After May 9, Malaysian diaspora hoists Kit Siang onto cloud nine

by K.C. Boey | TMI

“LET them in, let them in,” Lim Kit Siang said of those in the overflow rooms in the Melbourne Multicultural Hub, midway through his 12-day tour in the Antipodes last month.

“We are all Malaysians, right?” the veteran politician swept his arms across the Orange Room, suggesting there was enough room to fit all of what a voice count would tally to 350 people, but relented when organisers invoked local council “rule of law” limiting numbers in each room, in mock reminder of one tenet of New Malaysia.

Scene like this were replicated elsewhere during the tour of Australia and New Zealand where a large proportion of the Malaysian diaspora live.

And the DAP supremo can be forgiven should he still be on cloud nine, days after his return from the tour.

“My 12-day visit… has been most successful in promoting the cause and role of the Malaysian diaspora in contributing to and participating in the building of a New Malaysia,” Lim said upon his return on Sunday.

“Never before in the development of the Malaysian diaspora… have Malaysians outside the country felt so proud as their countrymen and women in Malaysia (on May 9) at the peaceful and democratic transition of power (caring) as much as Malaysians at home whether people’s power will finally prevail to bring about a better Malaysia.”

The Iskandar Puteri MP had started out on September 18 in Perth, traversing Canberra, Sydney and on to Melbourne on September 22, drawing on the foundations the Global Bersih movement had laid in each city.

The, at times, ferocious veteran of Malaysian politics at age 77, accompanied by his political secretary Syahredzan Johan, alternated with the charm of his party’s first-term MP Wong Shu Qi, who at 35, is among the band of articulate and tenacious young leaders emerging from Pakatan Harapan, in updating the diaspora on developments since May 9.

From Melbourne, Lim led his young charges to New Zealand, to meet Malaysians in Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland.

“The time has come for the establishment of a New Malaysia civil movement, in Malaysia as well as in the Malaysian diaspora worldwide, which can be called Diaspora New Malaysia,” says Lim.

He has in mind separate chapters in countries and cities patterned after Bersih and Global Bersih “as platforms for Malaysians to contribute to and participate in the building of New Malaysia”.

He had a hand in forming a pro-tem committee of Diaspora Malaysia New Zealand.

“It is hoped that this will be followed with the formation of Diaspora New Malaysia Auckland, Diaspora New Malaysia Wellington, Diaspora New Malaysia Christchurch and Diaspora New Malaysia Dunedin,” he says.

At every stop, the euphoria is overwhelming. At Melbourne’s Multicultural Hub, half an hour before Lim’s anticipated arrival, guests were directed to the overflow Red and Green rooms, where proceedings would be live-streamed, as well as on the Facebook site of Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia, which is co-organising the event with Malaysian Progressives of Australia.

It was the largest reception of Malaysians in Australia, Lim and Wong acknowledged.

“I’m overawed,” said Lim.

It augurs well for the New Malaysia movement among the diaspora, a theme not then immediately clear even as Lim repeatedly returned to the subject over the 21/2 hours of panellist updates since May 9, and the question and answer session that followed.

The questions came thick and fast, much in the vein of what Wong identified from the previous stops as questions relating to citizenship, electoral reform, and equal access to jobs and opportunities in education.

Issues raised ranged from LGBT rights and “tainted” politicians of the previous regime making overtures to the government. Other issues included prospects for dual citizenship, remuneration of MPs and ministers, the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and equity for Sabah and Sarawak, recognition of Chinese Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) holders and the Undi 18 campaign to lower the voting age from 21.

Lim called on the diaspora to look at the big picture and take the long view as Wong laid out the virtues of reconciliation, as in the case of South Africa and Germany, in the drive to redefine the new Malaysia.

Contrary to anxieties about polarisation, Malaysia is bucking the trend when identity politics is on the rise in the US, Australia and Europe, she says.

Identity politics assigns blame on “the other” when the root cause is economic. “We must build the discourse towards this end,” says Wong.

Lim demolishes a question on nepotism within Pakatan, reading off his smartphone the Cambridge definition of “using your power or influence to get good jobs or unfair advantages for members of your own family” against the jailing and hardship his family and that of PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim have endured.

On the suggestion of the “unpredictability of Anwar”, Lim said he would be going back to campaign for the candidate for Port Dickson in the by-election, on his return from New Zealand.

With the tour of Australia and New Zealand, DAP seems fixed to cast the die for a Diaspora New Malaysia civil movement.

“Malaysians must not waste the ‘second chance’ to fulfil our national destiny to be a great nation, where we can leverage on the assets of the diverse races, religions, languages, cultures and civilizations which meet in confluence in Malaysia and form the basis for a new civilization based on the best values and assets of the world’s great religions and civilizations,” said Lim. – October 2, 2018

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