Media Statement by Liew Chin Tong in Penang on Wednesday, 5th November 2008:

Malaysia should take inspiration from Obama’s victory

In defeating Republican candidate John McCain, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is now the 44th President of the United States.

The Democratic Action Party welcomes the election of Barack Obama, as it heralds a new era of chage with worldwide ramifications.

Firstly, 45 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, a coloured child who grew up on welfare food stamps has won a landslide election with the support of a majority of US citizens of all ethnicities and classes, and risen to the position of President.

Obama’s election as President is food for thought for the world, especially Malaysia.

The results do not demonstrate that racism does not exist in the United States, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. But Martin Luther King Jr. and many others have for generations fought for a country which does not judge its people by colour, creed, religion or class.

Secondly, it is a historic election which spells the end of Reaganomics with its emphasis on privatisation and other right-wing policies that has contributed to the decline of the functions, capacity, integrity and performance of the public sector, as well as the widening gap between the rich and the poor. For instance, a cornerstone of Obama’s policies is universal healthcare.

Malaysia, which was heavily influenced by Reaganomics during the Mahathir years, should take heed of the lessons from Obama’s election and re-look/reassess our privatisation policy. In addition, it is also important that the government provides public goods, such as universal education, public transport and medical services.

Thirdly, this election also saw the increased participation of its citizens in exercising their democratic rights through the influence of new technologies, particularly the Internet.

Perhaps Malaysia should take a leaf out of the US’ book with regard to the increase of newly registered voters. At the moment, of the 15 million Malaysians above 21 years old, only 11 million or so are registered voters. Of that number, only about 7 million turned out to vote during the March General Election.

This practice is unhealthy for the functioning of a democracy and must be changed.

* Liew Chin Tong, DAP International Secretary & MP for Bukit Bendera