For the last 50 years since Malaysia’s independence, the power gap between citizens and the government has systematically increased with laws and policies disempowering the people. The civil service is used as pawns and tools for the ruling government to implement its policies with little or no accountability mechanism in place. There is also scant regard to citizens’ participation in its processes.
The citizenship education programme was developed to address the expressed needs and observations that the Malaysian public, in general are not aware and informed about the political relations, structures and their basic rights to participate in governance in the country.
This was evident especially after the political landscape dramatically changed after Malaysia’s 12th General Elections (GE) where for the first time in 50 years, 5 states came under the control of the opposition party coalition (Pakatan Rakyat).
Civil society groups and progressive politicians including their party leadership seize the opportunity to empower the citizens to participate in developing local policies, participating in local governance and determining their development.
The Cit Ed Programme was conceptualized and implemented since 2009. During this phase, 2 rounds of consultation meetings were carried out with 3 carefully identified local municipal/district councils in the Selangor and Penang State in Malaysia.
Four Public Service Announcements (PSA) short videos and one comic booklet published in 4 languages were produced as resource materials to support future Cit Ed workshops and community education sessions.
A social documentary video “After the Tsunami” about the post March 8th elections was also produced as an important tool to facilitate public awareness and education about citizenship awareness, rights and participation in local governance and determining the development of their respective communities.
In the consultation meetings, local councilors, government officials, elected representatives and community and resident leaders were invited to participate in the deliberations, identification of issues and also designing the content for the resource materials and tools.
This programme is especially targeted to the citizentry including local community leaders, resident associations, and other civil society organisations. It is also aimed at engaging with elected representatives, and government at the local, state and even national level such as the Parliament members, State Assemblymen, local councilors and their staff members.
The first phase of the programme had targeted 3 local councils in Selangor, and Penang as a piloting phase. For 2011, we will be expanding to other councils in Penang, Selangor, Perak, Sarawak, Kedah and Kelantan.