Civil Society Leadership in Ipoh

I refer to the editorial by G. Sivapragasam (Ipoh Echo Issue 189).

I agree that society has changed. No longer is society willing to accept everything and anything that is thrown at them. The advent of the internet has made it possible for members of the public to criticise the powers-that-be and to protest with a certain degree of impunity, afforded by their anonymity. But this is not enough. Such protests are like water off a duck’s back to politicians.

Political parties are about power and attaining government (and holding it once attained) and ultimately pursuing their party agenda which may not be in the public’s interest. In the quest for power the interests of the rakyat is harped on by all sides, especially during election campaigns but, as we all know, that is election hot air. When the election is over party interests come to the forefront once again.

In short, political parties do not do what is best for the country but what will keep it in power or help it to attain power. Any benefits to the rakyat are incidental and secondary to the party’s agenda.

To protest anonymously on the internet is futile. The rakyat must do more than that. Hence, the need for a strong civil society as suggested by G. Sivapragasam. Haris Ibrahim (of the People’s Parliament fame) has been spouting the need for such a civil society for a while and has formed an organisation to advance society’s interests. From all accounts his organisation has caught the imagination of Malaysians in the Klang Valley. However, it has not yet caught the imagination of Malaysians in the Kinta Valley, unless of course there is no imagination to speak of. But seriously, I feel it’s a lack of leadership that is the problem.

I am surprised that NGOs like IRATA and Ipoh City Watch have not played a role in at least helping Haris Ibrahim to build up civil society in the Kinta Valley. But again, this boils down to leadership. At the end of the day we get the government we deserve.

Having read many editorials by G. Sivapragasam, I noticed that he has shown consistent interest in promoting civil society and civic mindedness. His views are perceptive, sensible, practical and often enlightened. I feel he is the right person to offer leadership to the civil society movement he encourages.

Perhaps, readers of Ipoh Echo and the people of Ipoh, in general, should respond (writing to Ipoh Echo is one way) and draft G. Sivapragasam into the civil society leadership – at least for the Kinta Valley, if not the whole of Perak.

I, for one, will certainly cast my vote for him.

Markus Multatuli

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