Sokong Team
Mon Apr 29 2024

A Journey of Activism and Advocacy: The Story of Engage

Human Rights
This article features :

In the heart of Johor Bahru, a group of impassioned individuals came together, driven by a common purpose: to cultivate an informed and engaged citizenry, tackle pertinent issues facing Johoreans, and amplify concerns about the environment and human rights. This collective effort gave birth to Engage, on 16 September 2013, an NGO committed to nurturing a community of conscientious citizens and advocating for their shared interests.

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A little history

The trajectory of Engage has been marked by a transformative journey, closely intertwined with the political landscape of Malaysia, particularly leading up to the 2018 General Elections. Embracing the winds of change, Engage threw its support behind Bersih, a civil society movement renowned for its advocacy of electoral reforms. This strategic collaboration catapulted Engage to the forefront of local activism, igniting dialogue on pivotal electoral issues and mobilising communities for change.

"At the core of Engage's endeavours was the Delineation Action and Research Team (DART) project, executed in partnership with Bersih," disclosed Mr. Thomas Fann, co-founder and current Chairperson of Engage. "DART aimed to challenge unjust delineation practices by the Elections Commission in the lead-up to the 2018 General Elections."


As part of the Bersih movement, Engage mobilised hundreds of objections from 2014 to 2018, effectively stalling the delineation process desired by then Prime Minister Najib Razak. Their concerted efforts resulted in a substantial surge in objections submitted, underscoring the nationwide impact of their work.

"DART was undeniably successful," remarked Mr. Fann. "We provided a template that empowered individuals to submit objections to the Election Commission, resulting in a remarkable increase from the previous tally of objections. This initiative not only delayed the delineation process but also laid bare the discrepancies in constituency distribution and exposed instances of gerrymandering."

Furthermore, Bersih and Engage lent support to legal actions against the Election Commission, particularly during state elections in Selangor. "In short, we jammed up the Election Commission," Mr. Fann added with a light-hearted chuckle.

Elected Bersih Chairperson in 2018, Mr. Fann was returned unopposed at the 2023 -2025 elections but resigned 10 days later on 19 November.

Present Day

Returning to lead Engage, to reaffirm its commitment to advocacy work with a renewed focus on supporting individuals in their quest for justice.

"Through crowdfunding initiatives, we aim to raise funds to safeguard media freedom and freedom of expression, ensuring that truth-tellers are shielded and championed," asserted Mr. Fann.

Reflecting on past endeavours, he acknowledged Engage's previous emphasis on electoral reforms and expressed a desire to expand its scope to address local issues in Johor.


"The level of activism in Johor has been relatively low, despite numerous environmental and human rights concerns," Mr. Fann admitted. "For years, our focus was primarily on electoral reforms, but it's time for Engage to broaden its horizons and hold governments accountable at both the state and federal levels."

As Engage embarks on this new chapter of activism and advocacy, its unwavering dedication to fostering informed citizenship and championing the rights of Malaysians continues to serve as a beacon of hope for a more just and equitable society.

Stand with Engage and empower grassroots activism. Contribute today via Sokong to fuel change and champion justice in Johor and beyond.

by malaysiakini

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