IDEAS’ 3rd Liberalism Conference debates the big issues in Malaysia
The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) concluded its 3rd Liberalism Conference on 22 September 2018 in Kuala Lumpur. The Liberalism Conference is an annual exercise by IDEAS to deliberate on the overall progress towards “A Malaysia that upholds the principles of liberty and justice”, according to the vision pronounced by Tunku Abdul Rahman. The conference tracks progress and developments in Malaysia along these parameters: rule of law, free markets, limited government and individual liberty and responsibility. We believe that these values are necessary for a liberal and just Malaysia.
Many important issues were discussed, ranging from the role of GLCs in the economy, the cost of living and wages, as well as freedom of speech. In general, the speakers at the conference welcome the progress Malaysia has achieved since the historic elections on May 9th. But many speakers also challenged the new government on its willingness to deliver meaningful reform on the role of government in the economy and freedom of the media, and the need for a more informed, responsible debate on cost of living. Most importantly, the conference provides an important platform for a genuinely open discussion about the pressing matters facing the nation today.
The conference was opened by a presentation by IDEAS Founding President, Tunku Zain al-’Abidin ibni Tuanku Muhriz on “The State of Malaysia.” In his presentation, Tunku ‘Abidin touched upon the many advances made by the PH government since they came into power, such as the new appointments to the Judicial Appointments Commission that were made yesterday, the opening up of space for civil liberties and a government more responsive of civil society’s concerns. He ended his speech with the hope that Malaysians receive better citizenship education on the country and its values.
Discussion panels were separated into 3 different topics, namely: “What should be the role of GLCs in the Malaysian economy?”; “High cost of living or low pay: which is the real problem?”; and “Freedom of speech in Malaysia – the opening of discourse after GE14”.
Overall, this year’s Liberalism Conference showcased a broad spectrum of views regarding political, economic and social freedoms, with a strong emphasis on analysing what the role of the state should be in these three areas. The audience mainly consisted of students and members of society with a general interest in the current developments in Malaysia. At the end, CEO Ali Salman emphasised that for IDEAS, liberalism is not an ideology – it is an approach to how we conduct ourselves in everything we do. It is about being open to all views and having discussions based on evidence as opposed to mere rhetoric.