Tuesday, 5 September 2017 – The Malaysian government is striving hard to help the country achieve a “developed country” status by 2020. This requires well-balanced and sustainable growth on all fronts - economic, social and political. The speaker, Tan Sri Sheriff Kassim, a Malaysian former civil servant and an active member of the G-25, offered some riveting insights on two timely aspects of constitutional democracy in Malaysia – first, the administration of Islam; and second, the system of governance in the public sector.
Tan Sri Sheriff began by talking about the role of the G-25, a group of eminent Malay moderates, in starting an informed dialogue on the role of Islam in Malaysia. The group calls for a democratic and rational approach to the application of Islam, to protect the fundamental rights of individuals from overzealous authorities. Moving away from the topic of religion, the speaker also emphasised on the importance of developing a system of checks and balances for efficient functioning of the large number of public institutions in Malaysia. Specifically, he spoke about the rapid expansion of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and government-linked companies (GLCs) and the public dissatisfaction with the associated financial mismanagement by the state.
The speaker concluded the session by pointing out that Malaysia’s need of the hour is a government with the political willingness to deal with both the issues comprehensively. This would not only help run the constitutional democracy proficiently but also expedite the country’s development process.
The seminar was 90 minutes long, and was attended by an audience of 55 people, including representatives from IMF, scholars, students, members of the media and the public. Tan Sri Sheriff also answered their questions on an array of topics like the “Rukunegara”, Malaysia’s education system, Islamic theocracy, and the future of the G-25 group.