KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 — Malaysia’s youngest minister urged global Muslim leaders today to make youths an integral part of their countries’ discourse, ahead of a key summit to discuss Islamic “revivalism”.
Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman opened the KL Youth Summit 2019 here by calling for governments to heed the voice of younger generations and give them equal representation in policy decisions.
He said there must be a “collective signal” from Muslim countries to acknowledge the youths’ contributions.
“They don’t just want to have a seat at the dialogue table, they want a seat at the decision-making table,” he said of youths worldwide.
“We are just as capable,” he added.
To prove his point, the minister said it was a young generation of corporate figures that played a role in rebuilding government companies that nearly tanked during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.
“In 1997, during the Asian Financial Crisis, a lot of people didn’t realise but it was the youth that was given the responsibility to save the biggest companies in Malaysia,” he said.
One of them was Datuk Shahril Reza, the current chief executive of state investor Khazanah.
Syed Saddiq noted that Shahril, who was only in his 30s then, was appointed to revive MRCB, and successfully did.
“So, to say young people can’t, is a great lie.
“It’s about opening the doors of opportunities and letting them prove themselves,” he said.
In Malaysia, the Muar MP has been consistently pushing for more youth inclusion in decision-making, reminding government leaders that they cannot afford to alienate the demographic segment that form nearly half the population.
This year, he led a campaign to lower the voting age to 18 and successfully united government and Opposition lawmakers to back legislation, which included automatic registration.
He told today’s forum it was among the toughest tasks he had undertaken as the youth and sports minister.
Today’s event is a prelude to the KL Summit 2019 proper. The summit is the brainchild of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who sees the meeting as a platform to enhance cooperation among Muslim nations, including possible new trade deals.
In the past, Dr Mahathir played an active role behind numerous diplomatic efforts to unite Muslim countries.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani are among the biggest names to attend. Pakistan, Qatar and Indonesia will also participate in the four-day summit.
The KL Summit 2019 will take place from December 18 to 21.