Public Advocacy: Of Ideas and Practice in Malaysia is a text of Syarahan Umum Bangi by Denison Jayasooria, presented on 21 April 2017. There is a call and challenge to academicians and intellectuals to make an impact in society beyond the walls of the university. This concern emerges from my personal experience as a policy activist and academician in Malaysian society. There is a need therefore to articulate and voice out in the public arena matters affecting society based on the principle of justice and fairness for all.
This lecture is divided into two parts. In Part One, the ideas of six scholars pertaining to public advocacy are discussed and emerging from that analysis are five major themes. In Part Two, there is a discussion on the practice of public advocacy based on two case studies undertaken by the author among disadvantaged and marginalised communities in Malaysian society. This is done using the five major themes where the ideas and practice are reviewed, noting the opportunities, challenges and hurdles facing academicians and intellectuals in Malaysian society in playing this role as public advocates. The challenge is for public advocacy to be recognised as a legitimate role of the academician and intellectual in society.
This lecture concludes with the finding that academicians and intellectuals need to exercise this moral duty of articulating the concerns of the grassroots and voicing them publicly for the betterment of society. There must be an impact on public policy and delivery, so that justice and fairness will become the cornerstone of the nation. The ultimate vision is for a better society for all where social inclusion is the thrust of development policies, impacting positively social cohesion and ensuring social mobility for all, irrespective of ethnicity, gender, religion, socio-economic status and whether they live in affluent urban or disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods and in rural or interior forest-based locations.