There was no doubt among participants at a Forum Global Dialogue roundtable that federal-state relations are undergoing stress and are being tested as never before in Malaysia’s highly centralized federalism. This situation has developed as a result of the March 2008 general elections, which saw the opposition coalition take power in an unprecedented 5 out of 13 states.
However, because the federal government continues to be in the hands of the incumbent coalition, no formal restructuring of the federal system has yet occurred.
Participants also analyzed the territorial dynamics of political party organization and competition and how civil society organizations organize and compete with each other. Participants at the roundtable debated the impact of parties and civil society on federalism and the patterns of interaction among parties, civil society and federal government institutions.
About 30 people attended the roundtable on political parties and civil society in Malaysia, held in Penang. They included former and currently-serving parliamentarians and members of state legislative assemblies, policy advisers to these politicians, academics and leaders of civil society organizations from the women’s movement, trade unions, business organizations and environmental groups.
The roundtable took place on Oct. 29, 2009. The roundtable was co-ordinated by Francis Kok-Wah Loh, Professor of Political Science, Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang. Rupak Chattopadhyay, Forum Vice-President for Governance Programs, was the Forum representative at the event.
Participants included Kong Yeow Chow, Member, Penang State Government Executive Council and DAP Member of Parliament for Tanjung, Penang; Wilfred Madius Tangau, Former Barisan Nasional (BN) Member of Parliament for Tuaran, Sabah; Ching-Tong Liew, Democratic Action Party (DAP) Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera, Penangk; Tricia Yeoh, Research Officer to the Menteri Besar of Selangor; Kah-Cheng Lim, Member of Penang Municipal Council; Dr Leong Yueh Kwong, SERI (Socio Economic and Environmental Research Institute), Penang; Dr.Faisal Hazis, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Social Science, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak; Mr. Ruslan Zainuddin, Lecturer, Fakulti Pengajian Antarabangsa, Universiti Utara Malaysia; Mr. Eu Choong Chong, Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur; Zauyah Abd Razak, Lecturer, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM); Dr. Andrew Aeria, Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Science, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak; Dr Johan Saravanamuttu, Senior Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore; Mr. Khay Jin Khoo, former lecturer of School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia; Mr. Hamdan Abdul Majeed; Vice President, Khazanah Research and Investment Strategy; Mr. P. Ramakrishnan, President, Aliran; Anil Netto, blogger; Professor Francis Loh Kok Wah, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Country Coordinator for Malaysia, Forum Global Dialogue Theme 9; Dr Azeem Farouk, Universiti Sains Malaysia; Dr. Chuan Yean Soon, Universiti Sains Malaysia; Dr. Yee Whah Chin, Universiti Sains Malaysia; Dr. Benny Teh Cheng Guan, Universiti Sains Malaysia; Prof Cecilia Ng, Visiting Professor, Universiti Sains Malaysia; Dr. Ramanathan Kalimuthu, Associate Professor, Universiti Sains Malaysia; Mustafa Kemal Anuar, Lecturer, Universiti Sains Malaysia; Mr. Jonathan Yeoh, Research Officer, Penang State Government; Mr. Veeriah Krishnasamy, Secretary, Malaysian Trade Union Congress, Penang Division; Dr. Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Associate Professor, Universiti Sains Malaysia; Cheng Eng, Member of Parliament, DAP; Ik Tien Ngu, Post Graduate, Universiti Sains Malaysia.