For videos, recaps and other coverage of the 2008 forum, check out the NMF 2008 blog archives!

Date: March 29-30, 2008

Theme: Changing Freedoms in Malaysia

Venue: Harvard University, Boston, MA

Confirmed Speakers/Teleconferencees:

Invited Speakers:

  • Zainah Anwar, Founding Member, Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  • Azly Rahman, Doctorate in International Education Development at Columbia University
  • Meredith Weiss, Research Fellow, East-West Center Washington DC


  • Dato’ Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia Berhad
  • Bridget Welsh, Assistant Professor in the Southeast Asia Program at Johns Hopkins University
  • Karim Raslan, lawyer, columnist and author
  • Malik Imtiaz, human rights lawyer
  • Premesh Chandran, CEO and co-founder
  • Mark Chang, CEO Jobstreet
  • Jeff Ooi, blogger
  • Colin Nicholas, Coordinator, Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)

Brief biographies of the speakers and teleconferencees are also available.Tentative Agenda:

Saturday 29th March Day 1
Boston (EST) Malaysia (MST)
8:00 a.m. 8:00 p.m. Registration
8:30 a.m. 8:30 p.m. Opening Speech and Welcome
9:00 a.m. 9:00 p.m. First Teleconference session

Premesh Chandran/Jeff Ooi

Mark Chang

Colin Nicholas

Karim Raslan

12:30 p.m. Lunch (provided)
1:30 p.m. Invited Speakers

Meredith Weiss

Azly Rahman

3:30 p.m. Second Teleconference session

Bridget Welsh

4:15 p.m. 5:30 p.m. First Discussion Workshop session

Break for dinner (not provided)

7:00 p.m. Reception/Mixer (semi-formal attire requested)
Sunday 30th March Day 2
Boston (EST) Malaysia (MST)
8:00 a.m. Breakfast
8:30 a.m. 8:30 p.m. Third Teleconference Session

Tony Fernandes

Malik Imtiaz

10:00 a.m. Invited Speakers

Zainah Anwar

11:00 a.m. Second Discussion Workshop session
12:30 p.m. Presentation of Proposals
2:00 p.m. Goodbye Speech/Group Picture/Departure


Now that the 50th Merdeka parade has passed us by, what’s next?

A half-century after independence, we have come a long way from the fishing villages and mining towns that once defined our country. There have been great strides in development, both social and economic, that have transformed Malaysia into one of the most respected countries in the Southeast Asian region. As young Malaysians who have had the opportunity of work and study in the United States, we recognize the great potential of our country, but we also know that there is a long way to go.

The questions we hear today, whether in Parliament or mamak stalls, are the same questions as those asked 30 years ago. And yet the answers, or, the search for answers, have become more necessary. When bloggers are hauled for questioning because of comments on their websites and young men are threatened with citizenship revocation because of a YouTube video, it is evident that changes in the Malaysian sociopolitical climate affect us, the citizens of Malaysia, more than ever.

The international media recently published several articles about Malaysia at 50. One particularly scathing editorial in the Economist, entitled “Tall buildings, narrow minds”, blasted the government for “treating a third of its people as not-quite-citizens”. Other articles suggested searching for a “new impetus” for the next half-century, a gentle reminder that our relative economic prosperity was not a guarantee for our country’s future stability.

And it seems that the search for a “new impetus” should be treated not just as a suggestion, but as a practical solution for the problems we face. In a country where multiculturalism has become a bane rather than a boon and religion has started to tear apart instead of build up, we need a new common understanding, a new reason to build a nation not yet fully founded.

What should our role be, as global citizens and Malaysians, in the search for this new impetus? How do we, outside of its geographical constraints, contribute to the development of Malaysian civil society? Who should our role models be, and why? What has changed, and what do we want to change?

The hope of the Northeast Malaysia Forum is that these questions, and their answers, will arise during formal and informal discussion through our networks and the annual forum, held this year in Boston, MA.