Panel wants feedback from Malays

Members (from left) Saleemah Ismail, Sallim Abdul Kadir, Nizam Ismail, Ahmad Firdaus Daud, Zuraimi Jumaat, Alwi Abdul Hafiz and Noorul Fatha As'art at the launch of the new, non-partisan committee.

A new committee has been launched to engage the Malay-Muslim community and gather feedback on its thoughts, concerns and aspirations.

Called Suara Musywarah - meaning "voice of lively discussions and fruitful sharing of ideas" - it was set up following calls for "broad-based engagement" by an independent panel.

Comprising nine members from the private and public sectors, it does not include any MPs.

It is headed by Mr Sallim Abdul Kadir, 57, head of human capital at a global company, who also sits on the Muis council and Mendaki board. Two or three more members will be added to the panel.

"We want to cover all the issues relating to the Malay-Muslim community... how we see the community, where it is, how we move forward and where is the 'there' that we want to get to," Mr Sallim said.

The panel will reach out to the community via social networking, dialogues and focus groups. It plans to come up with a report in six to nine months' time, recommending areas to be reviewed as well as measures to tackle issues raised by the community.

The report will be presented to Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, who announced the formation of the committee in August.

Yesterday, Mr Sallim gave his reassurance that the panel would not limit discussions nor dismiss any issue, and would include all views and disagreements in its report. Asked if opposition parties' views would be welcome, he said: "Anyone who has something useful to say, we will listen to them. We don't take sides here."

The Ministry for Community Development, Youth and Sports will act as secretariat, but the committee will have the ultimate say over what it does and who it meets.

As for how Suara Musywarah differs from existing forums by groups such as the Community Leaders' Forum and Association of Muslim Professionals, Mr Sallim said: "Our objective is very broad - how do we as a community excel, how we see ourselves in five years' time, what is it we want to do."

His two vice-chairmen, managing director Alwi Abdul Hafiz, 50, and women's rights advocate Saleemah Ismail, 43, also highlighted the panel's non-partisan make-up. Said Ms Saleemah: "We're not just going to talk to the who's who of Singapore. The people running Singapore are the taxi drivers, the train drivers - those are really the who's who."

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