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Recently my party colleague, Kenneth Lin, and I attended a Climate Change workshop in Bali, Indonesia, conducted by the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) Youth from 19 to 21 August 2016.
Dubbed as the island of the Gods, Bali has so much to offer with its breathtaking scenery and amazing tranquility. It was also a good break for us from our hectic lifestyle at home. And to have the topic of launching a good campaign on social media in the itinerary was a bonus for attending this workshop. This is because at SDP, we rely heavily on social media to put our message across, especially during elections when mainstream media would often portray us in a bad light. It’s on cyber platforms that we are able to relate to the people of our activities and progress.
As it is with other CALD workshops and seminars that I have attended, I get to meet other liberals and democrats from other countries and organisations, familiar faces and new ones too. Many of us are acquainted with one another and some of us are in contact on a regular basis, thanks to the power of social media like Facebook. It is in the cyber world that we keep track of each other’s progress, at both the personal and party levels.
Among the new faces, I learned that there was a young former Member of Parliament who was also a former consultant to the Deputy Minister for Education. He is TankhunJitt-itsara from the Democratic Party, Thailand, and he was in his mid 30s when he was elected. His did not lose his seat in a subsequent election but was forced to vacate the seat during the military coup in 2014, so I was told. He recalled that during the election campaigning, his team relied much on social media but of course with a huge country like Thailand, one must never forget the sprawling rural areas too. As important as social media is today in this modern world, the orthodox method of walking the ground you’re contesting in is still a top priority.
At the workshop, there was another young leader who is currently the President of the International Federation of Liberal Youth. She is 27-year-old Pauline Kastermans who is the International Officer of D66, Dutch Democratic Party. She contested as the youngest candidate to the European Parliament on the list of D66. She set up a personal political campaign with a team of 15 volunteers, and managed communication strategy: website, newsletter, writing and circulating press articles, as well as participated in (televised) debates and presentations. Her ideas towards online campaigns are fresh and got us thinking when she shared that she actually used Tinder, a dating site, to disseminate information of her campaign to the public and to gain support, especially from among the young.
Have you also heard of a successful online campaign to save the life of a Filipina who was used as a mule to smuggle drugs to Indonesia? Does #savingmaryjane sound familiar? It started when a team of online journalists from Rappler (Indonesia) headed by Natasya Guiterrez, its Bureau Chief, followed up on the case and the movement was born. She was invited to speak at this workshop to share tips on a successful online campaign. It was merely days before Mary Jane’s execution that she was saved from the firing squad in Indonesia, due mainly to public pressure and petitions after the launch of the online campaign.
Mary Jane is not a criminal but a victim of human trafficking. Her case sparked off an online campaign against human trafficking which I was involved in during a World Café session. We named the campaign #stopthetraffic. Human trafficking is among the many major problems nations face. We came up with many possibilities for us to make this movement workable and one of it is to strengthen national borders and identify corrupt officials publicly. Education of the people is fundamental in any issues that activists around the world undertake. We must educate the people, especially the young, on the ills of human trafficking.
While we are on the topic of politics among youths, young Singaporeans are among those who are least interested in politics. Coming from a first world nation, this is not something we are proud of nor is it normal. Given our highly- acclaimed education system, at least at the tertiary level, students should be able to express themselves freely about the country’s political situations and be given the chance to think of solutions out of the box other than be told what to do via their school textbooks.
As the title of the workshop suggests, there was the topic of Climate Change, which was a follow-up to COP21 that was agreed in Paris, France in Dec 2015. The talk was presented by Yani Saloh, a consultant for Sustainable Infrastructure Assistance and Forest Investments Programs, Asian Development Bank and former Assistant Special Staff to former Indonesian President Yudhoyono for Climate Change. Climate change might not sound like a critical issue in the near future, but it is very important that we take note of its consequences: rising sea levels, scorching weather, and water scarcity, to name a few. It is therefore imperative that we do our part to fight climate change.
Jufri Salim is a CEC member of the SDP.