KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 — Researchers under Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies (Kita) are now partnering with former CIMB CEO Datuk Seri Nazir Razak to carry out a six-month study on making a better Malaysia, having been inspired by events after the country’s 14th general election (GE14) in May 2018.

Datuk Anis Yusal Yusoff, principal fellow at UKM’s Kita, is leading the research team for the study entitled “Making a Better Malaysia (MABM)” where they are seeking to find the way forward for Malaysia’s democracy.

In a statement today, Anis Yusal said he started this study after he was asked two questions, including whether “based on events of the last three years, since GE14, is Malaysia a nation in crisis or are parts of the system in crisis needing reform? If so, which parts?”

The other question was whether democracy itself is in crisis and whether the Malaysian model is still suitable.

In the MABM study triggered by the two questions, Anis Yusaf’s research team will examine the fundamentals of the governance structures of Malaysia’s democracy today, its relevance and alternative models to consider. 

The research team has developed a series of questions from the initial two questions to be discussed by participants of roundtables organised as part of the study.

Since the study started in September 2020, three roundtable discussions have been organised, with those attending including politicians, legislators, academics, those from the private sector, regulators, civil society and media personnel of all age groups, gender and demographics.

According to the same statement, Anis Yusal is collaborating with Nazir, with the latter having just completed a stint as a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government where he focused on nationhood recalibration, episodes of systemic failures and overhaul such as in Indonesia after the Asian Financial Crisis, in Malaysia after the May 13 incident and South Africa after Apartheid.

In the same statement, Nazir was quoted as saying: “I have argued for some time that our system, substantially designed in 1970, is no longer fit for purpose, impacting social cohesion and economic well-being. 

“Political events over the past three years have only reaffirmed this conviction. I am supporting Anis’ efforts to hear what others think and whether we should set up a deliberative platform like a National Consultative Council to reset the system, as we did back in 1970,” Nazir added.

According to the statement, the MABM team is now in the second phase of engagement where it intends to interview legislators and public officials on the research questions, and is also inviting the public to submit all thoughts and proposals on the focus areas by sending emails to [email protected]

Anis Yusal said the researchers will be looking at the questions holistically and not in a piecemeal manner, including areas that may have bearing on the credibility of democracy itself.

“This will not just be another poll or study. Our measure of success lies in how the recommendations support the people of Malaysia and strengthen pillars of our democracy, and become implementable,” he said when stressing that the key to this study would be how the findings are implemented.

More details on the research can be found at www.mybetterfuture.org.

Anis Yusal, was formerly deputy director general of the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC) at the Prime Minister’s Department, before resuming his work at Kita as principal fellow on July 27.