A total of RM30,000 was raised through the Malaysiakini Chinese edition’s fifth anniversary dinner last night for the newly-established Journalists and Writers Support Group for Indigenous People.
The group is led by former RTM2 TV producer Zhou Z Lam, whose documentary on the plight of indigenous people affected by the controversial Bakun Dam project was axed after a few episodes were aired.
“We are dedicating tonight’s dinner to a group of Malaysians who are one of the most powerless, most marginalised and most isolated communities in our country – the people of Bakun.
“We hope that the money which we raise will go to fund journalists to help the indigenous peoples tell their stories, to give them a voice.
“After all, journalism is about giving a voice for the voiceless,” Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan told a sell-out crowd of 700 people who packed the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.
Gan said that an austerity drive had to be undertaken to ensure that the funding target was met and that Malaysiakini staff had to double as emcees for the event.
“I thank you for your support. You have filled up 70 tables. I thank each and every one of you,” he said.
Penan man: Help us!
One of those affected by the Bakun Dam, Harry Wing Miku from the Sungai Asap Penan settlement, moved the crowd with his story of hardship faced by his community.
For example, Miku (left) said that many students are forced to drop out from school while many people are now having trouble feeding their families.
“However, the state and federal governments never resolved any problems faced by us, they were busy trying to make a profit from the dam,” he said.
He also urged the numerous elected representatives and media practitioners present to make their problems known to the country.
Editor: Journalists are like doctors
In his speech, Malaysiakini Chinese edition founder and editor Yong Kai Ping said that journalists are akin to doctors in the emergency room.
Yong (left) said the Malaysiakini Chinese edition had played an important role in exposing corruption and highlighting the plight of marginalised communities.
“For the next five years, we would like to do more investigative journalism, provide a bigger space for dialogue and continue to be the voice of the ordinary Malaysian,” said Yong.
He also urged the public to help bona fide independent news organisations such as Malaysiakini and Merdeka Review by providing financial support.
Prominent politicians present at the dinner included Selangor state legislative assembly speaker Teng Chang Khim, Selangor exco member Elizabeth Wong, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, Petaling Jaya Selatan MP Hee Loy Sian, Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng, Rawang assemblyperson Gan Pei Nei, Kajang assemblyperson Lee Kim Seen, Chuah assemblyperson Chai Tong Chai and Pantai Jerajak assemblyperson Sim Tze Sin.
Gerakan Federal Territories secretary Dr Wong Ruen Yuan and representatives from MCA were also present.
Other personalities includes Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission advisor Robert Phang, Suaram director Kua Kia Soong, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall chairperson Tan Yew Sin and prominent grassroots activist Ong Boon Keong.
Malaysiakini cartoonist Zunar (right) took the opportunity to sign copies of his controversial ‘Cartoon-o-phobia’, which is being investigated under the Sedition Act.
Prior to the dinner, Malaysiakini Chinese edition organised the inaugural Asia Chinese New Media Conference which saw participation from about 100 leading Chinese new media practitioners including those from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Singapore.