Archive for September, 2010


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The time has come for Malaysians to seriously decide which way they want to go. They can choose to become an enlightened society that is far-sighted and mature, or one that is retrogressive and emotional. They can match the country’s rapid infrastructural development with a dynamic mind-set, or remain within the narrow confines of parochial insecurities. They can persist in circular political negativism, or opt to build a fresh optimism to face  the new challenges.

Whether we are seen as a progressive and stable nation depends as much on the economic inroads we make on our  journey towards becoming a fully industrialised nation as the socio-cultural and political wisdom of  the people. They are measured by their moral and intellectual development as much as their achievements in commerce, industry and technological development. While we present ourselves as enthusiastic and capable business partners at negotiating tables abroad, we must be able to demonstrate the same positiveness  in our domestic interactions.  As we chart upward trends in our work efforts we must be able to project a thinking capacity that is commensurate.

It is ironic that while we are positioning ourselves as a dynamic people internationally we remain in the backwaters of  socio-cultural and political development at home. While we demonstrate anti-war and humanitarian concerns on world platforms, at the local front we are squabbling about our ethnic differences. While we welcome the idea of an inclusive, all-encompassing  global village we are still mentally confined within the narrow walls of our tempurung. It is sad that having achieved tremendous physical development in our first fifty years as a nation, we should allow our old insecurities to overwhelm us. When we should be consolidating our numerous strengths as a people, we continue to guard and promote selfish interests.

It is time for Malaysians to take stock of their priorities as they move into the next era of development. We must be prepared to put aside our differences for the common good. Sacrifices are inevitable for change to happen as individuals and groups accomodate one another’s needs.  Obviously the nation’s leaders and role models must take the initiative and be the examples people will follow. In this nothing is more outstanding than the language and communication strategies that they use.

In their statements, press releases, comments,  speeches, political rhetoric and formal discourses they must make positive affirmations and give concrete suggestions rather than dwell on the problems. While the public has the right to know what went wrong and who were responsible, no solutions will emerge  if the strategy is to be defensive  and apportion blame (to others). What effective leaders must do is to reassure the people as to how these issues are going to be solved and what policies are in place to govern their rights, within the most reasonable time frame.

Instead of opening old wounds and harping on the past mismanagement and abuses of their predecessors, the present leadership of corporations, agencies, political parties and other partisan groupings must map out their policies and programmes on how to move their achievements a notch higher. There is no need to decry the efforts of others if we are confident that we are providing the best for our organisation.

Simply translated, what this means in the political sphere is that the politician and party bashing must stop and be replaced by rational, well thought- out arguments that the people can accept. Politicians must stop decrying one another’s efforts just to be popular and win votes. They must adopt the more positive stance of acknowledging good work albeit by their opponents.  They must give credit where credit is due. Where discrepencies are noticed,  proper rules and regulations  must be established in order to prevent office and management abuses. Wherever the people’s integrity is expected, the leaders themselves must uphold the highest ethical standards.

There is no point blaming the people for their corruption and negative attitudes when those they look up to are  displaying bad behaviour and spewing unsavoury rhetoric in their talks and speeches. The destructive trends that are emerging in the conduct and behaviour of Malaysians including their use of language on the internet can no longer be blamed on western influences. It is we ourselves who are creating the “ugly Malaysian” led by irresponsible and irrational leaders and role models.

It is time for positive affirmations to bring about the change we want for the nation to move forward!




Civil society – Definition

Civil society or civil institutions refers to the totality of civic and social organizations or institutions which form the basis of a functioning democracy. Civil society groups advocate and take action primarily for social development and public interest.While there are a myriad definitions of civil society, the London School of Economics Centre for Civil Society working definition is illustrative:

Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, family and market, though in practice, the boundaries between state, civil society, family and market are often complex, blurred and negotiated. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and institutional forms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power. Civil societies are often populated by organisations such as registered charities, development non-governmental organisations, community groups, women’s organisations, faith-based organisations, professional associations, trades unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy group.

Examples of civil society institutions:

The term is currently often used by critics and activists as a reference to sources of resistance to and the domain of social life which needs to be protected against globalization. However, within the United Nations context, the phrase “civil society” has been a source of some controversy, as its meaning also includes businesses as well as private voluntary organisations – see United Nations: Partners in Civil Society (

Defining Civil Society

There has been a dramatic expansion in the size, scope, and capacity of civil society around the globe over the past decade, aided by the process of globalization and the expansion of democratic governance, telecommunications, and economic integration.  According to the Yearbook of International Organizations, the number of international NGOs was reported to have increased from 6,000 in 1990 to more than 50,000 in 2006. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have also become significant players in global development assistance, with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimating that, as of 2006, CSOs provided approximately US$15 billion in international assistance.
CSOs have also become important actors for delivery of social services and implementation of other development programs, as a complement to government action, especially in regions where government presence is weak such as in post-conflict situations. Perhaps the most recent and visible case of CSO involvement in post-disaster relief occurred in Asia during the post-Tsunami reconstruction after 2006.
CSOs’ influence on shaping global public policy has also emerged over the past two decades. This dynamism is exemplified by successful advocacy campaigns around such issues as banning of land mines, debt cancellation, and environmental protection which have mobilized thousands of supporters around the globe.  A recent manifestation of the vibrancy of global civil society has been the World Social Forum (WSF) which has been held annually since 2001 on different continents, and which has brought together tens of thousands CSO activists to discuss global development issues.  Another example of the vibrancy and importance of civil society is the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), an international civil society campaign advocating for debt relief and greater aid to poor countries. In 2008, GCAP is estimated to have mobilized more than 116 million citizens to participate in the Stand up against poverty events held in cities throughout the world.
The civil society sector is not only emerging as a clear societal actor in many parts of the world, it is also quite varied in its nature and composition.  For this reason definitions of civil society vary considerably based on differing conceptual paradigms, historic origins, and country context.The World Bank has adopted a definition of civil society developed by a number of leading research centers: “the term civil society to refer to the wide array of non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) therefore refer to a wide of array of organizations: community groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labor unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, and foundations”.

September 2010