The IUSY Asia-Pacific theme "Beyond the Crisis: Opportunities and Challenges for Democratization in the Asia-Pacific" is being played out in all the Asian-Pacific countries, and Malaysia is no exception.
Malaysians are looking forward expectantly to the next general election, which could be held any time and latest by middle of next year, which holds out the golden opportunity for the first time in the 42-year history of the nation to see far-reaching political changes - to break the mould of political hegemony exercised by the ruling coalition as a result of having never lost control of parliamentary two-thirds majority in the previous nine general elections.
This is because for the first time in Malaysian electoral history, the Opposition parties in Malaysia are closing ranks and co-operating to present a united front against the juggernaut machine of the ruling coalition to establish justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
New and creative forces and energies for greater political pluralism and democratisation will be released once Malaysia moves away from a very authoritarian form of democracy which have stunted the healthy growth of a vibrant democracy and civil society, and the root cause for the blatant violation of human rights in Malaysia, as best illustrated in the injustices of the cases of former DAPSY Chairman Lim Guan Eng and former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim - both of whom have lost their personal liberties and are serving jail sentences as a result of trials which are a travesty of justice.
Malaysia is the last holdout of the countries affected by the Asian economic crisis refusing to effect political and economic reforms and changes. In fact, the Malaysian ruling parties have embarked on an election propaganda campaign using the Asian economic crisis to justify their continued political hegemony with two-thirds parliamentary majority - trying to whip up xenophobia by blaming foreign forces for fully causing the economic crisis in Malaysia, in particular the currency speculators and foreign powers out to subvert the national independence and sovereignty of Malaysia.
This is not the first time that ruling parties anywhere in the world have tried to equate their party interests with national interests, tarring the opposition with the "anti-national" and "disloyalty" brush, and the next general election will be a great test of maturity for Malaysian voters as to whether they could see through such electoral ploys, and in particular the raising of the foreign bogey and other scare tactics to distract attention from domestic factors which had contributed to the gravity and magnitude of the economic crisis and the need for far-reaching economic and political reforms in the national system of governance.
It will be wrong however to ignore or disregard the ills and destabilising effects of globalisation, whether it be the US$1.5 trillion exchanged in the world's currency markets each day or growing marginalisation of more and more countries and peoples when global opportunities and benefits are not shared equitably.
In the past decade, globalisation has not brought about any convergence
but greater disparity as shown by increasing concentration of income, resources
and wealth among people, corporations and countries, as cited by the latest
Human Development Report 1999 of the United Nations Development Programme
The challenge of the international community is to ensure that globalisation has a human face, that it works for people and not just for profits, and that there is an equitable distribution of the opportunities and rewards of globalisation and not concentrate power and wealth in a select group of people, nations and corporations, while marginalising the others.
I believe the IUSY Asia-Pacific Seminar and Committee meeting can make
signal contribution towards such an international mission, to tame
and civilize globalisation, so that it has the following attributes: