Activist-cum-lawyer Siti Kasim wanted a pressure group to reflect the voice of progressive and liberal Malaysians that is being drowned by those with racial and religious agendas.
With that in mind, she set up the Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity Foundation (Maju) on August 28.
Reception has been encouraging. To date, some 600 supporters have gotten on board, and Maju continues to gain traction.
“That’s encouraging in a way for a new organisation. People are quite keen,” Siti told The Malaysian Insight.
Maju was inspired by the American Civil Liberties Union, founded by deaf and blind activist, author and lecturer Helen Keller, to defend and preserve the rights of individuals and the liberties guaranteed to every person under the US constitution.
“Maju is more like a pressure group. A pressure group with the voice of Malaysians, the progressives, the moderates and the liberals,” said Siti.
“I think right now, people notice that the voices of the conservatives or the ones who have their own agenda, which is to play up racial and religious issues, are louder, and there is no proper channel for them to speak up.”
Siti and her comrades aim to educate people on their rights as citizens, as there is a lack of knowledge among Malaysians on such matters.
“We are also going to teach people about empowerment, rights and knowledge because we realise that many are not knowledgeable about their rights, and they’re so scared to say anything for fear of being arrested, caught, stuff like that,” she said.
She hopes the government will take notice of Maju as representing the voice of those who voted for it.
While Siti has long-term plans for the organisation, in the interim, however, the focus will be on holding seminars, conferences and talks to create awareness.
On that note, Maju will host its first talk on November 13, to let people know what the organisation is all about.
As part of its long-term plan, the group aims to set up a legal defence fund for civil liberties.
“If we feel that the case brought to us is of public interest, then we will take it on and we will fund that case,” said Siti.
“For example, nobody actually knows about the action of nuisance. And, we see there is a scenario where there is a nuisance situation, for example, if there is a corporate body setting up a business beside someone’s home, and it is affecting the home environment of this person.
“We can try to help this person who does not know what to do about the disturbance they are facing.”
Asked if there are any prominent faces in Maju besides herself, Siti said none of the council members is a personality.
“I purposely started Maju with no prominent names because we don’t want to be associated with the kind of politics that people have. So, none of the council members is known, except me.
“Maju is a vision that I have been fighting for, for all Malaysians. We have been trying to tell the government not to politicise religion and race because that is the cause of all our problems.”
She added that it is important to create awareness on divisive political rhetoric and ensure nobody’s rights are exploited.
“We have to teach the public why we are telling the government not to do this, so that they understand.
“We are not against religion or anybody, but it is not good for the future of our country when we allow politicians to play up religious issues.
“They are taking advantage of these issues because they want to hold on to power.” – TMI