Who could have imagined the election results of March 2008! Khoo Boo Teik looks back at a long year and reminds us that we must continually turn to our community of dissent. It is only in this community that we can find the unifying hope for meaningful social and political change.
Last year, we bade farewell to three leading figures in the community of dissent in this region – the country’s leading public intellectual Rustam Sani, the legendary Singapore opposition leader J B Jeyaretnam, and the former Labour Party of Malaya leader Dr M K Rajakumar, who passed away on 22 November 2008.
Syed Husin Ali, who knew Rajakumar well, describes him as a role model for Malaysians. Here was someone who could have been a millionaire had he not chosen to devote his life to promoting the cause of socio-economic justice and later looking into their health care needs. We carry tributes by a host of Rajakumar’s contemporaries and others who knew him well such as Syed Husin and his brother Syed Hamid, Ronnie McCoy, Tan Poh Lai, Lim Hock Siew, Tan Kai Hee and Agoes Saidin. Tan Kim Hong goes on to trace the history of the Labour Party and its objectives.
Rajakumar has handed over the baton to a new generation of political activists. In the Jerit “Cycle for Change” campaign, Rani Rasiah and Arutchelvan describe how a group of young Malaysians stunningly overcame the odds to highlight the concerns of the working class and marginalised groups. Among the cyclists’ demands were calls for the abolition of oppressive laws and for better protection of workers including a minimum wage. In fact, the ISA has been used not only against opposition politicians but also against those championing workers’ rights, as Sai N S Wigneswaran reminds us.
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