Malaysia's Town Hall campaigns

By Saturday August 28th, 2010 No Comments
‘Govt knows best’ era is over, says PM Najib

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday held his first town hall-style meeting with 400 young people, in an effort to interact directly with Malaysians as he seeks to win back their support.

He told them he had asked for a town-hall meeting because he wanted to communicate with them face to face, and to listen to them.

The auditorium of the Kuala Lumpur City Hall was packed with young people who formed long queues at the microphones to ask him questions.

He said the government realised that the old ways were no longer working.

‘What was effective in the 1970s and 1980s is no more relevant today, and may be even counter-productive,’ Datuk Seri Najib told them.

He said the old school of thinking went along the lines of: ‘If you have power, you must be powerful; otherwise, you are a fool.’ It demanded that the government wield its strength and use laws like the Internal Security Act to curb dissent.

But he said these days, this is counter-productive because it sparked anger. In the new political environment, the government had to persuade people through better ideas and not through force.

‘The era of ‘government knows best’ is over. The 21st century calls for the contestation of ideas, and the use of intellect,’ he said.

The meeting was organised by Barisan Nasional (BN) Youth as part of its Youth Lab initiative. The Youth Lab comprised a survey of 1,000 young people nationwide, followed by focus group discussions and then labs to brainstorm on youth issues.

According to Youth Lab estimates, those below 35 will form half the number of voters by the next general election due in 2013, as more and more first-timers are registering. In the last election, they numbered about 40 per cent.

The survey found that 62 per cent of the young people are fence-sitters and support no political party. Hence, they are open to the competition of ideas.

But their needs are pressing. More than 60 per cent of young people live in urban centres but only 20 per cent have tertiary education and 13 per cent are professionals. Their biggest concerns, they say, are the economy and good jobs.

BN Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, who chaired the session, said the Youth Lab was aimed at creating communication between the government and young people. He said more than 7,500 young people had been surveyed through polls, focus groups and labs.

‘Most of them are not members of any political party and do not have political affiliations. They want only to voice out the aspirations, problems and ideas of the youth,’ he said.

This town hall meeting – the first for Mr Najib with young people – is part of his efforts to meet the people on the ground. He has been on several walkabouts in different ethnic neighbourhoods since he became Prime Minister in April last year.

This is part of the effort to win back voters who had abandoned BN in the 2008 general election, because the ruling coalition had become seen as arrogant and removed from the ordinary people.

Mr Najib expressed openness to the ideas posed by young people, including lifting restrictions on their participation in politics despite a recent Cabinet decision against it.

He also promised to tackle racism after hearing complaints of racial discrimination in universities, and one claim of a bank that would give loans only to Malay firms.

The government has zero tolerance for racism and will take action against such culprits, he said.

‘We must educate civil servants to understand and appreciate the 1Malaysia concept. Given time, the majority of them will be on board,’ he said.

Source : Straits Times

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