Launching of the First Speakers’ Corner in Malaysia

Speech by YAB Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang at Speakers’ Corner Opening Ceremony on 04 May 2010

1. I wish to thank all of you for being here to witness the historic launching ceremony of the first Speakers’ Corner in Malaysia today. This auspicious day marks an important history in George Town’s colorful chapter of political change since March 2008 where the Speakers’ Corner represents the platform of democracy for all Malaysians, the aspirations to enjoy the right to freedom of expression and the hopes of all Malaysians for a civil society.

2. With the Speakers’ Corner, the rakyat will have the opportunity to express their views and opinions freely whilst ensuring that their rights are being protected. Speakers’ Corner should be an avenue to allow the citizens and individuals to have gatherings and candle vigil peaceful demonstrations, press conference, various other forms of peaceful and artistic forms of expression and to demonstrate their citizens’ rights.

3. It is time for Penang to show the rest of Malaysia that the thrust of participatory democracy is alive and well in this state and it embraces the value of freedom and human rights. Let’s not consider the Speakers’ Corner as just another platform like Hyde Park in London but an important milestone for democracy and free speech in Penang and Malaysia.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

4. Penang PR’s people-centric state government is based on 3E’s of Empowering the people, Enriching the rakyat and Enabling the people. The Speakers’ Corner fulfills the aspirations of empowering the people by encouraging citizens to exercise their constitutional rights under Article 10 (1)(a) of the Federal Constitution of freedom of speech and expression and Article 10 (1)(b) where all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably.

5. Penang State Government entrust the citizens of Penang will make use of this Speakers’ Corner responsibly to demonstrate their views, exercise their rights by giving them the voice to speak. They should be mindful that the police can take action because the police have said that they are unable to provide any legal immunity from prosecution. I wish to urge the police to exercise judicious discretion and allow views to be freely expressed.

6. The Speakers’s Square may result in unfair criticisms, including of the state government. I believe that we are all mature enough to listen to different views and allow people the freedom to express them freely. We hope this will give us the most important freedom of all, which is the freedom from fear.

7. I have always said that a good government must do three things:- listen to the people, do the people’s work and give hope to the people. The Speakers’ Corner serves as a catalyst to the growing spirit of democracy throughout Penang and the willingness of the state government to listen to the people to be a good government.

8. As Voltaire was reputed to have said on free speech, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Last but not least, I wish to thank the Police, the Local Authority and the NGOs that have worked together to establish a Speakers’ Square in George Town.

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