Challenges facing Malaysia Baharu: the view from Sabah and Sarawak

ANU Malaysia Institute Event


Professor James Chin and Dr Vilashini Somiah


Hedley Bull Theatre 2, Hedley Bull Centre (130), Garran Road, ANU


Tuesday, 18 June, 2019 - 16:00 to 17:30

One year after the corruption-tainted government of Najib Razak was ousted in a stunning electoral upset, sentiment in Malaysia has turned from elation to frustration. But most of the research and media has been focused on peninsula Malaysia and the machinations of the federal government in Putrajaya. When viewed from the far-away East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, the challenges look very different. Amid a growing climate of state nationalism, political parties in Sabah and Sarawak are clamouring for more power from Putrajaya and a fundamental realignment of federal-state relations. Join two experts on this under-studied part of Malaysia, Professor James Chin and Dr Vilashini Somiah, for a discussion of these issues and more.


Professor James Chin is Director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania. He is a leading commentator on Malaysian politics and has published extensively on Malaysia and the surrounding region. He is the author of a recent Lowy Institute paper, New Malaysia: Four Key Challenges in the Near Term. He has written many journal articles, books and book chapters on Southeast Asian politics. Most recently, he has authored book chapters looking at the politics of historical grievance in Sabah and Sarawak, and the politics of Bumiputeraism in East Malaysia.

Dr Vilashini Somiah is the Head of Research at Iman, a think-tank in Kuala Lumpur that focuses on community engagement. It is known for its work on preventing violent extremism, socio-religious trends and public perceptions. Vila has a PhD in Southeast Asian Studies from the National University of Singapore. She has maintained a keen interest in underrepresented narratives in Borneo and has focused a great amount of time understanding the different perspectives of these voices and their motivations.  Her academic work focuses on deportation and socio-politically motivated mobility and how this impacts the way irregular migrants in Sabah engage with the Sulu Sea.


Professor Chin and Dr Somiah are travelling around Australia as part of the ASEAN-Australia Visiting Fellows Program at the Lowy Institute, which is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-ASEAN Council of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.



Catherine Moggach

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