KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 – The ability to listen to and comprehend the voices of the people will allow governments and political parties to grow stronger, an international forum heard today. Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States (US) Embassy, Edgard Kagan said in an ethnically, religiously and racially diverse country like the US and Malaysia, it poses a great challenge for the governments and political parties to reconcile disagreements and many other issues that emerge among their people.
“The best way to be able to understand the concerns of the people you represent is to listen to them. Listening to their views, however challenging it is, we will benefit from them,” Kagan said at the Umno International Forum 2014 held at the Putra World Trade Centre, here today. He was speaking at a session titled ‘Realising the Potential of the Growing Power of the People’s Voice’, moderated by Malaysia’s Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan.
Kagan pointed out, however, there was a need to recognise the difference between reacting to what was being heard and leadership. “In leadership, it often requires us to do things that aren’t popular at the time we do them. But (in) trying to move forward, (we) hope that we win (the people’s) support,” he added.
Vice Chief of Wanita Umno, Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun when sharing her views on the matter, said that the Malaysian government, administrators and politicians had long acknowledged that partnering with other stakeholders was necessary and important for community development and nation building.
The Women, Family and Community Development deputy minister pointed out that the government had introduced public engagement through public hearing before the implementation of any new policies, as part of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP). Azizah added that the Malaysian government had introduced the Youth Parliament as a further initiative in listening to the voice of the young people in a positive, meaningful and constructive manner.
“This will be a platform for the youths to speak out, address youth-related issues, giving an early exposure to be involved in a democratic parliamentary system, and to act as an intermediary to the government. “For your information, the registration of candidates, campaigning and voting are all done online, making full use of hyperconnectivity,” she said.
On a different note, Japanese ambassador to Malaysia Dr Makio Miyagawa said the public should take direct actions by themselves to address certain problems rather than merely voicing demand for the government to take actions. He said voice was important, but action was equally or more valuable than a mere voice. Miyagawa cited an example of dealing with natural disaster, saying that the people were able to respond to it promptly and flexibly, before the help from the government came.
“Many of our citizens voluntarily came out from their comfort zone in other parts of Japan and joined the government in offering a big helping hand for the victims hit by the earthquake and tsunami all along Tohoku Region (in 2011). “This should be a reflection of a strong sense of public and communal spirit among our citizens, some even sacrificed their lives when helping others,” he said.
Through such experiences, he said, they realised the potential of the growing power of people’s devotion and contribution to the public good. Miyagawa said a nation was not an independent or aloof entity from its nationals, and it was only through the participation of well informed and responsible citizens that one could build a better nation.