Youth Organizations as a Starting Point to Formal Politics: A Case of Malaysia

Abstract: 
Civil society is an important agent for development, capable of ensuring national stability, and sovereignty to support progress and development. However, studies of civil society including youth organizations in Malaysia are rare in comparison to other areas. The under-researched nature of this area strengthens the interest in examining youth organizations and their contribution to Malaysian political development. This study investigates the values, practices and characteristics of the civil society, especially the young people, in Malaysian political development. The main proposition of this study is that youth organizations play a significant role in Malaysian political development such as creating awareness and interest to formal and informal politics. Although the presence of informal groupings of youth is found in Malaysian society, this paper focuses on formal youth organizations because they are the major components of structured-organizations of the civil society or the non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These NGOs have comprehensive coverage geographically and inclusive of rural areas. The research employs a mixed-methods technique to address both primary and secondary data. These primary and secondary data are analyzed through independent and integrative analyses as such triangulation enhances the reliability and validity of the findings.
Main Article: 

Introduction

Civil society is an important agent for development. It is also known as ‘shock absorber’, capable of lending a certain protection to the government (Turiman, 1991: 21). It is capable of ensuring national stability and sovereignty[ii] to support progress and development of a nation[iii] (as shown in Figure 1). Putnam claims that “civil associations contribute to the effectiveness and stability of democratic government, both because of their ‘internal’ effects on individual members and because of their ‘external’ effects on the wider polity. Internally, associations instil in their members habits of cooperation, solidarity, and public-spiritedness”[iv] (Putnam, 1993: 89, Kwon, 2004: 139). However, research in the area of civil society is rare in Malaysia as compared to other areas. For example, Samiul Hasan (2004) of the Asia-Pacific Philanthropy Information Network (APPIN) has stated that third sector research in Malaysia is still ‘unexplored’ and much remains to be done. APPIN[v], under his coordination, has established an overview of civil society organizations and its activities in Malaysia and other Asia-Pacific nations.

The under-researched nature of this area strengthens the interest in examining this subject through the lens of youth organizations and their contribution to Malaysian political development. This paper investigates the values, practices and characteristics of civil society, especially youth organizations in Malaysian political development[vi]. The main proposition of the study is that youth organizations play a significant role in Malaysian political development[vii]. It focuses on youth organizations because they are the major components of the civil society or NGOs[viii] in Malaysian context. In Malaysia, ‘politics’ is a ‘synonym’ for formal politics. It is generally understood as formal politics (to do with political parties), although we are aware that political involvement actually includes political interest, civic roles and the role of being good citizens[ix], and the processes by which groups of people make decisions[x] about the exercise of power and influence which involves both formal and informal politics. Hence, some part of the discussion in this paper pays particular attention to formal politics. Due to the political functioning of youth/NGOs (both formal and informal), the discussion uses the term ‘formal politics’ to highlight or emphasize, when the distinction between formal and informal politics is necessary.

Figure 1: Civil Society (Youth Organizations) - A Stabilisation Agent for Development

In examining the contribution of youth organizations to political development, this paper investigates the role of youth organizations in creating awareness and interest in politics leading to the involvement of youth leaders and members in formal politics.

Methodology

This study employed the mixed-method, utilising both primary and secondary resources. The mode of investigation was dominated with qualitative tools and complement with quantitative instruments or symbolised as ‘QUAL+quan’ (see Johnson et al., 2007: 124). Interviews and two sets of questionnaires were involved to acquire primary data while secondary data from historical materials, media resources, published and unpublished works were consulted in this mixed-method. Set 1 were respondents who related themselves as activists of youth organization/NGOs, and Set 2 were those who related themselves to be involved in formal politics. 25 interviews and 135 questionnaires were engaged in getting the primary data. The data collected from different resources were analysed with independent analysis and integrated analysis. Pierce (2008: 48) claimed that corroboration of sources and data triangulation provide adequate answers and enhance research quality.

Contributions to Political Development

This section examines youth organizations’ contribution to formal and informal politics, such as creating awareness and interest leading to direct involvement in formal politics. It also investigates other political functions and benefits provided by youth organizations to their members and leaders such as involvement in decision-making, and leadership and skills training. There were a few politicians, including a Minister, who claimed that involvement in youth organizations was not the main motivation for their involvement in formal politics, but they admitted that their involvement had certainly helped their political career. They unanimously agreed that the involvement in youth organizations built their confidence and provided them exposure, public speaking and other leadership skills. It is said that youth [organization] is useful as a training ground to be a leader which is also their first experience in leading a group of people.

An informant described his involvement in the students’ union activities during his university years overseas as fun and exciting. He participated in demonstrations, took part in strikes and debates when he disagreed with the policy imposed on students by the government [of the country he studied in]. He pointed out that this environment is somewhat lacking in Malaysia and that demonstrations are seen as a bad thing[xi]. He and other informants commented that the University and College University Act 1971 (AUKU) has constrained the freedom of student leadership and it needs reviewing. They said the majority of the students were upset with the Act, although not every student is interested in politics. Mahathir admitted that he was the one who introduced the Act (AUKU) when he was the Minister of Education (Mahathir: 18 August 2008). He claimed that the Act was introduced in 1971 because the Malay students then were active in politics, involved in street demonstrations and political activities that led to a wasted of their time and neglect of studies. Contemporarily, he said the Act could be abolished because students are more mature and responsible these days (Mahathir: 18 August 2008).

These experiences and concerns demonstrate that young people, college and university students have the desire to ‘get power’ and make changes related to government policies, politics and political development. They are energetic and often act collectively as a pressure group. Hence, this study investigates the credibility of youth leadership in meeting such a demand, i.e. making a connection to formal politics. It examines the relationship between the involvement in youth/NGOs and involvement in politics.

Youth Organizations – A Starting Point in Politics

The informants acknowledged that youth organizations have created an interest in both formal and informal politics, one of the main starting points for the involvement in formal politics. Respondents of both sets of questionnaires were asked to state their degree of approval on the statements, with a score of 1 for ‘very true’ and 5 for ‘not true at all’[xii]. The responses from respondents were examined using independent and integrative analysis. They were asked to explain why they agreed (if they assigned 1 to 3) or disagreed (if they assigned 4 or 5) to each of the statements. This strategy enabled us to double-check[xiii], get more precise information on their level of approval as well as to avoid the respondents’ desire to remain ‘neutral’ or a fence-sitter (Marketing Research Roundtable, 2005). Their explanation is also useful in complementing the enquiry into the motivation for involvement in youth organizations/NGOs and formal politics.

The results were positive in that they showed that the majority of respondents (67.2%) viewed the youth organizations/NGOs contributing significantly for involvement in formal politics (see Table 1). From the results, it is apparent that respondents who aligned themselves to formal politics (i.e. respondents of Set 2) acknowledged a stronger view of the contribution of youth organizations/NGOs for their involvement in formal politics. For instance, 72.6% of the informants stated that participation in youth organizations/NGOs has created their interest in formal politics, and 69.4% admitted that it has further led to involvement in formal politics. Many informants emphasised that youth organizations were the major contributor to their involvement in formal politics. Aware of the possibility of the reverse correlation, an enquiry about the link between involvement in formal politics with involvement in youth organizations/NGOs was established. The results were positive (i.e. 70.3%) ,and, thus, politicians’ motivation for their involvement in youth organizations/NGOs is a valuable basis for investigation. However, this paper would not discuss it in detail because this is not its purpose.

Major Youth Organizations that Encourage Involvement in Formal Politics

When respondents were asked to name the youth organization that was most influential in encouraging them to become involved in formal politics, the leading ones named by respondents were Gerakan Belia 4B, MAYC, MBM (the Council), GBB, ABIM, MIYC, Saberkas, SANYA (now deregistered), YMM, and Junior Chambers. It is interesting that none of the uniformed bodies was named. When checked against the objectives of these uniformed bodies, based on the summary of organizations displayed in the Youth Museum (8 February 2007), it was found that they have common ground of primary objectives directed to character-building (in educational, physical and (mental) spiritual terms) and also proficiency tests and badges awarded to indicate skills acquired)[xiv]. The main objectives of these uniformed bodies demonstrate that political functions were not their main focus, because they emphasize the qualities of their members, and the provision of character development and asserted skills. Occasionally, a few respondents also named several youth-related organizations and non-affiliated bodies as contributors to formal political involvement, such as student unions (both local and overseas student unions), Rapena, Rotary (Rotaract) Club[xv], MINBT, local and geographical-based youth organizations and activities-based programs such as Rakan Muda[xvi]. It demonstrates that other youth organizations (non-affiliates of the Council) also contribute to involvement in formal politics, although they may not be the most popular or significant channels, as compared to the Council and its affiliates[xvii].

Gerakan Belia 4B (or commonly known as 4B)[xviii], topped the leader board in getting people involved in formal politics. 4B was established in 1965 by Mohd Kassim Shah in Malaysia, and formally registered on 12 April 1966 (Gerakan Belia 4B, 2007: 1). It was modelled on the concept of the ‘4H’ Club New York[xix]. Originally, it was intended to help rural youth in the agricultural sector and to unite Malay, Chinese and Indian youths through agricultural policies and activities (Gerakan Belia 4B, 2007: 2). Although 4B is formally a youth organisation open to all Malaysians, it is a Malay-dominated (and politician-dominated) organization[xx] (Gerakan Belia 4B, 2006: 4). It also aimed to prepare people for leadership in 4B at the district, state and national levels which could in turn advance to political party leadership (Gerakan Belia 4B, 2007: 2). Political leaders who were members of 4B have held important government positions, past and present[xxi]. At present, there are Ali Rustam (Chief Minister of the State of Malacca), Noh Omar (Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries) and Saifuddin Abdullah (Deputy Minister of Higher Education).

The respondents were also asked how the organizations in which they were involved had encouraged them into formal politics. They stated that it was through various channels and activities, including forum and motivation talk sessions. They claimed these events were organized to create awareness of the need to support ‘good’[xxii] (political) leaders and also aimed to search for good leaders (for political parties)[xxiii]. They said that politicians were invited to youth programs to meet the members of youth organizations. There also were invited sessions[xxiv] to which politicians came specifically to share their experiences with the organizations, to recruit young followers and solve organizational and members’ personal problems. One informant said that he was attracted to the politician’s glamour, wealth and respect, thereby his interest in gaining such a social status. He also said that the politician demonstrated his generosity in helping and ‘rescuing’ their organization and the poor people, sponsoring youth projects, providing aid to villagers and finding solutions for the needy. The politician’s deeds had motivated him to do the same. He became his follower and actively became involved in politics, and he became a respected State Assemblyman, was conferred a Datukship, and got involved in business and helped people. He said he was satisfied, and overall he has a good and busy life. He added that although he was no longer a YB[xxv] (at the time of interview), people already knew him and still approached him for help. He still has positions in other government-linked agencies, in his political party, running his own business and holding positions in various youth organizations/NGOs. His example might be a specific case, but it is unlikely to be a unique story.

Although politicians’ glamour might not be the main reason for involvement in politics, glamour and fame are significant elements of a politician’s life that might affect those inclined to be famous or wanting to have the ‘VIP feeling’. For example, another informant, elevated into a ministerial post shared his encounter. Originally from a rather humble background, he said that when he was still a school boy, in a rural village, his village was visited by Mahathir. He related that Mahathir came in an open-top jeep, wearing the ‘minister outfit’ or bush-jacket while they were queuing at the roadside waving Malaysian flags, to get a glimpse of the VIP[xxvi]. He said that he had admired Mahathir ever since, but to become a VIP was impossible because of the poor status of his family. He said his more realistic dream was to have a better life and social status, a respected profession and to chart a path out of poverty. He said he had never thought he would be appointed to a ministerial post, but was grateful for his achievement. He said that the encounter was motivating and fresh in his mind as he grew up, and even in the present-day. Indeed, it inspired him to study hard to free himself and his family from poverty, become involved in youth organizations and politics, although fame was not the main purpose for him to enter formal politics.

Besides these specific examples, this study engaged more respondents through questionnaires to get a wider exposure in the investigation, although there was no intention to generalize the findings. In terms of creating an interest in formal politics, 72.6% of the Set 2 respondents stated that youth organizations/NGOs generated their interest in politics and 69.4% acknowledged that their involvement in youth organizations/NGOs had led to their involvement in formal politics. These figures were higher than those for Set 1 respondents, with 63.2% and 67.3%, even though these were still high figures. The findings reflected the fact that some of the respondents of Set 1 were purely social activists, and had shown no interest in participating in formal politics. This trend is shown in Table 1, in that all three statements concerning participation in youth organizations/NGOs, and involvement in formal politics were positively correlated at a 99% level of confidence when they were tested together and as separate samples, with one exception. In Set 1, it was found that there was no significant correlation between the responses to A (involvement in youth organizations/NGOs creating interest in politics) and C (involvement in politics led to one’s involvement in youth organizations/NGOs). This finding demonstrates that some of the respondents were ‘pure’ social activists who did not participate in formal politics even though activism is clearly a political act, and suggests that there is an element of reservation in engaging the participation of politicians in youth organizations/NGOs, and they were suspicious of the presence of politicians in civil society organizations.

Respondents to this study mainly expressed the view that it was normal for politicians to participate in youth/NGOs[xxvii]. For example, a government officer claimed that a young politician made his presence in a youth organization with his mentor’s help. His mentor, a senior politician, is an important figure in youth organization circles and offered substantial help to secure the junior politician a high post[xxviii]. They reasoned that there were various motivations for politicians to participate in youth organizations/NGOs, and that their involvement was sometimes initiated by the organizations to utilize the politicians’ influence for publicity and access to government funds; and sometimes it was the politicians’ own initiative to gain support from people outside their political parties[xxix]. The politically-linked respondents were keen to rationalize their involvement in youth organization/NGO activities as necessary to help the organization and serve the people. However, more organization respondents had a slightly different view in that the majority viewed it as ‘wants’ rather than ‘needs’ within the political environment in Malaysia. Although the social activists did not deny the support and benefits which the presence of politicians in a civil society organization could bring, the situation was attributed to political control when funding and facilities were dependent on patron-client relationships. In their opinion, two main issues could be drawn from these observations. Firstly, the politicians were joining to control or gain support at the grassroots level. Secondly, they were invited to join so that the youth organizations/NGOs could gain easier access to funding and facilities. Many interviewees, including politicians, government officers and youth leaders, also acknowledged these claims.

Table 1: Participation in Youth/NGOs and Politics

    Set 1 Organisation Set 2 Politics Total (Set 1 & Set 2)
(A) Participation in youth/
NGOs has created one’s
interest in politics
YES
1
2
3
NO
4
5
63.2%
20.4%
22.4%
20.4%
36.8% 
28.6%
8.2%
72.6%
24.2%
29.0%
19.4%
27.4%
9.7%
17.7%
67.2
21.0%
26.9%
19.3%
32.8%
18.5%
14.3%
(B) Participation in youth/
NGOs has led to one’s
involvement in politics
YES
1
2
3
NO
4
5
67.3%
16.3%
24.5%
26.5%
32.7%
18.4%
14.3%
69.4%
24.2%
30.6%
14.5%
30.6%
11.3%
19.4%
67.2%
19.3%
27.7%
20.2%
32.8%
15.1%
17.6%
(C) Participation in politics
has led to one’s involvement
in youth/NGOs
YES
1
2
3
NO
4
5
75.5%
12.2%
34.7%
28.6%
24.5%
16.3%
8.2%
65.6%
16.4%
24.6%
24.6%
34.4%
14.8%
19.7%
70.3%
13.6%
30.5%
26.3%
29.7%
15.3%
14.4%

The politicians’ participation in youth organization/NGO activities, regardless of their motivations, demonstrates that their involvement benefits their political career, although they in turn might be needed to support youth organization/NGO obtain funding and access to certain infrastructural benefits on behalf of the organizations. These politicians might not be interested in the youth organization/NGO activity per se, but they were willing to be ‘actively’ engaged, making their presence felt and being influential, to gain grassroots support and popularity. The ‘pure’ social activists were more sceptical of the presence of politicians, accepting the possibility of certain positive impacts, but at the same time they were aware of potential threats and exploitation. They are always suspicious of the presence of politicians in youth organizations/NGOs.

Duration of Involvement in Youth Organizations/NGOs and Politics

In connection with the role of youth organizations as the starting point of involvement in formal politics, the duration of respondents’ involvement in formal politics and youth organizations/NGOs were compared. Respondents were asked to state how many years they had been involved in youth organizations/NGOs and formal politics. Besides determining the mean and median, this study also sought to find the proportion of respondent’s positions between involvement in youth organizations/NGOs and formal politics. In order to do so, it generated an additional variable by transforming the raw data into ranked data. The three possibilities for the rank are: 1. respondents involved in youth organizations/NGOs longer than formal politics; 2. respondents involved in formal politics longer than youth organizations/NGOs; and 3. respondents’ duration of involvement in both youth organizations/NGOs and formal politics being equal.

Table 2: Correlation between Variables: -Duration, Participation in Youth/NGOs and Politics

SN Set 1 Set 2 Total
  Organisation Politics (Set 1 & Set 2)
  A B C A B C A B C
A 0.772** 0.117 1 0.839** 0.723** 1 0.812** 0.464**
B 0.772** 1 0.343** 0.839** 1 0.779** 0.812** 1 0.589**
C 0.117 0.343** 1 0.723** 0.779** 1 0.464** 0.589** 1
D -0.272 -0.248 -0.126 -0.303* -0.177 -0.048 -0.291** -0.213* -0.073
E -0.541** -0.463* -0.256 -0.191 -0.281* -0.359** -0.282* -0.260*

* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level
** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level
A is Participation in youth/NGOs has created one’s interest in (formal) politics
B is Participation in youth/NGOs has led to one’s involvement in (formal) politics
C is Participation in (formal) politics has led to one’s involvement in youth/NGOs
D is Duration of involvement in youth/NGOs
E is Duration of involvement in (formal) politics

It is interesting to find that the duration of involvement in youth organizations/NGOs was longer than involvement in formal politics (see Table 3)[xxx]. When the two sets of respondents were analysed independently, it was found that politically-linked respondents had a stronger involvement in both youth organizations/NGOs and formal politics[xxxi]. Interactive analysis found that more respondents indicated that their involvement in youth organizations/NGOs was longer than formal politics, which amounted to 41.4%. 13.5% respondents were engaged in both youth organizations/NGOs and formal politics during the same duration of time. 11.7% respondents indicated that they had been active in formal politics before joining the youth organizations/NGOs[xxxii]. That more respondents were involved in youth organizations/NGOs prior to involvement in formal politics demonstrates that youth organizations/NGOs are the starting point of involvement in formal politics.

Table 3: Duration of Involvement in Youth/NGOs and Politics

  Set 1 Organisation Set 2 Politics Total(Set 1 & Set 2)
Duration of involvement in youth/NGOs [Mean]
[Median]
[Range]
11.6 years
8.5 years
0-45 years
13.1 years
10.0 years
0-45 years
12.4 years
10.0 years
0-45 years
Duration of involvement in politics [Mean]
[Median]
[Range]
6.0 years
0.0 years
0-40 years
11.9 years
10.0 years
0-40 years
10.2 years
8.0 years
0-40 years
Pearson Correlation between Duration of involvement in youth/NGOs and Duration of involvement in Politics 0.795** 0.711** 0.733**

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level

Conclusion

This study found that there was a close relationship between youth organizations and political development, and their roles and contributions in both formal and informal politics. It is evident that youth organizations play a role in establishing an interest and involvement in formal politics, offering leadership skills and exposure to their members to develop national political leadership roles. While youth organizations are well-structured in that they reach out to the grassroots levels, they have both the potential and credibility to play the role of leaders in the Malaysian community. However, their function is subject to the will of the youth leadership, as well as the political will of the government and policy-makers. Youth organizations and civil society organizations need to work together to form a greater force and pressure to monitor the political system in order keep politicians on both sides in check.[xxxiii]. This role is an important contribution of social powers exercising their political functions (Pierson, 1989: 40-41) that is indeed needed for good governance in Malaysia. In fact, Peter and Susan Calverts have claimed that a government can only survive with the presence of a healthy civil society, in which individuals and groups are able to exist openly and pursue their interests free from the fear of arbitrary power (Calvert and Calvert, 2001: 154). Hence, the presence of youth organizations and other NGOs is essential to the political development of a country like Malaysia.

Appreciation to Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) for supporting the research and partially sponsor the expenses to the 9th International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR), Istanbul, Turkey held on 7-10 July 2009. The authors are grateful to those who offered constructive comments and criticisms on the paper, especially the participants of the conference.

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Youth Museum (2007), Personal Visit and Information Search at Youth Museum, Malacca, on 8 February 2007.

End Notes

[i] Janice Nga, the corresponding author, is an academic at the School of Business and Economics, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Malaysia. Terry King and Mike Parnwell are Professors at the Department of East Asian Studies, the University of Leeds, United Kingdom. (Email: janicenga@yahoo.com, janice@ums.edu.my). Paper presented at the 9th International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR), Istanbul, Turkey held on 7-10 July 2009.

[ii] Sovereignty is defined more widely to include reforms, as and when needed, for the sake of the country and the people (not the ruling party or authority at all times) i.e. civil protest in the Philippines to restore national sovereignty by ending authoritarian rule and reintroducing electoral democracy and market reforms (Hutchison, 2001: 42). It has been stated that the Philippine civil society is the most vigorous and open in South-East Asia (Hedman, 2006: 2, 5; Hutchison, 2001: 64). Also see Prof. Johan’s comment on civil society in Thailand (The Star: 20 September 2006). Civil society in Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines is more vibrant than the weaker civil society of Malaysia (Lee, 2004: 21; Verma, 2004: 8, 12, 207).

[iii] Cheah (2004: 1) quoting Rupert Emerson, defined nation as “a community of people who belong together, share deeply many elements of culture and outlook and feel that they have common destiny for the future”.

[iv] Following Putnam’s work which links participation in social organisations with support for democracy and the effectiveness of government, it inspires others to pursue the research in this direction (Bernhard and Karakoc 2007: 542).

[v] The country consultants of Malaysia are Mohd Yusof Kasim and Janice Nga. For more information, visit http://www.business.uts.edu.au/cacom/publications/CACOM2005ANNUALREPORT.... [Initially, it was also available at http://www.asianphilanthropy.org/appc/appin.html, however it is no longer accessible from July 2008].

[vi] This study is aware that the notion of civil society or youth organisations is often associated with social welfare and its provision  (Lewis, 2006: 13; Lin and Nugent, 1995: 2362; Nga and King, 2007: 5).

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[vii] It is important to distinguish youth organisations from the youth wing of a political party. Although both may be termed ‘youth organisation’ in English, the Malay language is clearer as the former is normally referred to as ‘belia’ while the latter is referred to as ‘pemuda’. To avoid possible misunderstanding, the term ‘youth/NGOs’ are used in the self-administered questionnaires to indicate that it refers to non-governmental youth organisations. 

[viii] Non-governmental organisations or NGOs is a term accepted in Malaysia to represent any form of civil society organisation (Khir Toyo: 9 February 2009; CPPPN, 1998: 440; Hodgkinson and Painter, 2003: 2; Martinez 2001: 474; Mitlin et al., 2007: 1699, 1701; The Star: 25 March 2009a; Marwell, 2004: 266; Turiman, 1991: 1, 19). This clarification is important because NGO was the term used in my fieldwork such as in questionnaires and interviews.

[ix] Turiman (1991: 33) claimed a political role is not merely joining political parties but includes civic roles. Engster (2004: 128) also claimed that “human beings are political animals who depend upon community with others for their development and well-being”.

[x] John Friedmann’s (1995: 27) diagram of the domains of social practice offers a helpful explanation of political involvement. He explained that political community is inclusive of political power, political organisations and social movements.

[xi] Incidents and evidence from Malaysian news reports validate his comments (for example, see The Star: 22 November 2007, 26 May 2009, 27 May 2009; Utusan Malaysia Online: 21 February 2008).

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[xii] The study made it obvious that a score of 1, 2 and 3 represented their approval while 4 and 5 represented their disagreement with the statements.

[xiii] For example, if a respondent stated that participation in formal politics was merely based on personal motivation or interest, then the degree of (dis)approval should have been assigned either 4 or 5. This strategy is useful to check respondents’ answers.

[xiv] Field researcher choose to use the summary (of these organisations) of the display board available in the Youth Museum because there was limited space [one display board per affiliate] to present the ‘most relevant’ description of each organisation to ‘represent’ them.

[xv] The Rotary Club has associated divisions according to age. For example, Rotaract Club for people aged 18–30 years old (see http://district3310.blogspot.com/). ‘Rotary Club’ is the more popular term in Malaysia.

[xvi] ‘Rakan Muda’(or ‘Young Friends’) was a government initiative, launched on 29 October 1994, to address teenagers problems (Youth Museum: 8 February 2007).

[xvii] There are also other venues and channels that may encourage an involvement in formal politics.

[xviii] 4B stands for ‘Bersatu, Belajar, Bekerja dan Berkhidmat’, literally meaning ‘united, learn, work and service’. Its motto is ‘Bergerak’ means ‘move or action’ (Gerakan Belia 4B, 2006: 1).

[xix] 4H started in 1856, beginning in New York with its theme ‘To Make the Best Better’. The concept was introduced to South East Asia in 1957 through the Far Eastern Youth Conference in Bangkok (Gerakan Belia 4B, 2007: 2).

[xx] For example, all its national Supreme Council members are Malays. Many of them are ministers, MPs and State Assemblymen (Gerakan Belia 4B, 2004: 1). 

[xxi] Previously, there were also 4B leaders who held prominent positions in the state and federal government such as Khir Toyo (former Chief Minister of Selangor, 2000–2008), Tajol Rosli (former Chief Minister of Perak, 1999–2008), and Idris Haron (former Deputy Minister of Higher Education, 2008–2009) and so on.

[xxii] It is common for the politicians to promote themselves as good and their opponents as ‘not good’. In this case, it is the BN politicians who are dominant over the PR and label themselves better than their opponents. They (BN) are ‘good’ and the opponents (PR) are ‘not good’.

[xxiii] The political parties are mainly component parties of the ruling coalition BN especially UMNO.

[xxiv] These invited sessions and dialogue generally come with refreshments or food that funded by the politician as the guest of honour. Some politicians will give donations to the organisation instead of funding the expenses of the event so that they are seen as ‘invited’ though they may have initiated or requested such an event. There is one informant who described politicians as celebrities that, “the activities of the organisation ‘S’ were similar to events of celebrating political leaders.” However, it was admitted that, “it was a good strategy to get money, in fact the best way to get money.” Other similar remarks from a respondent include, “A politician is the bridge to government funding and support, one (everything) needs political influence”.

[xxv] YB is ‘Yang Berhormat’, a salutation and common reference for elected State Assembly(wo)men, Members of Parliament and appointed Senators.

[xxvi] When he described the incident, he moved his hand in a gesture of waving flags.

[xxvii] Both sets of respondents showed a high percentage, but with different views in explaining their observations and experiences. It was interesting to find that 75.5% of Set 1 respondents felt that one’s participation in formal politics would lead to an involvement in youth/NGOs, as compared to 65.5% in Set 2.

[xxviii] See Nga 2009: 200, 206–207.

[xxix] This is an important informal political channel that comprises additional supporters and voters.

[xxx] At a 95% confidence level of t-test, no significant differences were found between the two sets of respondents in the measures to questions relating to the connection between formal politics and youth/NGOs. At a 99% confidence level, statistical results showed that there was a significant positive correlation between the duration of one’s involvement in youth/NGOs and formal politics whether the respondents were tested in separate or combined groups.

[xxxi] For example, respondents of organisations experienced an average of 11.6 years involvement in youth/NGOs as compared to 13.1 years in Set 2 politically-linked respondents. It was expected to find that Set 2 respondents were engaged in formal politics for a much longer period than Set 1 respondents, i.e., between 11.9 years as opposed to 6 years in formal politics. It is interesting to note that the median for the respondents of Set 1 were zero. This indicates that Set 1 respondents had quite a number of people who were purely social activists and therefore generally not involved in formal politics, although there was a significant presence of respondents who were involved in both formal politics and youth/NGOs. 

[xxxii] There were 33.3% of respondents who did not clearly indicate the duration of involvement in both youth/NGOs and formal politics. Respondents who only answered one sector of the question and left the other sector blank include those who were not involved in the sector which was left blank (whether in the section of politics or youth/NGOs). By taking into consideration this aspect, a separate set of statistics was generated by assigning zero to the relevant respondents who had only answered one side of the question. As a result, the valid percentage of respondents who were involved for a longer duration in youth/NGOs than politics was 72.1% as compared to 14.4% respondents with the opposite experience while 13.5% had equal experiences. It was interesting to note that their additional result was consistent with the original result that both claims showed increases after the adjustment (assigning the value of zero to the appropriate respondents). This clearly showed that respondents’ duration of involvement in youth/NGOs was longer than involvement in politics.

[xxxiii] Freeman (2005: 239) claimed civil society organisations are the best hope both for development and human rights protection. Civil society has been credited with responsibility for undermining authoritarian rules in some countries (Burnell, 2005: 196).