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Past Events

Seminar: Malaysia in a Constitutional Democracy

05 Sep 2017
MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

About the Seminar

Malaysia’s economy is doing relatively well despite external challenges, and there are encouraging signs that the recovery momentum is getting stronger. However on issues such as human and political rights, progress has been quite limited. There must be well-balanced growth on all fronts – economic, social and political – to achieve the government’s objective of making Malaysia a developed country.

As a constitutional democracy, Malaysia is no different from other countries in terms of the basic rights of its citizens and the system of checks and balances against abuse of power by any one branch of government.  There is another aspect of the Malaysian constitution, however, which makes it unique among countries in this region – the special position of Islam as the official religion of the Federation. The administration of Islam has raised concerns about the impact on the rights and freedoms of Muslims, and the implications on the rule of law are also making non-Muslims worry about the future direction of Malaysia as a secular, multiracial country. On top of this, the country is also beset with issues such as the breakdown of governance as well as the decreasing independence of regulatory agencies and institutions of justice in enforcing regulations and implementing laws. The issues of law, governance and religious tolerance can have a major impact on the peace and stability of the country, and if they are not addressed at the political level in a timely manner, investor confidence on Malaysia will be adversely affected.

In the light of these concerns over the future of the country a group of Malays called G25 – comprising retired civil servants and diplomats – has emerged as a voice for change and reform. The talk will highlight the reform agenda that G25 has been involved with.

About the Speaker

Tan Sri Sheriff Kassim is a Malaysian former senior civil servant, whose career spanned 1963-1994. His position upon retirement was the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Finance. He subsequently was Managing Director of Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, from 1994-2003. Tan Sri Sheriff is currently Director and non-executive Chairman of PLUS, a public sector-owned toll highway company. He is also non-executive Chairman of Scientex Berhad, a listed private sector company active in the manufacturing and property sectors. Tan Sri Sheriff is an active member of G-25. He has degrees from the Universities of Malaya, Oxford, and Vanderbilt, and was a long-serving President of the Malaysian Economic Association.

Registration

For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 4 September 2017.

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Seminar: The Government’s Business: Politics, Policies and the Corporate Sector in Malaysia

16 Aug 2017
MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

About the Seminar

In 2008, when a global financial crisis erupted and brought the world to the brink of economic collapse, a strong critique of poorly regulated capitalism emerged, bringing to the fore debates about models of development that involve the use of government-linked companies (GLCs) to generate growth. Malaysia provides an interesting case of state intervention in the economy to drive economic growth and redistribute wealth equitably. GLCs, which serve as investment funds and savings-based institutions that vary significantly in terms of their size and objectives, have emerged as Malaysia’s leading enterprises with ownership and control of a huge number of companies through complex pyramid-type organizational structures. The government, under different Prime Ministers, has employed these GLCs in the economy and in the corporate sector in different ways.

This lecture provides an historical review of government-business relations in Malaysia, tracing how this nexus shaped the mode of the state’s intervention in the economy and the nature of its politics and policies. Particular attention will be paid to critical historical junctures, when crises precipitated change in models of development and the relationship between management control and public governance of GLCs.

About the Speaker

Edmund Terence Gomez is Professor of Political Economy at the Faculty of Economics & Administration, University of Malaya.  He specializes in state-market relations and the linkages between politics, policies and enterprise development. He has held appointments at the University of Leeds (UK) and Murdoch University (Australia) and served as Visiting Professor at Kobe University, Japan and at the Universities of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and California (San Diego). Between 2005 and 2008, he served as Research Coordinator at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), in Geneva, Switzerland. Other academic appointments include Visiting Fellowships at the Australian National University, Canberra and at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Denmark.

His international book publications include Malaysia’s Political Economy: Politics, Patronage and Profits (Cambridge University Press, 1997); Chinese Business in Malaysia: Accumulation, Ascendance, Accommodation (University of Hawaii Press, 1999); Political Business in East Asia (Routledge, 2002); The State of Malaysia: Ethnicity, Equity and Reform (Routledge, 2004); The State, Development and Identity in Multi-ethnic Countries: Ethnicity, Equity and the Nation (Routledge, 2008); The Politics of Resource Extraction: Indigenous Peoples, Multinational Corporations and the State (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012); The New Economic Policy in Malaysia: Affirmative Action, Horizontal Inequalities and Social Justice (National University of Singapore Press, 2013); and Minister of Finance Incorporated: Ownership and Control of Corporate Malaysia (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2017).   

Registration

For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 15 August 2017.

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Seminar: Recent Political Developments in Malaysia and Implications for PRU 14

16 Jun 2017

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

 

About the Seminar 

While the 13th Parliament of Malaysia will automatically dissolve on 24 June 2018, it is most probable that Prime Minister Najib Razak will call the next general elections (GE14) earlier. Many analysts expect the GE14 to be held in October 2017 soon after the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur (19-30 August), the double celebration of the 60th Merdeka Day on 31 August and Malaysia Day on 16 September, and the expected Budget 2018 goodies.

 

There is a lot of dissatisfaction with the BN government, even in the Malay heartland including among Felda settlers, traditionally UNMO’s fixed deposit of votes, due to the Felda Global Ventures debacle. But, however, the serious and seemingly unsurmountable divisions within the opposition parties will make it very difficult for the opposition to wrest control of Putra Jaya. In fact, the opposition’s fractious divisions may help the BN, despite being fairly unpopular, to regain its 2/3 parliamentary majority. I will draw on polling results in PRU 13 as well as in some of the
by-elections to substantiate my arguments.


About the Speaker

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj is a medical doctor who, after completion of 18 years in government service, took on the then MIC President Samy Vellu in the 1999 general elections. Jeyakumar lost in 1999 and again in 2004, but managed to displace Samy Vellu in 2008, and retained the Sungei Siput parliamentary seat in 2013.A social activist since his university days, he is a founder member of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) and is currently a PSM central committee member. He has been the secretary of the Coalition Against Privatization of Health Care since its formation in 2004.

 

Jeyakumar has authored several books including Sucked Oranges (Insan 1989), Logging Against the Natives (Insan 1989), The Marginalised Society (Alaigal 1993 – in Tamil), Speaking Truth to Power (Alaigal 2002), Malaysia at the Crossroads (Parsosma 2009) and Maaf Tuan Speaker (Parsosma 2011 – in Malay).

 

Registration 
To register, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 15 June 2017.

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Seminar: Johor’s Forest City: Challenges, Mitigation and Sustainability

15 Jun 2017
MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

About the Seminar

 

Forest City is a multi-million dollar mixed development project rising out of the Tebrau Straits between southwest Malaysia and Singapore. Positioned as a model future city, it is often cited as one of the catalysts for the evolution of Johor from the ‘backwaters of Singapore’ to a modern metropolis. However, the development project has been plagued with controversy since its inception. From environmental concerns to questions of sovereignty, the project and its developers constantly battle allegations arising from political posturing, business rivalry and misinformation.

 

This seminar will provide the background and context to the Forest City project and discuss its controversies and challenges. The economic, environmental and social impacts of the project will be examined, as well as the developers’ attempts to mitigate its impacts and compensate the surrounding community. The economic viability of the development and its long-term sustainability in light of the recent enforcement of capital controls will also be discussed. The success of the Forest City project and its proponents’ ability to match hype with action will determine if it is indeed a model of inclusive sustainable development.

 

About the Speaker

 

Serina Rahman is currently a Visiting Fellow under the Malaysia Studies Programme at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. Her research interests lie in marine communities; human, floral and faunal; as well as their interaction and preservation. Her expertise is in inclusive sustainable development; community empowerment; and environmental education.

 

After graduating with a Business Marketing degree from NTU, Serina trained as an English teacher at the National Institute of Education (NIE). She then took up a Masters in Applied Linguistics at the University of Wales, Cardiff, specialising in Orientalism in Colonial Imagery. Serina left the teaching profession to work as a Content Programmer for Discovery Travel & Adventure (Discovery Networks, Asia), then moved to Malaysia in 2004 to work in coastal habitat conservation, community education and empowerment. This then became the subject of her PhD in Science, during which she began to live in the village that surrounds the Forest City project. Since then, she has also been the Director of UMCares – The Community & Sustainability Centre of the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, before returning to NTU to work as a Research Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.  


Registration
To register, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 14 June 2017.
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Seminar: Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia: A Game Changer or a Non-Starter?

30 May 2017
MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

About the Seminar

As the newest political party in Malaysia, Bersatu has been making waves in the increasingly volatile local political scene. Seen as a splinter group from UMNO by some, and as a legitimate challenger to UMNO's dominance by others, Bersatu is having an impact on how the Rakyat - especially Malays - see the future of the country. While the opposition coalition has won the popular vote, it is still not enough to form a new government under Malaysia’s first-past-the-post parliamentary system. Hence, Bersatu is a game-changer that could galvanise support from Malays who would otherwise be staunch supporters of UMNO - particularly in rural areas long-known to be UMNO strongholds.

With this as a context, this seminar aims to address these questions: Will Pakatan Harapan with Bersatu as a new member succeed in winning the 14th General Elections? How will PAS factor in the elections and the way people choose to vote? Will Barisan Nasional be able to win if there were three-cornered fights? Have the Rakyat had enough of kleptocracy and its impact on the cost of living, or are they feeling safe in their comfort zones and unable to make tough decisions? Is the ground fertile for change ushering the dawn of a new era for Malaysia post-GE14?

About the Speaker

Mukhriz Mahathir is a Malaysian politician and Deputy President of Parti Pribumi Bersatu, a party he founded along with former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed, former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, and many more former UMNO members.

Up until early 2016, Mukhriz was a member of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) in Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. Following the 13th General Election, he was State Assemblyman for the seat of Ayer Hitam and Chief Minister of the country’s northern state of Kedah, as well as the state UMNO Liaison Chairman and member of the party’s Supreme Council. In January 2016, UMNO Kedah leaders led by Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah declared the loss of confidence towards Mukhriz due to what they claimed as "his inability to maintain a united party leadership". The move is widely believed to have been orchestrated by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Mukhriz Mahathir studied Business Administration at Sophia University, Tokyo. He later received a Bachelor’s degree in marketing after graduating from Boston University, Massachusetts in 1989. He has held various posts in several business firms, including Opcom Holdings Berhad, Bioven Sdn Bhd and Reliance Pacific Berhad, and has also been active in NGOs such as MRSM Alumni (ANSARA), Malaysian Franchise Association, Peace Malaysia as well as Perdana Global Peace Foundation.

Registration

For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 29 May 2017.

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Seminar: Alternatives to Autocracy: A New Paradigm for Malaysia

23 May 2017
MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

About the Seminar

2016 was a watershed year for politics globally. Unexpected events, such as the Brexit referendum in the UK and the victory of Donald Trump in the US Presidential elections completely upended long-held certainties.

It has been argued that these episodes mean that populist and sectarian politics now have the ascendancy. However, this ignores the rise elsewhere of progressive politicians such as Bernie Sanders and other political figures. Moreover, these movements have a common undercurrent of profound disillusionment with the prevalent economic system.

Such trends matter for Malaysia because the continuous stoking of racial and religious sentiment by the UMNO-BN political establishment means that there is a real risk that extremist political stances and demagogues could eventually enjoy mainstream success, if not already.  However, it can also be argued that tensions in Malaysia’s polity are fundamentally economic in nature.  More Malaysians – of all races, but especially the Malays and Bumiputera that make up most the poor – are being left behind due to the ill-advised, serving policies of UMNO-BN. Young Malaysians are suffering the most, being hamstrung by poor education, crushing debt, increasingly scarce middle-class jobs and soaring housing prices. While the UMNO-BN administration becomes embroiled in more corruption scandals, the Opposition must be able to offer the Malaysian public radical alternatives that addresses these concerns to win power and ensure that the rise of authoritarian populism is stopped at Malaysia’s shores.

About the Speaker

Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is the People's Justice Party (PKR) Youth Leader; Selangor State Minister for Education, Human Capital Development, Science, Technology and Innovation; and State Assemblyman for Seri Setia.

Previously, Nik Nazmi obtained his LLB (Hons) from King's College London and worked as an executive at Malaysian government-linked investment corporation PNB and Private Secretary to PKR Leader Anwar Ibrahim. In 2008, at 26 years old, he was elected as the Selangor State Assemblyman and was the youngest candidate to win in the general elections. He was appointed as Political Secretary to Selangor Chief Minister Khalid Ibrahim, then was appointed as PKR Communications Director. He defended his seat in the 2013 elections and was elected as the Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly. He was elected as PKR Youth Leader in 2014. When Azmin Ali was appointed as the Selangor Chief Minister later that year, Nik Nazmi was assigned to the State Cabinet. 

Nik Nazmi is presently the Chairman of the Universiti Selangor Board of Governors, a member of the Board of Directors of Universiti Selangor, Selangor Foundation and state-think tank Institut Darul Ehsan. He is also a founder and currently Patron of Mentari Project, a voluntary tuition project for the poor. Formerly he was Executive Director of the Open Dialogue Society and a member of the Cross Party Advisory Panel of the Center for Public Policy Studies-ASLI. He is an author of several books in Malay and English. At the moment Nik Nazmi has columns in the Edge Malaysia, Sinar Harian (Malay) and Oriental Daily News (Mandarin).   

Registration

For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 22 May 2017.

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Seminar: AMANAH: A Game-Changer in Malay-Muslim Politics

09 May 2017
MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

About the Seminar

Will the newly formed opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) be able to wrestle the Federal government from the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN)? Considering Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) is now no longer in the opposition pact, will Parti Amanah Negara (AMANAH) – an offshoot of PAS – be able to fill the vacuum left by the first party to win the hearts and minds of the Malay-Muslim electorate? This is an important question to analyse, given that Islam is a key element in Malaysian politics. The success of any political pact in Malaysia hinges on its ability to articulate political ideas and public policies without upsetting the Malay-Muslim psyche. 

AMANAH therefore has an important role to play in, at least, two aspects. First, AMANAH plays a role in challenging the narrative of political Islam as envisaged by the current leadership of PAS that calls for Malay-Muslim dominance in the political sphere. By offering an alternative narrative of political Islam grounded on the maqasid shariah (the higher objectives of the Shariah) and the notion of rahmatan lil ‘alamin (mercy to all), AMANAH is able to convince the Malay-Muslim electorate that Islam remains a significant aspect of Pakatan Harapan’s political agenda. Secondly, AMANAH has a role in promoting a version of political Islam that is capable of maintaining a just and democratic Malaysia.

Despite the challenges – AMANAH is optimistic that it has a bright future in Malaysian politics. There is a steady stream of new membership applications nationwide, the majority of which – surprisingly – come from states considered as PAS strongholds such as Kelantan, Kedah and Selangor. Thus far, AMANAH has managed to establish party branches in 160 out of 222 parliamentary constituencies across Malaysia.

About the Speaker

Salahuddin Ayub was a former member of the federal parliament for two consecutive terms (2004-2013). Until 2015, he was a member of Parti Islam
Se-Malaysia (PAS). Over more than 30 years, he was elected to various positions in the party, such as the Youth Wing Head and, prior to his departure, Party
Vice-president.

In 2015, together with other former leaders of Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), Salahuddin founded Parti Amanah Negara (AMANAH), and he is currently the Party’s Deputy President. 

Registration

For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 8 May 2017.

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Seminar: Whither the Reformists’ Agenda: Is the Federation Breaking Up?

25 Apr 2017
MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

About the Seminar

Since the Reformasi Movement of 1998, political developments in Malaysia have taken several striking twists and turns. The 1999, 2004 and 2008 general elections witnessed major swings in voting patterns; in 1999, Malay voters abandoned UMNO and voted for PAS in large numbers; in 2004, BN-UMNO achieved an all-time high in voter support across all ethnic groups; and in 2008, the Opposition garnered a majority of the urban and Chinese votes. Then came the 2013 “urban + Chinese tsunami” where the Najib-led BN experienced its worst-ever electoral performance where it even lost the popular vote.

After the 2013 “Urban + Chinese Tsunami”, there has been a rise in ethnic antagonism and religious radicalism, culminating in Hadi Awang’s attempt to amend the Penal code to make it more “Shariah compliant”. Hadi’s aggressive move to advance the Islamic State agenda split not only his own party but also Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition coalition. A PAS breakaway faction formed Amanah which then went on to establish the new opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan together with PKR and DAP, and which was later joined by the new party Pribumi, formed by an UMNO splinter group led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed and Muhyiddin Yassin. On the other side, political expediency led to a growing cooperation between UMNO and PAS, ostentatiously in the name of serving Islam.

What are the implications of the new party political alliance of Pakatan Harapan (DAP-PKR-AMANAH-PRIBUMI), and its convenient PAS ally in Selangor State Government, and the UMNO-PAS cooperation in the name of Islam? Are the recent developments merely political expediency or do they signify a fundamental shift in Malaysian politics. Is the two-party system a reality or myth? Will political reforms and the reform agenda wither away? More generally, how will the highly volatile contestation affect the "secular" character of Malaysia’s polity. Is the Federation in danger of breaking up?

About the Speaker

Gan Ping Sieu is the co-president of CENBET, a civil society NGO promoting moderation and good governance. A legal practitioner by profession, he is a senior partner of M/S GAN & ZUL, Advocates and Solicitors.  Mr Gan has been an active politician, both in local and national level. A current Parliamentary Division chairman of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) in Johor, he held the Vice President post of MCA from 2010 to 2013.

Mr Gan served as a Senator and Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Youth and Sports from June 2010 to May 2013. His other public sector services include serving as a municipal councilor, member of statutory board and an elected State Assemblyman. He is currently a member of the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing chaired by Datuk Minister Paul Low of the Prime Minister Department. A known critic of the ruling  BN government policies, Mr Gan has been vocal in his political views, not least during his tenure as a State Assemblyman and a Deputy Minister of the ruling BN Government.   

Registration

For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 24 April 2017.

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Seminar: Black Swans in Malaysian Politics

13 Apr 2017

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

Black Swans in Malaysian Politics

About the Seminar

Will Prime Minister Najib Razak win the upcoming Malaysian general election, ensuring an uninterrupted Barisan Nasional’s 60-year rule since Independence? Or will the election expected later this year be a black swan jolt for the ruling coalition?

Since the last general election in May 2013, Najib’s standing has taken a beating as a result of multiple financial scandals and unpopular economic decisions such as the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST), and cuts in subsidies to essential items. While Najib’s vulnerability may have been obvious, the Opposition has also had a hard time, suffering major splits and realignments.

Ever since the political tsunami in 2008 and especially after the 2013 election, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has been pursuing a Malay-centric strategy, including forming a de facto relationship with its erstwhile arch-rival the Islamist party Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), to appeal to the insecurity and fears of the Malay majority.

The current political twist for Malaysia is that the discontent among Malays is at its highest since Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking in September 1998, and the man who sacked Anwar, former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad, is playing a major role in this scenario, as one of the Opposition’s leaders.

Johor, where the speaker represents the parliamentary constituency of Kluang, will be a major electoral battleground in the months to come. 

About the Speaker

Liew Chin Tong was elected Member of the Parliament for Kluang in May 2013. He was previously the Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera (2008-2013). Since 1999, Chin Tong has served DAP in various capacities and is now a Member of its Central Executive Committee, and the party’s Political Education Director. He graduated with a degree in Political Science and an honours degree in Asian Studies from the Australian National University, and holds an International Masters in Regional Integration from the Asia-Europe Institute, University of Malaya.

He was the Executive Director of Penang Institute (previously Socio-Economic and Environmental Research Institute, SERI, 2009-2012) and Research for Social Advancement (REFSA, 2007-2011), and was formerly a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore.

Registration

For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 12 April 2017.

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Seminar: Malaysia’s Religious Interaction with Saudi Arabia

30 Mar 2017
MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

About the Seminar

Religious interaction is one of the significant elements in Malaysia-Saudi Arabia relations. There are two important features in Malaysia’s religious interaction with Saudi Arabia. The first feature is on the implementation of Islamic teachings, Islamic jurisprudence in particular, for both countries. Malaysia is traditionally associated with the teaching of the Shafiite school from as early as the 15th century, whereas the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia largely practices the Hanbalite-Wahhabism school.  In religiously interacting with Saudi Arabia, Malaysia is certainly dealing with the Kingdom’s Wahhabism ideology which arguably inspired some Islamic movements during the 19th and early 20th centuries ago in the Malay Archipelago. Malaysia, however, to this date, is less receptive of the Wahhabism ideology due to the dominance of the Shafiite school, the government’s ‘guarded’ religious policies and the own-styled of local da’wah movements which differ with Wahhabism approaches. The second feature is, despite differences in the implementation of Islamic teachings, Malaysia has received a number of capital donations from the Kingdom to financially assist the development of socio-economic projects and religious activities. Until today, the interaction between the two countries has been steadily growing stronger and more collaborative projects have been launched to enhance the scope of their bilateral relations in the future.

 

About the Speaker

Associate Professor Dr Asmady Idris is an International Relations lecturer at University Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Malaysia. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in International Relations from University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. Dr Idris has published numerous articles on the Middle East-Asia Pacific relations, such as  “Impact of Mutual Interaction between Civil Society and Conditionality by an External Actor on Democratization: Cases of Turkey and Malaysia (co-authored with Irem Askar Karakir, 2016)”, Malaysia’s Contemporary Political and Economic Relations with Iran (co-authored with Remali Yusoff, 2015), “Malaysian
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Humanitarian Issues in Gaza, Palestine (2012), “Early Development of Malaysia's Relations With Saudi Arabia (2003)”, and others. His latest book is Malaysia’s Relations with Saudi Arabia, 1957-2003, published by University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Press in 2015.


Registration

To register, please fill in this form and email it to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 29 March 2017.

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