IT IS an issue we’ve heard about countless times before – in stage plays, in college discussions, on the Internet, at the kopitiam, over a teh tarik – but now, someone is doing something about the restrictions we face in discussing taboo matters.

The people behind the “Suppport The Right to Freedom of Expression in Malaysia” online petition have taken the bold step of decrying the lack of freedom with which Malaysians can publicly discuss issues deemed too “sensitive”.

And judging by the response to  the petition, there are a lot of Malaysians who are tired of having to sweep issues concerning our  identity and beliefs under the rug.

Since it was initiated about a month ago, over 1,200 individuals and organisations have signed the petition (which can be found at directed to Prime  Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak; many of them including rousing messages for change with their signatures.

It’s like the petitioners are trying to say that we as a people are ready, or have been ready, to explore issues – no matter how sensitive – in a mature, constructive and intelligent manner.

Now that the petition has finally got the ball rolling, it’s time we found out what our youth think we should be talking about.

R.AGE asked “What are some of the of the issues you believe Malaysians need to discuss openly?”. Here’s what they said:

*** You can have your say too! It’s all about speaking up, so leave a comment way down below about what you think Malaysians should be discussing openly.***

Bong Chan Siong, aka Bongkersz, 28, blogger:

Bong Chan Siong

Malaysians should discuss ALL the ‘sensitive’ issues – race, religion, NEP, Article 153, quota, subsidies, ISA, overlapping jurisdiction between Syariah Court and the Civil Court – just to name few.

We need to discuss these issues to ‘desensitise’ Malaysians, to quash the misconception that Malaysians are not mature enough to deal with these issues, to change our mindsets, to have open and honest discourse and to change the way we engage each other.

Pretending these issues or problems don’t exist under the pretense it is too sensitive to be discussed do us no good, and doesn’t solve anything. The worst is that over time it can turn into a ticking time bomb and when we realise it, it is already too late.”

Sharyn Shufiyan, 25, programme coordinator for Wild Asia

Sharyn Shufiyan

I believe it is about time Malaysians start discussing the things that are deemed ‘sensitive’. Nothing really is sensitive. To me, it is just an easy excuse to maintain the status quo and keep the public quiet. Times have changed and Malaysians are growing intellectually and people are starting to see through these excuses. If we do not start discussing matters openly, allowing differing views to pass through, we will never progress.

For example, with the caning issue, we should not just limit discussions within the religious department but include the public since the matter involves our courts. And we should really move on from race-based politics. Malaysian Malays have got to see things beyond Malaysia – no, their race is not threatened by anything but their own paranoia. The Chinese have got to stop looking down on the Malays and cut with the stereotypes. The Indians, well, they’ve got to see that human rights go beyond Malaysian Indians but include the powerless regardless of race.

My point is, Malaysians have got to stop thinking about themselves (within our races), start thinking outside of the box; then only can we achieve true democracy, where the public can engage in rational, factual and mature discussions regarding so-called sensitive issues.”

Hardesh Singh, 33, record producer

hardesh singh

It’s time that young Malaysians have a bigger say in influencing policy. We are a young country, but all decisions are being made by older politicians with little grasp of the hopes and aspirations our young have. We need to have a proper feedback mechanism to include their ideals for Malaysia, and for them to be reflected in decisions being taken.”


Jason Lim, 26, management consultant


There are so many things Malaysians need to be able to discuss openly. Aside from the obvious trinity of politics, sex and religion, we really need to be able to discuss our true history of how we came to live together in this country and where we are headed given the status quo.

I believe if we can have a clear, untainted, honest view of the past and progressive, hopeful discussions on our future together, the here and now will sort itself out.

Regarding our future, we only seem to be having many different monologues with ourselves when what we really need is dialogue.

The flow of information and opinion should not be controlled. Key policies that stand in the way of freedom of discourse such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the University and University College Act should be abolished along with the Internal Security Act. At the very least, the last bastion of free discussion, that is the Internet, should continue to be upheld as guaranteed in the Communications and Multimedia Act. Also, we should enact the Freedom of Information Act to ensure that discourse and access to information is legalised.”

Mark Teh, 29, stage director

Mark Teh

We need to discuss EVERYTHING openly and critically.  There are many things we should be discussing – our complex and layered histories; the future of this nation (and why more and more young people are imagining their futures away from Malaysia); the effect that over 50 years of Alliance-Barisan Nasional rule has had on our present culture, society, psychology and laws; the conflation and confusion of Malay-Muslim identities … the list is very long.

I actually feel that more discussion is happening than ever before in the past 30 years – be it in cyberspace, at dinner tables, in coffee shops, on campuses, in houses of worship, or in civil society forums, discussions and dialogues. And it is real – there is no ‘censorship’ anymore, not in the way that the authorities traditionally understand.

People will speak out if they feel like they have a voice, and are able to claim ownership of being Malaysian (whatever they take that to mean). Any socio-political-cultural issue should always be addressed rationally, and by and large they are. It’s conservative entities who are irrational and emotional, who create all these phantoms that are supposedly attacking a community, a religion, a moral, a way of life

So, those who are fighting for clarity will address these issues in multiple arenas, which are already happening and have been for a long time – in the courts of justice, in the arts, on the Internet and new media, and many more.  Rational people are always looking for a way forward, irrational people are always looking to turn the clock back.”

Fahmi Fadzil, 29, performer/writer

Fahmi Fadzil

And now, we begin to experience the problems of such thinking: even our Prime Minister has acknowledged that the ‘patronage’ system and rent-seeking attitudes – largely nurtured under the aegis of past administrations – is a major roadblock in bringing our country’s economy out of the “middle income trap”.

We’ve not been able to discuss – and more importantly confront and ultimately undo – the side-effects of this pivotal issue because of partisan politics. This lack of political will has systematically undermined the efforts of reformists, and will continue to be an undermining force so long as we do not educate Malaysians to reorient our thinking.”

Yazid Ahmad, 25, filmmaker

Yazid Ahmad

I believe Malaysians especially the younger generation need to be able to discuss openly and constructively about their faiths, beliefs, culture, and background. It is vital for them to share these because I strongly believe we have come to a time where we seek for who we really are and the people around us. We haven’t been able to do it is because of the old mindset we are clinging to.”



Zain HD, 26, project manager, RandomAlphabets

Zain HD

It is terrifyingly worrying when I hear adults doing their post-graduate studies abstain from participating in an academic discussion about the government, for fear of their livelihood. There was a time when this fear may have been valid, but it being a paranoia still, is a reflection of how mature we are as a nation and how developed we are in human capital.

I refuse to point my finger to government. Citizen initiative is on the rise in Malaysia, especially in non-economic matters post-Mahathir. That said, activists and social commentators must not be aloof and keep in mind their audiences when addressing these issues, else things will get lost in translation and not meet any objective.”

Nazreen Nizam, 31, legal and advocacy officer, Sisters in Islam

nazreen nizam

I think being a multi-religious and multi-racial nation, we should be able to talk about issues pertaining to religion and race more openly. All this time, we have been told these issues are sensitive, and  we should not question certain things so as to not cause disharmony.

We have to talk about these issues openly, with respect towards each other, and remember that what’s more important is our relationship as human beings and not just as Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus etc.”

Azmyl Yunor, 33, singer-songwriter

azmyl yunor

I think issues regarding ethnic relations, religious freedom, and sexuality are not discussed or addressed openly, which leads to further lack of understanding and rising apathy. We have a fine tradition of sweeping things under the carpet and letting the rot grow.
Other than our supposed cultural norms which tend to label discussion of such issues as ‘taboo’ or ‘sensitive’, the mainstream media needs to open up first and foremost and play its role as the Fourth Estate in a functioning democracy. The online media has already provided an avenue for such discussion. The role of addressing these issues to the public is the duty of our elected and community leaders who should approach such issues with dignity and class.”

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