Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia – a civil society coalition breaking barriers

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Tan Yew Sing chairing a GBM meeting with NGOs in Penang

Tan Yew Sing elaborates on the impressive steps this civil society coalition is taking to embrace diversity as an asset rather than a liability in nation-building.

Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia is a non-partisan, multi-ethnic, multi-faith coalition of over 28 civil society organisations, established in 2011.

It believes in embracing diversity and seeks to formulate and advocate a plan of action for pursuing pertinent issues that will help shape and build a better Malaysia for all of us. Besides sharing our resources as non-profit organisations, it also serves to highlight the importance of cross-ethnic collaboration.

For this year’s fundraising event, our theme is Our Diversity, Our Treasure. The theme reflects GBM’s continuous commitment in playing a part in shaping a society in which diversity is treated as an asset and not a liability.

Since 16 September 1963, our country has been on a journey full of idealism, hope and enthusiasm fired by the words of our founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj that Malaysia shall “forever be an independent and sovereign democratic State founded upon liberty and justice, ever seeking to defend and uphold peace and harmony among its people and to perpetuate peace among nations”.

Today, we must be candid enough to admit that all is not well with our beloved nation. The foundations of “liberty and justice” have been undermined by the very institutions that were supposed to safeguard and defend these principles. The independence and integrity of our esteemed institutions are being questioned on a daily basis.

The “peace and harmony” of our multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multicultural society is under constant threat. Ethnocentric and race-based politics continue to derail the process of inclusive nation-building. Our society is seriously polarised, and social cohesion is at a nadir.

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We seem to have lost our way. And a grim sense of helplessness and hopelessness has cast a hazy gloom across the nation. Our beloved nation is in distress. We all need to take ownership to reclaim the nation and rebuild a nation for our children and the generations to come.

The way forward is to eschew the old fashioned notions of power – that the dominance of one group over the other is the basis of survival for any given group. This is not true.

The survival of Malaysia as a collective is paramount. Leveraging and synergising our unique diversity in truly inclusive ways would only benefit all our people. We need to capitalise on the “similarities” that bind us as human beings and as Malaysians first, and at the same time celebrate and manage the “differences” that distinguish us from one another and make possible colourful diversity and wonderful fusion.

For this to happen, we all need to commit to advancing true acceptance and understanding of the history, the heritage and to uphold justice, fairness, non-discrimination and democracy.

For example, the fight for the recognition of UEC and the issue of SMJK are not only issues for the Chinese community but are the issues of all Malaysians. At the same time, issues like those of Syrian and Palestinian are not solely the concerns of Muslims. The non-Muslims should try to understand why those issues are important to the Muslims in Malaysia. The same could also be said of the issues concerning Tamil schools.

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GBM is committed to facilitating this process of rebuilding this nation based on our 15-point charter. Over the last few years, we have been involved in many projects to achieve this aim thorugh our four committees,  which are unity in diversity committee, technical education and vocational training committee, sekolah menengah jenis kebangsaan (SMJK) committee, and concerns on dropouts committee.

GBM also acted as secretariat for the national education reform initiative or inisiatif pengislahan pendidikan nasional (IPPN) and Negara-Ku’s people’s movement. From time to time, GBM has also issued statements responding to issues andis  set to become an independent voice without fear and favour.

We must be bold enough to face the challenges to rebuild the nation we were meant to be, for the years to come. For this, we must return to basics and commit to rebuilding on the foundations of liberty and justice, peace and harmony.

Tan Yew Sing is the chairman of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM). He delivered the above address at GBM’s recent fundraising high tea event in Kuala Lumpur.

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