The Launch of Friends of Pakatan Rakyat in London

By Rian James 

Friends of Pakatan Rakyat (FPR), was formally launched in London on Sunday 04 July 2010. Nearly 250 Malaysians and local supporters gathered in Conway Hall, Holborn, to commemorate the launch event which aims to rally the support of Malaysians who share the vision of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition for a democratic, fair and just Malaysia.

FPR supporters were joined by Pakatan Rakyat leadership who flew into London to offer their support. The keynote speaker Dato’ Mohd Zaid Ibrahim was joined by Pakatan Rakyat leadership including Dr Tan Seng Giaw (DAP), Dr Hatta Ramli (PAS), Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR) and Dato’ Kamaruddin Jaffar (PAS) as well as blogger and civil liberties and justice advocate, Raja Petra Kamarudin; all of whom spoke at the event, offering congratulations to members of the group and encouraging further involvement from Malaysians living overseas towards a better Malaysia.  

The opening address was given by Pro tem Chairman of Friends of Pakatan Rakyat, Brian Morais, (picture aabove) who reminisced, “Citizens gave a mandate to politicians in the newly independent Malaysia of 1957 and so the age for a new merdeka has arrived, where the citizens reclaim power from politicians who should in effect become servants to the nation”. Quoting the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Idris Jala’s prediction that Malaysia could become bankrupt by the year 2019 as national debt crept to 54% of GDP, Morais urged the audience to go home and vote for a new, accountable government before it is too late.  On the agenda for the new FPR is fundraising for Pakatan Rakyat’s electoral campaign, compiling research to aid policy reform, and establishing overseas voting for Malaysians, stated Morais. 

Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK) spoke scathingly of a Malaysia that was bankrupt of ideas and morality. “Malaysia has turned into a society that is materialistic – the highest tower, the longest bridge…the biggest debt!” He challenged the government to battle corruption in the police force by increasing wages to end bribery as a way of life in Malaysia.  Accusing the ruling coalition of trying to re-create the race riots of May 13th 1969 in Kampung Baru when tear gas was shot into the crowd of peaceful HINDRAF supporters in 2007, RPK noted that Malaysian society had truly united as Malay residents provided refuge to suffering HINDRAF supporters instead of rioting against them – thus bringing home the point that the age of race politics, the apartheid, can and must end. 

MP for Kepong , DAP’s DR Tan Seng Giaw’s address to FPR supporters pledged an end to money politics and promised transparency in the Pakatan Rakyat government where the new coalition members would be held accountable. He spoke of reforming the education system by targeting and increasing the quality of educators as well initializing the independence of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission which currently sits under the biased jurisdiction of Barisan National. 

Keynote speaker Dato’ Mohd Zaid Ibrahim who famously resigned from the Barisan National Cabinet in 2008 following the arrest of 3 prominent individuals (including RPK) under the ISA in 2008 spoke of the need for Malaysians to sacrifice themselves in the name of freedom from an oppressive regime, likening BN rule to a fascist dictatorship where leaders say and do what they like without question or accountability to law or society.  Challenging Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak’s mantra for policy and government reform,  Dato’ Zaid Ibrahim remarked BN would never be transparent as they have too much to hide. Encouraged by the small percentile loss to BN in the 2008 general elections, he proclaimed the next election would bring victory to Pakatan Rakyat because “…we have the people’s heart with us!” 

En route to London, during a 5 hour stop-over in Dubai, Dr Hatta Ramli met with a couple dozen Malaysians and discussed the next overseas chapter of FPR over the Ghana vs. Uruguay match, which he confirmed during the opening statements of his speech.  Acknowledging that PAS and DAP had their differences, he countered by saying that common ground outweighed the smaller issues and both parties had made considerable concessions to meet each  other halfway to become part of Pakatan Rakyat.  

Concluding the FPR launch was Nurul Izzah Anwar, Pakatan Rakyat MP for Lembah Pantai who admitted that she and many opposition MPs now Tweet as a means of keeping younger constituents in the loop. She spoke of her encouragement at the widespread support that Pakatan Rakyat was garnering both at home and abroad, and at how much the Malaysian political landscape progressed since her first visit to London in 1999 after her father’s unfair dismissal and imprisonment, when she met with pro-reform groups here, seeking to highlight to the international community her father‘s plight and the shocking human rights abuses unfolding in Malaysia at that time.

Despite the events that propelled Nurul Izzah Anwar into the political arena, in her address, she noted that the oppression under Malaysia’s current ruling party was above and beyond just Anwar Ibrahim, but against anyone who spoke out against its power. She fleshed out some of the plans Pakatan Rakyat have made for reform, citing that a commitment had been made to Common Policy Platform that unites Keadilan, DAP and PAS in their vision for a better Malaysia, something that had never been undertaken by Barisan National’s conglomerate of parties.  She confirmed that the Pakatan Coalition had made a commitment to abolishing the ISA; along with a review of a number of repressive laws including the Printing Presses and Publication Act if 1984 and Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, while noting that a Freedom of Information bill would also be tabled.  Nurul spoke passionately about the need for a reformed Malaysia and urged attendees to go home and vote when the time came. 

The panel opened up for a question and answer session to conclude the launch of FPR UK and as the speakers answered questions posed by attendees, there was a sense that the country was  progressing closer towards a new merdeka;  the utopian ideals of freedom and democracy that our founding fathers did not take for granted are re-emerging in a more unified Malaysia. A quotation used by Dr Tan Seng Giaw from T.S. Elliot’s poem Exploring the Waste Land rings true:  

…And the end of all our exploring  
Will be to arrive where we started  
And know the place for the first time.

There are plans for this new and exciting initiative to be be expanded globally,with groups in Australia,the US,and other countries in South East Asia and the Middle East expressing an interest in starting chapters in various locations with large communities of Overseas Malaysians,in a show of solidarity and to contribute to the agenda for change and reform in Malaysia.