‘Strengthening Democracy in Malaysia: The Role of Civil Society’ by Dato’ Dr. Muthiah Alagappa

Date:  Friday, 20 September 2013

Time:  8:00 pm

Place:   Impiana Hotel, Ipoh
@ RM50/- per person (inclusive of dinner)


The lecture will first discuss in general terms the principles of democracy, relevant provisions in the constitution, and the practice of democracy in Malaysia since 1957. Identifying areas of weaknesses, the lecture will then explore ways to strengthen democracy in Malaysia with particular attention to electoral democracy, democratic governance, and democratization of the state. It will be argued that consolidation of democracy requires making the democratic process the only game in town. This will be followed by a discussion of the place and role of civil society in a democratic state with particular reference to the role of civil society in broadening and deepening democracy in Malaysia.  Selective comparisons will be made with the role of civil societies in fostering democracy in other Asian countries. An argument will be made that civil society is not necessarily supportive of democracy. It can both expand and contract democratic space.


Dato’ Dr. Muthiah Alagappa is Tun Hussein Onn Chair in International Studies at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Concurrently he is non-resident Senior Associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington D.C. From 2006 to 2010, he was Distinguished Senior Fellow at the East-West Center. Prior to that he was founding director of East-West Center Washington and director of the integrated research program in East-West Center Honolulu. He has held visiting professorships in Columbia University, Stanford University, Keio University in Tokyo, and the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He was Leverhulme visiting professor in Bristol University in 2008 and held the Kippenberger Visiting Chair in the School of Government in Victoria University, New Zealand in 2010-2011.Before his academic career Dr. Alagappa served in the Malaysian Armed Forces from 1962 to 1982. He held field, command, and staff positions including senior army member defense planning staff in the Ministry of Defense and command of three signals regiments.With extensive experience in research management in the United States, Dr. Alagappa’s research interests span comparative and international politics. He has published widely in highly reputed international journals and university presses. His recent publications include The Long Shadow: Nuclear Weapons and Security in 21st Century Asia (2009), Civil Society and Political Change in Asia: Expanding and Contracting Democratic Space (2004), and Asian Security Order: Instrumental and Normative Features (2003) all published by Stanford University Press.  Dr. Alagappa has a PhD degree in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University and a MA in Politics from the University of Lancaster in the United Kingdom. Whilst in the military he attended the British Army Staff College in Camberly. His early schooling was in the Federation Military College, Port Dickson, Clifford School, Kuala Kangsar and the Gandhi Memorial Tamil School also in Kuala Kangsar.