On 30th August 2018, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, received a FORSEA delegation comprising of Mr Hishamuddin Rais and Mr Tan Wah Piow. At the meeting which lasted for 80 minutes, Dr Mahathir was presented with a copy of the FORSEA’s Peoples’ Charter, and was briefed about the organisation’s aims to encourage the democratisation of the region.
During the meeting, Hishamuddin Rais formally invited Dr Mahathir to be the keynote speaker at FORSEA’s Inaugural Conference, which is now set for February 16, 2019 in Kuala Lumpur. The Prime Minister readily accepted the invite, and his impending attendance is now confirmed.
At the press conference held outside the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya where the meeting took place, Tan Wah Piow, a Singapore dissident and exile told Sinpapore’s Channel New Asia:
As far as I’m concerned, the most important things that Tun Mahathir brought about through the victory is this positiveness and aspiration for a freer Society.
Personally, I am very grateful for this open, democratic space that Tun Mahathir’s government has opened and it’s a beacon for many who are struggling for democracy: not just in Singapore, but also in other parts of Southeast Asia.
During the photo session with Dr Mahathir, he cracked a joke that Hishammuddin Rais, who was instrumental in arranging the meeting, was previously detained by him during his earlier premiership. At the 14th Malaysian General Elections, May 9, 2018, which brought an end to 61 years of UMNO dominance, Hishammudin worked closely with Dr Mahathir during the campaign. Also present at the meeting where four prominent young Singaporeans who were invited by Tan Wah Piow to join the dialogue with Dr Mahathir.
The meeting attracted wide media interest in both Malaysia and Singapore. Media reported that this is probably the most prominent engagement so far where Malaysia is being seen as a beacon for change in the region.
FORSEA will work to establish ties with different communities, learning from one another, and find ways to come up with concrete plans to achieve goals of building a just, fair and democratic region.
The next step is the official launch of FORSEA, 15-16 February 2019. Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, Malaysian Prime Minister, will grace the occasion by giving an opening speech at the launch.