Looking back at the 2020 Malaysia Update

The 2020 Malaysia Update came at a time of crisis for a country that had high hopes for the turn of the decade. Instead, Malaysia has faced unprecedented challenges this year, with a shifting political landscape, sharp economic downturn and many people at risk of losing their lives or livelihoods.

Presented by the ANU Malaysia Institute, this three-day virtual conference brought together leading experts from Australia and Malaysia for discussions around the theme of Alternative Visions for Malaysia.

The Political Update was held on the first day of the conference and featured a virtual presentation from the Co-founder of Undi18 and Organiser of Parlimen Digital, Qyira Yusri, Lawyer and Co-founder of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance, Lim Wei Jiet and Program Coordinator of UndiSabah, Mahirah Marzuki. This session was moderated by the Director of the ANU Malaysia Institute, Dr Ross Tapsell, who facilitated discussions around youth parties and activists, and the challenges they face now and in the future.

Former Economic Adviser to the former Prime Minister, Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid presented on the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups in Malaysia at the Economic Update the following day. Muhammed was then joined by Senior Adviser of the Khazanah Research Institute, Prof Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram and CEO of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, Tricia Yeoh to discuss what economic policies the government could pursue to provide support to the country’s most vulnerable. This session was moderated by PhD scholar at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, Stewart Nixon.

The three-day virtual conference concluded with a Cultural Update, featuring a video presentation from the Artistic Director of The Instant Cafe Theatre Company, Jo Kukathas. Senior Lecturer of the Visual Arts Program at the University of Malaya, Dr Simon Soon, later joined Jo to discuss the role of arts and culture during COVID-19 and the impact of the pandemic on the sector. The Cultural Update was moderated by Postdoctoral Fellow at the ANU Malaysia Institute, Dr Show Ying Xin.

The 2020 Malaysia Update provided participants with a unique opportunity to engage in important conversations about how Malaysia can move on from the turmoil of 2020. The Malaysia Update is one of the most well-known conferences on Malaysia outside of the country, and builds on ANU's commitment to research in the field of Malaysian studies.

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