Malaysia

Speaking up for freedom of expression

By K.C. Boey
April 29, 2012

SABMoz Melbourne president David Teoh: Empowering the youth.SABMoz Melbourne president David Teoh: Empowering the youth.MELBOURNE, April 29 — Underlying the Global Bersih push for free and fair elections is people’s wish to be able to take part in civic discussion.

By some quirk of chance, Malaysians in Melbourne faced the test when Bersih 2.0 called for the third gathering of the civic movement for April 28 — and they passed that test to mutual benefit.

Global Bersih organisers in Melbourne and members of Kelab Umno Australia Melbourne (KUAM), unbeknownst to the other, had set respective events at clashing times.

Monash University law student Liow Jie Hui taking part in discussions at KUAM’s Speakers’ Corner. On the left is KUAM education officer Syahir Zaini.Monash University law student Liow Jie Hui taking part in discussions at KUAM’s Speakers’ Corner. On the left is KUAM education officer Syahir Zaini.In the interest of their common goal for freedom of expression, they avoided the clash, and participants at each of their respective events were able to attend that of the other.

And Malaysia’s Consul-General in Melbourne, Dr Mohamad Rameez Yahaya, was able to be present at both.

KUAM had set its first Malaysian Speakers’ Corner (MSC) for April 28, before Bersih called for its gathering, and Global Bersih Melbourne unknowingly set its event for the same time. After discussion between the two, KUAM brought forward its event by an hour and a half.

KUAM president Mohd Hazwan: Speakers' Corner aim.KUAM president Mohd Hazwan: Speakers' Corner aim.“(The change) was consistent with the aim of our Speakers’ Corner, and we thought it would be good that our participants are able to attend both events,” KUAM president Mohd Hazwan Mohd Hairollah told The Malaysian Insider.

Said David Teoh, president of Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia Australia (SABMoz) Melbourne, driving force behind the Global Bersih campaign: “It is good that we are able to cooperate and talk to each other.

“Which is what Bersih is about; that people are able to talk, and if they are not able to agree, to agree to disagree.”

Teoh was able to speak at KUAM’s MSC — on the empowerment of the youth — at the forum on “Globalising Malaysia and Malaysian”.

Hazwan and some of those at KUAM’s forum went on to attend Bersih’s event at Federation Square, where 1,200 people had gathered. It was the largest gathering outside of Kuala Lumpur of the 85 locations in 35 countries that held Global Bersih events.

KUAM’s MSC aimed to promote freedom of expression and freedom of speech through public speech, said KUAM education officer Syahir Zaini.

“MSC provides a platform for young Malaysians in Melboune to share and voice their opinion regarding current issues,” he said.

“MSC believes that in the current climate of political disengagement, reasserting the importance of citizens’ rights, which we take for granted, has become a pressing priority.

“There is an urgent need to promote open discussion and debate in a way which involves communities as well as politicians. This will enable citizens to express their views and strengthen their influence on the decision-making process.”