Seminar: Malaysia in a Constitutional Democracy
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.