I will continuously write about how things are done elsewhere and ask why we can’t also do the same in Malaysia. And I will not accept the argument that we can’t also do that because our skin is black, brown, cocoa or yellow and not white. It is not the external colour of our skin that determines advancement. It is our brain and how we utilise it that will.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Today’s vote on Higher Education funding was one of the hardest things we have had to do in politics. I know that there are strong and passionately held views on all sides of the debate, which I very much respect.
And of course I understand why many in our party wish we could have pursued a different policy. I wish that too; but we simply were not in that position, we did not win the General Election but went into a coalition and had to tackle the greatest economic crisis in decades.
Within those constraints, Vince Cable and his team have put together a highly progressive package. We are ending the upfront fees for part-time students, increasing the repayment threshold from £15,000 to £21,000 – lowering every graduate’s monthly repayments, guaranteeing that poorer graduates pay less than they currently do and richer graduates more. Added to those progressive changes, a national scholarship fund has been setup to give further support to students from the poorest backgrounds as part of our fairness premium.
Taking all things into consideration, this is a package which is fairer than the existing situation, fairer than Lord Browne’s original review, fairer than the NUS proposals and fairer than the policies that both Labour and the Conservatives would have implemented had they been in government alone. And at the same time we are delivering on our front page manifesto commitment for a fully funded pupil premium – which will act as a huge driver of social mobility. That is something we can all take pride in.
The next big challenge for us as a party is winning the Oldham East and Saddleworth by election. I’ve spoken to our excellent candidate Elwyn Watkins and our Director of Campaigns Hilary Stephenson – there is no doubt that this is a by-election we can win, as long as we all do our part. Your help now before Christmas is vital to maintain the momentum we need. Every extra Liberal Democrat MP in parliament will mean we can deliver more of our manifesto.
Many Ministers and MPs have already been in the constituency to do their bit. President-elect Tim Farron and I will be campaigning there together soon. We look forward to seeing you there. Please click here to find out how you can help – and if you live a long way from Oldham there are ways you can help from your home.
Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister
Incidentally, I also received a phone call from the party headquarters asking me whether I can help in the coming by-election seeing that I am from that area. And I also participated in the party election recently when it chose its new Chairman (I wrote about this earlier). The beautiful thing is I did not need to go to the party convention to vote for the Chairman as the ballot paper with the CV of both candidates was sent to me by post and I returned the ballot paper also by post.
This is postal voting at work in its best example.
You may agree or you may disagree with what Nick Clegg said in his e-mail. But the point is he sends out such e-mails to explain his position on various matters, especially if they are controversial in nature. And he also sends out e-mails before the event so that we know beforehand what they are going to debate in Parliament and the position they are going to take in that debate.
As I said, you may argue that you do not agree with the LibDem position. And as I also always say: we can agree or we can agree to disagree. But what is important here is that there is transparency in what they do. There is no hidden agenda or chicanery at play here.
LibDem depended on the youth vote to garner about 30% of the popular vote in the recent general election. To ensure they retain the support of the youth they should have ‘bribed’ them by banning fees totally rather than increase them. Now they are unpopular with their young voters and yesterday’s demonstrations proved this.
Incidentally, my daughter was in yesterday’s demonstration, the second one she attended. The university gave leave to the students to join the demonstration. Actually I am already paying full fees for her so the increase does not affect me one bit. But my daughter still joined the demonstration not because she is personally affected by the increase but on the principle that the increase would hurt those who have no money.
Now, what is the point of this story of mine? Simple, I just want to explain how things are being done here in the UK. And I also want to show you what I mean when I rant and rave that Malaysians need to be more mature in how they do things.
We seriously need reforms in Malaysia. And this is my point, which I have been stressing time and time again.
Can you imagine Malaysian universities giving leave to all the students so that they can go to Parliament House to demonstrate against the Malaysian government? Can you imagine electing the leaders of Malaysian political parties by postal votes? Can you imagine party leaders sending letters and e-mail to each and every party member almost daily to explain its position on various issues? Can you imagine receiving phone calls from the party head office to discuss how you can contribute to party campaigns?
I remember back in 2001 during my ISA detention when the Director of the Special Branch, Datuk Yusof Rahman, told me that I am too Mat Salleh in mentality. “What you are saying is not wrong,” he said to me. “It is just that it will not work in Malaysia. People like you are more suited for England. In England what you say will be perfect. But not in Malaysia. Malaysians are not sophisticated enough to do the things you say.”
But why must this be so? Why must we agree to be backward just because our skin is not white? After all, did not civilisation start in the east? Were not easterners already way advanced in medicine, engineering, architecture, astronomy, and so on when the west still believed that headaches were caused by devils entering our brain?
Okay, maybe Barisan Nasional does not want reforms or want Malaysians to advance because an advanced society would never accept a Barisan Nasional type of government. So Barisan Nasional’s future depends on the people remaining backward and ignorant.
But what is Pakatan Rakyat’s excuse? Pakatan Rakyat talks about reforms. But what reforms are they themselves introducing? They demand that Barisan Nasional reform. Should not Pakatan Rakyat demonstrate what it means by reforms by first of all reforming itself?
In a nutshell, this is what I mean when I say that the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) seeks to reform the political environment of Malaysia. Note that our target to push for reforms is not just Barisan Nasional but also Pakatan Rakyat.