Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Keep up the struggle, Anwar tells Young Democrats

Singapore Democrats

Keep up the struggle. Those were the words of Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim as we joined him on stage at the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) rally at Permatang Pasir, Malaysia.

The SDP's Young Democrats (YD) were there at the invitation of Angkatan Muda Keadilan (Keadilan Youth Wing), to observe the recently concluded by-election - which the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) won handily.

Upon arrival at the PKR campaign operations centre at Taman Samagagah we met Mr Tian Chua, Member of Parliament and Strategy and Information Chief of Keadilan, and followed him on his campaign trail.

Muhd Khalis with Tian Chua at PKR's campaign office

Mr Khalis updated Mr Chua about the situation in Singapore and the continuous harassment of opposition members and activists by the Government. Mr Chua, who was himself detained under Malaysia's ISA, said that Singapore too must work towards true and real democracy.

He encouraged the YD to keep up with our work. He said: "It is important for youths to be part of the struggle."

We also had a chance to meet with Mr Shamsul Iskandar, Keadilan's youth chief. Mr Shamsul said that he was glad to know that SDP members and other activists are still pushing for change and reform even though there are many obstacles.

We were also introduced to a few other youth wing state leaders, among whom Mr Sim Tze Sin and Mr Chua Jui Meng (former health minister under the Malaysian Chinese Association).

During the rally later that night PKR deputy youth chief, Mohd Faris Musa, introduced us to the crowd and praised the Singapore Democrats for daring to take on the PAP.

The highlight of the evening was when we introduced ourselves to the Leader of the Opposition, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Mr Anwar, who told us not to concede defeat and to keep up the struggle.

Mr Shamsul left us with these parting words: "PKR will always be supporting SDP in its journey. We always identify ourselves with groups that dare to challenge oppressive regimes. We hope to have more of such exchanges between the SDP and PKR in the future."

(From left) Khalis, Jarrod Luo with DEMA Media Coordinator Azrul and Burmese activist Phyo Win Latt

The YD delegation was also invited to attend the Malaysia Youth & Students Democratic Movement (DEMA) 10th Annual General Meeting in Kajang, Malaysia. DEMA is a national student movement organisation formed to push for human rights and a democratic society in Malaysia.

The exchange between the YD and DEMA was fruitful. When told about the reality of the political situation in Singapore, many of them expressed their concerns and reiterated their solidarity with our struggle for democracy.

Many of the DEMA's members were keen to find out more about Singapore's current political situation as well as the activity level of our youth and student movements here.

We also learned that youth groups in Malaysia faced obstacles put in place by their government in their struggle for human rights and democracy, not unlike our situation in Singapore.

Leaders of DEMA, Mr Lucas Yap Heng Lung and Mr Ryan Gan, expressed their desire to see more exchanges and to establish closer ties with the Young Democrats.

We all agreed that it is vital for our youths and students to play a bigger role in the political and activism scenes in our countries. History has shown that political change is always aided by the active participation of society's youths and students.

The YD aims to continue to network with other similar organisations or movements in the region and beyond. This is crucial in our work for freedom, justice and equality.

Jarrod Luo, Muhd Khalis and Mohd Shamin are members of the Young Democrats.

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