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Leadership changes merely cosmetic: Hishamuddin Rais

Kuala Lumpur, 14 Nov 2008: Filmmaker, writer and Reformasi activist Hishamuddin Rais said that changes in the country’s leadership don’t necessarily bring about fundamental transformations.

Speaking at a forum yesterday entitled Reformasi’lah! Membincangkan (lagi) 10 Tahun Reformasi Malaysia dan Indonesia, Hishamuddin said that changes in leadership are merely cosmetic rather than structural.

“The change of leadership, for example between (Tun Dr) Mahathir Mohamad and (Datuk Seri) Abdullah Badawi was only a cosmetic change. It didn’t bring about anything fundamental [in terms of changes],” he said.

Hishamuddin said the Reformasi movement of 1998 fell short of achieving its purpose of political reform, because the results, which saw a change of personalities, have not helped to improve the country’s economic structure.

“Even if (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim becomes the prime minister, he’ll be no better than Abdullah or (Datuk Seri) Najib Razak if he doesn’t bring about structural fundamental changes,” he said.

“What changed were only leaders, but the capitalist system stayed as it is,” he added.

However, Hishamuddin said that the 1998 movement opened the door to other developments, such as the realisation of people power and the courage to question the status quo and oppressive laws.

“After 1998, for the first time the Malays started to question the use of Internal Security Act (ISA). This is a fundamental change,” he said.

Hishamuddin was detained under the ISA in April 2001 for helping to organise the Reformasi street demonstrations. He was released in June 2003.

Another result of the Reformasi movement, Hishamuddin said, was the people’s manifestation of dissatisfaction against the government, shown in the March 2008 general election.

“The (Pakatan Rakyat) victory in March is a result of 1998′s Reformasi,” he said.

The forum was held at The Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.

Other speakers included two Indonesian Reformasi activists, Ngurah Termana from Bali, and Yoshi Fajar Kresno Murti from Yogyakarta.

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