My involvement with UndiMsia! started with LoyarBurok. I occasionally received tweets from the UndiMsia! Twitter handle inviting people to join in their movement. I had no idea who was behind that account, but I chose to follow them on Twitter out of curiosity.
I gradually found out more about UndiMsia! through their tweets. It turned out to be a new awareness campaign aimed at educating Malaysians about their rights as citizens and the power they should have in a democracy. I was intrigued, and started to pay closer attention to them.
Then came Bersih 2.0. Despite having my final exams the following week, I decided to take a 7-hour bus ride from Newcastle to London to join 500 odd fellow Malaysians marching from the Malaysian High Commission to Trafalgar Square to show their support to those back home who were marching for the cause and calling for free and fair elections.
I came back to Newcastle on Sunday. I had lost my voice as a result of the march, and was greatly angered by the way our Government handled the whole issue. I resolved to start doing something. I told myself that the time to just read and be made aware of issues was over. It was time to start doing something about addressing those issues.
So I sent an email to UndiMsia! to say that I wanted to join them. Thus, my journey began.
Every Saturday during my summer break in Malaysia, I went to the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (also known as Pusat Rakyat) to attend weekly UndiMsia! chat sessions. Through those sessions, I met lawyer Edmund Bon, the man behind the Twitter handle, Zain HD, who headed the campaign’s public relations, and other UndiMsia! campaigners (also known as Community Movers).
The campaign was then still in its conceptual phase. I got the chance to be directly involved in the discussion of its aims, core
principles and methods of dissemination, amongst other things. Everyone involved was very supportive, and everyone exchanged ideas and opinions. Even though I came initially as a mere observer with barely any knowledge about legal issues and human rights, I too shared my thoughts and views. The more I learned about the campaign from these meetings, the more I felt the need for such a movement in society.
UndiMsia! wants to create the awareness that as citizens our voices should be heard more often than just during elections, especially when our representatives in the Senate and Parliament should be doing more than just making policies.UndiMsia! aims to empower the citizens to realise that real democracy goes beyond just voting during elections once every 5 years.
It is also about encouraging our youth to look at politics beyond what is reported in the media about our local political scene, and to instead focus more on actual issues affecting them and their citizens.
I personally think that Malaysians have, for far too long, put their politicians on pedestals, as if the politicians alone know what is best for the country. In doing so, we have chosen to let go of our voice in deciding the direction in which the country should be going in. thus, we are diminishing the value of our democracy. That is something the citizens need to regain and I think UndiMsia! is the way forward.
For someone who constantly questions and doubts the credibility of some politicians from both divides, I really like UndiMsia!’s non-partisan stance. From the beginning, UndiMsia! made it very clear that it was not and never would be a platform for any political parties to spread their ideology. It focuses mainly on issues affecting the citizens by providing and empowering them with accurate information to help citizens better understand the issues and giving them a platform to voice their opinions and raise concerns to their elected representatives.
With its ethos of participatory democracy, UndiMsia! has initiated an interesting concept to attract the involvement of the younger generation, especially tertiary students. Most students do not like being preached to. Through Idola Demokrasi, a fun and interactive workshop, participants are given the opportunity to come up with their own plans and solutions to the problems they are facing in their respective communities, and are pushed to look at the root causes of problems and come up with holistic proposals to resolve these issues.
I found this a very effective way of engaging young Malaysians – most of whom are either not aware of the current state of the country, or feel that there is nothing they can do if they disagree with what is advocated by some politicians, or simply think that politics do not affect them at all.
UndiMsia! is now in the process of bringing Idola Demokrasi to various universities and colleges around Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley. Justine Tan, a “Community Mover” whom I met over summer, describes Idola Demokrasi as highly educational in terms of both understanding the basic structure of our nation’s government and in looking at the big picture of democracy – to clearly depict how all of us, as citizens, are affected in a top-down decision-making process.
Justine also took part in the UndiMsia! Hari Malaysia launch. During her preparation for the launch, she researched student rights for political activism. She discovered that student voices were stifled as a result of the fear of politicians, the possibility of being charged under the University and University College Act and the lack of avenues to express their opinions and be heard.
In order to sustain the movement, UndiMsia! relies on “Youth Action Groups” or YAGs to continue what they have done to other citizens. Through this means, empowered youths who have attended a workshop can form their own YAGs in their own communities, so they can continue conducting the workshop and thus keep up the virtuous cycle.
So far, about five YAGs have been formed by students from universities and colleges around Kuala Lumpur. These YAGs are dedicated to finding solutions to problems they face at their institutions and mobilising their friends to play a more active role in student activism.
If you want to join UndiMsia! as a “Community Mover” or form your own Youth Action Group, send an email to [email protected]. For more information on UndiMsia!, visit their website at www.undimsia.com.
This article first appeared on the December edition of CEKU, the United Kingdom and Eire Council of Malaysian Students (UKEC)’s publication. It can be viewed here.