New challenges & opportunities for the new National Unity and Social Wellbeing minister — Denison Jayasooria

JULY 19 —The new Cabinet is now finally established. PM Tun Mahathir must be congratulated for making some very bold moves in his appointments.

While he made consultations with is party officials, he has made some of the strategic moves based on his years of experience & wisdom - in the New Malaysia. 

One of the most significant appointments which came at the end is the appointment of Waytha Moorthy as the new minister for national unity and social wellbeing. He was appointed senator and Minister on Monday July 16, 2018 is indeed a major development for the Hindraf movement.

This sets a new agenda for the Minister and Hindraf in its struggles for minority Indians especially from among the bottom 40 per cent to a new agenda in the New Malaysia to champion the concerns of all B40 community who are the bottom of the socio-economic and political ladder.

The powerless, discriminated and alienated in society due to the nature of the global economy and the nature of politics need specific interventions for economic empowerment and upliftment. 

Now there is an opportunity to undo the wrongs of the past and in adopting a social inclusion agenda for all Malaysians we can seek to rebuild society “where no one is left behind”. This appointment provides not just the new minister but also the department of national unity and integration with the opportunity to ensure that all sections of Malaysian society including the bottom 40 among all Malaysians have a voice, place and share of the economic prosperity of this land. 

This will be a good place to locate the Social Inclusion Unit (former government had announced the setting up of SERI –Socio Economic Research Institute) as we note the Implementation Coordination Unit (ICU) might be also under the preview of the unity minister.

Many of us have been advocating for these changes to take place especially from a sustainable development goals (SDG) focus and a priority based on a human rights approach to development.

One major agenda for the new Minister is to make the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) Report public and to host a series of dialogues with civil society, academic institutions and policy makers in fostering harmony and addressing the critical grievances of all the communities especially the natives of Sabah and Sarawak, the Orang Asli community and urban poor of all communities especially displaced plantation workers and Felda settlers.

One major recommendation of the NUCC is the formulation of the harmony bills and the setting up of the mediation centres to resolve in inter-ethnic and religious conflicts. While the PH Manifesto promised a Council for Harmony, the NUCC recommended a more independent National Unity Commission to address the concerns.

There must be a review to note the best option in the New Malaysia.  There many challenges for the new minister but also opportunities. We trust he will adopt an open policy and serve as the unity minister for all communities. He can be assured that national unity related academics, institutions and civil society will be happy to work with him as we have with the National Unity & Integration Department over the years. Welcome to this new role and all the best. God bless.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.