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Ambiga Sreenevasan: This assembly will be a people’s assembly


We cannot fail the next generation and we cannot hand them a country that is less than whole.They have more on their plate than we have.On top of everything

else they face the existential crisis of climate change, an issue we seem to be

blissfully unaware of. We have flora and fauna that are threatened. Our tigers are

becoming extinct. Our food security, access to clean water and the air that we

breathe are under threat. Yet we continue with indiscriminate deforestation,

reclaiming of land, and the polluting of our rivers.


Bill Gates has said“There are two numbers you need to know about climate change. The first is 51billion. The other is zero. Fifty one billion is how many tons of greenhouse gasses the world typically adds to the atmosphere every year. Zero is what we need to aim for.Are we doing enough to make this happen? Again, ordinary Malaysians have become activists in this cause to save our planet.We must support them.As has been said, there is no Planet B.


Unfortunately, what takes centre stage in this country is what Dr. Jeyakumar (one honest man!)calls”ethnicised politicking”. He says that this must cease and

instead we must keep advocating for more government programmes to help the

vulnerable. He says that we should all start understanding the issues that other

communities are faced with.I agree.


Recently, I signed on to a letter with about 50 other people asking for the setting

upof a Better Malaysia Assembly. This is a move towards deliberative

democracy. This is a platform that is not new. It is used with success in other

countries e.g. Ireland, Chile, Iceland. It allows for issues to be debated without

politics getting in the way.It is a way for ordinary citizens to come together to

help resolve issues without being concerned with politics or popularity.


The idea has received criticism.It has been described as elitist, and people have questioned the signatories. That is fair enough. But if you would look at it more closely, you will see it has merit. I was also criticized for signing on with some of the signatories with whom I have disagreements. But this is not about us. We are not suggesting that we be the members. What I do know is that for the first time we all agree something must be done for the creation of a better Malaysia. If we

remain in our respective “corners” when do we ever meet in the middle to solve

the problems of the country that we love.This assembly will be a people’s

assembly and will augment the work of our leaders. It is at the very least, worth

a discussion


Excerpt from Ms Sreenevasan's Malaysian Bar Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech.

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Too many grievances exist in which no race, religion or community is feeling totally comfortable. Time for us to air these in a consultative process and find a pathway out of the current gridlock.