad Nerang and YTM Dato’ Paduka Tunku Khadijah, and Bursa Malaysia Chairman and IDEAS Council Chairperson Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin bin Haji Abdullah.
Also present among the guests were politicians from both sides of the divide as well as IDEAS’ council members and associates. Since the event was open to members of the public, there was a diverse mix of people representing all ages, races and ethnic groups, as well as a healthy blend of foreign dignitaries which added an extra element of character. In more ways than one, the audience present last Saturday was a microcosm of Malaysian civil society, that hopes and longs for a better future for our beloved country.
This year’s theme was “Where is the Leadership?”, and the festivities got off to a racing start with an eloquent speech by IDEAS’ Founding President YAM Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin Muhriz. Tunku Abidin spoke about the country’s founding principles and of the legacy of Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman, in particular of his vision of a limited government that was bound by the rule of law and his unequivocal hope that all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, would live in peace and harmony. He also spoke about the need for a strong civil society in holding governments and politicians accountable, and expressed scepticism at the current political landscape. He said, to a round of applause, that “to the question of ‘where is the leadership?’ the diplomatic answer would be, ‘not always where it ought to be”.
Next on the agenda was an incredibly moving speech titled, “Tunku: A Voice from the Heart” which was delivered by Tunku’s granddaughter YM Sharifah Menyalara. She shared intimate and heart-warming personal recollections of Tunku, both as her grandfather and as our nation’s first prime minister. It was clear to all, that Tunku was a person who treasured the principles of liberty and justice, and that he always put the nation’s interest ahead of his political interests. The speech ended with a quote from her grandfather: “I am nothing without my country and my fellow Malaysians”. So poignant was her speech, that by the end of it, a few in attendance were on the verge of tears.
Keynote speaker and IDEAS Chair in Political Economy and Governance, Dr. Razeen Sally took the floor next. He spoke on the topic of “Malaysia: Economic Freedom and Globalisation”. He said that “capitalism with a proper engine (i.e institutions) can lead to greater opportunities and better lives for masses of people around the world” and on the topic of free trade, said that “the free trade agreements that were signed by Malaysia are weak”. He also noted the fact that many countries have dual structures within its economy, with parts that are dynamic and in free competition within international markets, and other parts that are heavily protected and as a result remain inefficient and sclerotic. Dr. Razeen also opined that while the ETP (Economic Transformation Programme) and the GTP (Government Transformation Programme) are a step in the right direction, wider institutional reform and liberalization of the economy are essential steps that Malaysia must take, if it wishes to climb the next rung of the economic ladder in its quest to become a fully developed country.
An animated panel discussion moderated by Wan Saiful Wan Jan and participated by Datuk Nur Jazlan, Dr Suffian Jusoh, and Datuk Noor Farida then followed. The discussants spoke about the need for Malaysia to embrace liberal values, in both the political and economic spheres. Dr. Suffian made an excellent point about the paradox of GLC’s (government linked companies). GLC’s were originally spawned to protect the interests of bumiputra entrepreneurs and industrialists. Over time however, GLC’s have had the pernicious effect of crowding out new, private bumiputra entrepreneurs from entering the market; thus defeating its original raison d’être. Datuk Nor Farida on the other hand, spoke at length about the need to counter religious extremism, and other forms of radical behaviour (which is becoming worryingly prevalent in Malaysia), by promoting moderate values instead.
This year’s anniversary event also featured the unveiling of IDEAS’ 20 National Unity Fellows. The fellows are young, bright and aspiring Malaysians from various racial, religious and economic backgrounds. They will be groomed (in a rigorous 9 month programme) to become community leaders who will seek to champion moderation and national unity as envisioned by the Rukun Negara.
Finally, the event ended, as it has in previous years, with a cake cutting ceremony in celebration of Tunku’s 112th birthday. Guests were then treated to a scrumptious, albeit fattening, nasi minyak lunch at 1.30 pm. Panel speakers and other VVIP’s on the other hand, spoke to local news reporters, some of whom were regrettably (as is often the case) on the prowl for material to spin.
We would like to thank everyone for your continuous support for IDEAS, and the principles that we energetically and vigorously defend. We hope to see you at our 6th Anniversary next year!
Written by Yohannan Nair