IDEAS 7th Liberalism Conference
24 September 2022, Mr. Manfred Richter (Member of The Board Directors and Treasurer of FNF), FNF Malaysia Team, Mr. Moritz Kleine-Brockhoff (Regional Director Southeast and East Asia), and Sky (Southeast and East Asia Regional Communications Manager) attended IDEAS 7th Liberalism Conference held in Pullman Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.
It’s our first time attending a face-to-face event since the pandemic. And during the conference we can see that the participants were fired up after 2.5 years of attending events online, now they can give their opinion and ask questions around Liberalism in Malaysia.
Before the first session, Merdeka Center launched their "Liberalism Survey 2021", funded by FNF. The survey is done since 2016. This year marked 6 years of Merdeka Center doing this survey.
The survey shows that Malaysians have developed a growing hesitation toward the concept of liberalism. Perceptions of liberalism as a ‘bad concept’ for Malaysia jumped 20 points between 2016 and 2021, from 22% to 48%, respectively.
Breaking down the respondents by socio-economic status provided striking data - such as that 65% of Malay respondents believed liberalism was a bad concept, while 62% and 66% of Chinese and Indians respectively believed it was a good concept. Likewise, a higher proportion of rural to urban respondents (50% to 28%) believed liberalism was a negative concept.
These deep social cleavages in attitudes suggest a polarised society, with ethnic and geographic divisions increasingly determining attitudes towards liberalism and the open society.
The survey presented by Tan Seng Keat (Senior Research Manager Merdeka Center)
Sharaad Kuttan (Journalist)
The first session covered the topic of economic “Are Economic Populist Policies on the Rise?: Examining the Malaysian Social Protection Framework” As Malaysia faces political instability and uncertainty, with governments dependent on thin majorities and arrangements with political rivals in order to govern, there is growing pressure to implement populist policies in lieu of technocratic governance with regards to providing social protection programmes. This pressure is expected to increase as the country prepares for its 15th general election in the midst of marked inflationary pressures.
Moderated by Melisa Idris (Senior Editor, Astro AWANI).
Speakers: Dr Juita Mohamad (Director of Research IDEAS Malaysia); Dr Carmelo Ferlito (Chief Executive Center for Market Education); and Datuk Wira Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff (President and Chief Executive EMIR Research)
The second session covered disinformation issues, entitled “Freedom, Truth and Democracy: Tackling Misinformation and Disinformation in the Digital Age”.
Misinformation/disinformation can be understood as a deliberate provision of false or inaccurate information to mislead and promote an alternative narrative. The widespread adoption of social media around the world has allowed malicious actors to spread disinformation at a faster pace and to a wider audience than ever before, threatening democratic values and practises, nurturing greater mistrust of institutions, and dividing societies more than ever.
Moderated by Sri Murniati Yusuf (Deputy Director of Research, IDEAS Malaysia).
Speakers: Dr Khairil Ahmad (Chief Executive, The Centre); Harris Zainul (Senior Analyst , ISIS Malaysia); and Dr Ross Tapsell (Director and Senior Lecturer School of Culture, History & Language ANU Malaysia Institute).
The last session covered the topic of “Political Polarisation: The Shrinking Middle Ground”
Malaysian politics is an art of balancing the diverse interests of the different groups in our society - already divided by race, religion, social class, and, more recently, generations. The 2018 elections, the Pakatan Harapan administration and its subsequent collapse gave Malaysians a glimpse of what a more multiracial government could look like.
Post-Sheraton, that glimmer of hope seems to be threatened once again, with UMNO predicted to win the next general election. Furthermore, there is increasing apathy towards electoral democracy, especially in the younger generation.
Moderator by Hezril Azmin (Independent Analyst)
Speakers: Aira Azhari (Senior Manager Democracy and Governance Unit, IDEAS Malaysia), Nik Abdul Razak Nik Md Ridzuan Youth Vice-Chief AMANAH), and Dr Abu Hafiz Salleh Hudin Youth Chief Pejuang).