Does freedom come with a price? — Khoo Ying Hooi


By Khoo Ying Hooi

Last week, I had the opportunity to be part of the Malaysia Freedom Summit (MFS) that organized by the Institute for Leadership and Development Studies (LEAD). This is the third time for the LEAD to organize such forum since 2015. Former treasury secretary-general also the founder of G25, Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim delivered a keynote address looking into freedom as a core value of development. Apart from the main session on the state of freedom in Malaysia, the forum also discussed academic freedom, political freedom, religious freedom and economic freedom.

We read about freedom, dream about freedom, and hope for freedom, but what does it really mean? Freedom means different things to different people. My definition of freedom might be different from yours. But what’s important is that it is an inalienable right, which we must respect and defend.

However, putting it in the context of Malaysia, this so-called freedom is fragile. Over the decades, Malaysia’s political system has become a formula for the division of race and religion. Malaysia has a narrow concept of human rights, having signed only three out of the nine binding international human rights treaties. Our Federal Constitution for instance, it protects freedom of belief and freedom of expression. In practice, these freedoms are however restricted. Freedoms of assembly and association are similarly limited on the grounds of maintaining security and public order. Read more

Social Movements Workshop

Taken from Facebook

Taken from Facebook

Date: 22 April 2017
Time: 2pm-5pm
Venue: KLSCAH, Ground Floor Meeting Room
Co-Organizers: Democracy Academy of Malaysia and Civil Rights Committee of KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

Medium of Instruction : English


Social movements create change. The emergence and impact of social movements have been widely debated from a variety of perspectives especially in the Western world. Nevertheless, there is a surprising vacuum on such discourse in Malaysia. The growing importance of social movements signifies it is necessary to establish specific processes and mechanisms in order to capture the complex relations between movements and the state. The rise of movements in the country calling for the opening of democratic space highlights the significance of social movements discourse. Malaysia’s political climate in its own peculiar context serves as an interesting arena for such discourse.

This workshop attempts to bridge this divide by introducing participants to basic concepts and theories of social movements. It will then explore the conditions and processes shaping social and political mobilization. The workshop will also expose the participants on the impact and challenges of social movements by using the case study of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih). The workshop will be conducted in English.


Khoo Ying Hooi (PhD) is Senior Lecturer at the Department of International and Strategic Studies, University of Malaya. She completed her PhD in Politics and Government examining social movements and democratization with a focus on the Bersih movement, and she is the convener of the course on social movements and democratization. Ying Hooi is the author of “Seeds of Dissent”(2015), a compilation of her commentaries on academic freedom, human rights, protests and political change in Malaysia. She also edited Volume I and II of Ini Bukan Klise (2013 and 2015), a compilation of essays on political issues in Malaysia.

Free Admission. Any queries please contact

Bersih 4 t-shirt ban underestimates people’s wisdom – Khoo Ying Hooi

Source: The Malaysian Insider


Last week, the Shah Alam High Court upheld the government’s decision to ban Bersih 4 t-shirts and related printed materials. The decision comes after Bersih 4 organisers filed a judicial review against the government’s ban on the yellow Bersih 4 t-shirts.

In his judgment, Judge Datuk Mohd Yazid Mustafa said that the order by Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was valid, as the minister had the discretion to make such decisions on the basis of preserving the peace in a multi-racial country like Malaysia.

I quote, “The minister has taken the relevant consideration in making the said order. I take judicial notice that Malaysia is multi-racial and multi-religious, thus puts a heavy responsibility to the minister to maintain and preserve peace, notwithstanding the Federal Constitution confers rights of assembly (and) freedom of expression. Read more

Suhakam budget cuts, a case of ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’? – Khoo Ying Hooi

Source: The Malaysian Insider

Over the past few months, when meeting up with some friends working in government agencies, as well as in my own university, one constant grievance in our conversation is budget cuts.

Similarly, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has met the same fate.

Suhakam’s funding was slashed by almost 50% in Budget 2016 from RM10,986,200 for 2015 to RM5,509,400 for 2016.

This raises the speculation whether the drastic budget cut was due to the commission’s voicing out against several government policies and laws that are deemed not human rights friendly.

In a recent human rights day event that I attended, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low, however, denied that Suhakam’s budget cuts were the result of their criticism against government policies and laws.

What indeed “amazed” me was his proposed solution, that is, to use the organisation’s fixed deposits of RM4 million to RM4.5 million.

Following up on that, in a response to the media recently, it was obvious Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam was deeply dismayed with the drastic budget cuts and with the suggestion made by the minister. Read more

Human rights are no jargon – Khoo Ying Hooi

Source: The Malaysian Insider


In conjunction with International Human Rights Day on December 10, I was invited to present a talk on “Introduction on Human Rights” yesterday, organised by Democracy Academy of Malaysia and the Civil Rights Committee of Kuala Lumpur at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.

This year marks the 67th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). I am always excited, yet anxious whenever I receive an invitation to either speak or discuss human rights.

I am excited because I get to share my thoughts by speaking on the topic. I am also anxious because everyone has their own interpretation when it comes to human rights and it is never easy to come to agreement.

Here are some of the points that I shared during the session.

Human rights are arguably almost a form of “religion” in today’s world; they are the great criterion to measure a government’s treatment of its people. That is one of the main reasons human rights remain taboo and controversial in many corners of the world. Read more

Malaysia’s missed opportunity as Asean chair – Khoo Ying Hooi

Source: The Malaysian Insider

It has been exceptionally hectic for most of the last month as each Malaysian stakeholder related to Asean affairs was geared up to host dialogues and forums to prepare for the 27th Asean Summit and related summits scheduled from 18 to 22 November.

With that, Malaysia comes to an end as Asean chair 2015. Laos will then take over its responsibilities as Asean chair.

There were high expectations when Malaysia took over as the Asean chair from Myanmar in 2015. Malaysia’s two-year term on the UN Security Council echod well with the Asean chair, expanding its international profile and placing Asean on a footing alongside other regional organizations.

2015 is a challenging time for Malaysia’s chairmanship. Expectations can be quite overwhelming as it struggles with domestic, regional and international politics. As Asean is moving towards the realization of the Asean Community, many had expected Malaysia to pursue a more proactive approach. Read more

Civil society keeps the state under watch – Khoo Ying Hooi

Source: The Malaysian Insider


I believe a stronger civil society is always part of the answer for social justice and accountability from all institutions during turbulent economic and political times.

In this challenging period that is facing Malaysia, ranging from leadership crisis to deterioration of public institutions, civil society becomes indispensable in the process of liberal democratic political reform.

Civil society is the major driving force behind democratisation and the containment of the state. Its popularity and relevancy rest on its ideological base, as separate from the state, in opposition to the state, as well as the source of liberal democratic values.

Crudely speaking, civil society is crucial as watchdog to strengthen and enhance democratic governance.

Last week, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (Civicus) released their 2015 State of Civil Society Report, which also includes Malaysia.

The report highlighted that although civil society was recognised as the first responder to humanitarian emergencies last year, they faced dire threats and a funding crisis around the world. Read more