CAP celebrates 50 years, what is to come

CAP was inaugurated on 7th November 1969 at the Town Hall in Penang and the late S. M. Mohd Idris was elected President and today by God’s grace it has reached its 50th milestone.

CAP’s first office was a humble table at the rare book room of the then Penang Library manned by the retired Director of Labour, the late Mr Naidu, and steered by Mr Idris to become one of most the vibrant and successful consumer organisations in the world, one which inspired the formation of many other consumer groups around the world.

We were indeed fortunate to have the late Mr Idris as a visionary leader and his team who dedicated their efforts to make CAP a household name and build a track record which is unbeatable in giving voice to and helping the small consumer.

Along the way, we lost many dedicated colleagues. Among them were Rajeandran, who headed our rural section and SAM. He virtually worked day and night and slept on a mat in the office. Mr Joo Teik who travelled to all corners of Malaysia in his Hillman to promote consumerism in the schools.  And Kireen who took a pay cut to work in CAP to stand up against all the wrongs in health policies.

And today I am happy to share with you our friends and supporters — our achievements, setbacks, milestones and lessons of our 50-year-old journey to make the world a better place for all.

CAP has had a profound impact on Malaysian society with regard to consumer rights, environmental protection, health and nutrition, school and public education, widening of intellectual insights and discourse, public interest law, and training of community leaders to protect livelihoods and enhance incomes.

Among the many important and positive contributions made to the Malaysian public, include:

  • Its pioneering work that led to the establishment of the Environment Ministry and the enlargement of the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.
  • CAP cooperated with the Education Ministry and set up consumer clubs in 600 schools.
  • Its organic farming project has trained families, schools and communities in natural agriculture.
  • Its work on trade agreements provided valuable inputs to several Ministries and government leaders in formulating trade negotiating policies.
  • CAP has a record of being “ahead of the curve”, for example on changing the nature of the consumer movement, raising environmental issues, embarking on anti-tobacco and anti-sugar campaigns and policy changes in the Housing Ministry.
  • It promoted access to medicines by advising government to introduce compulsory licences that drastically reduced the prices of medicines for AIDS and Hepatitis C (from RM400,000 to RM1,000 per patient).
  • CAP has also had an impressive record of expanding its boundaries, for example setting up Sahabat Alam Malaysia to take up environmental issues, establishing Third World Network which has had a major impact globally on policies regarding climate change, trade, biodiversity, and access to medicines. CAP also helped in transforming the global consumer movement, including its new offshoots in the areas of health, food and consumer rights. Many consumer associations in the developing countries were formed as a result of our regional training programmes.
  • CAP has also helped many poor communities stand up for their rights. The Kuala Juru fishermen and the Kuala Kedah farmers fight against pollution. The Papan folks in the Asian Rare Earth case. The TheanTeik farmers against eviction. The Penan and Sarawak natives against logging and for their native customary land rights. Many other poor communities have benefited from CAP’s help.

As it celebrates its first 5 decades, CAP’s work is as relevant as ever or even more so.  It is important to review its priority issues, activities, and methods, to make it more relevant or appropriate for the present and future.

Our Priority issues include:

  • In the area of health — control of antibiotic resistance, affordable prices for medicines, food and product safety, control of sugar, tobacco and dangerous food items.
  • Promote natural organic farming and urban farming at the family, community, school, and farmers level.
  • Environmental protection — We will help conserve forest and hill-lands; conserve water resources; combat climate change; promote public transport; reduce wastes; tackle pollution; integrate sustainable development into national and local plans.
  • Economics and finance — promote financial literacy including for the young; management of debts; promote sound economic, trade and financial policies, in the context of global uncertainties and instability.
  • Tackling social problems — cost of living, housing, poverty, inequality, workers’ wages and farmers’ produce prices and migrant workers’ rights.
  • Helping consumers and the young to question wasteful and unsustainable lifestyles and consumption patterns; materialistic consumer culture; social effects of digital economy and 4th industrial revolution.
  • In the rural areas — Issues faced by farming communities i.e. their livelihoods, incomes and land security. Reviving and developing the rural economy. Protecting the environment in rural areas i.e. river and sea pollution, hill chopping, deforestation, reduced fishery resources, etc.
  • In the urban areas — urban land-use, public transport, housing for the poor, prevention of floods, and expanding green spaces as part of “sponge city” strategy.
  • Create more public participation — Help build capacity of communities to understand and articulate their interests, and to engage in local, state and federal policies/plans and their enforcement.

Besides the priority issues, CAP will also focus on the following areas:

  • To attract younger people to be staff or volunteers, and develop the use of the social media to reach a wider and younger audience.
  • To help to develop communities and community leaders to take up their issues.
  • Establish a training and awareness building module, and educate individual consumers, communities, organisations on CAP’s issues and thereby create multipliers.
  • Build up the future sustainability of CAP through the mobilisation of funds and in strengthening the organisation through the participation of local communities, young people, women and intellectuals.

We will need plentiful resources to continue to run these programmes and appeal to your generous selves to commit donations to us to help the disadvantaged, to protect the environment and ultimately build a new generation of idealistic young Malaysians.

There is only one earth and our future depends on all of us here and everywhere. The problems are now global as has always been but the effects are now clearer and there seems to be no escape from it.

Cancer rates are growing, depression and suicides are more, food has become poison, water wars are foreseeable, the air is carcinogenic and we are breathing in plastic particles and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And certainly there is no escape from the climate change effects. Islands and our coastal cities and areas will disappear.

Yet we are going on with our lives in a business-as-usual attitude. There are those who believe that by just adding the word ‘sustainable’ to everything will make things okay. We have sustainable cities, sustainable development, sustainable agriculture, sustainable tourism, sustainable transport, sustainable mining and more… basically to justify more economic growth at the expense of human values and life. It is with great sadness that our so-called progress has led us to this point of dissatisfaction, unhappiness and possible extinction.

Many live lives that kings in the past can never imagine of. Yet most are unhappy and miserable, chasing after things which do not matter.

We know health is important, yet we don’t give it sufficient priority. We don’t exercise or sleep enough and poison ourselves often, unsuspectingly, with pesticides, plastisers, antibiotics (in plants and animals), cigarettes, alcohol and drugs.

We know the earth is damaged from climate change and yet we cut trees, pollute, reclaim land and destroy the earth. We know what is important but we have our priorities all wrong for economic, entertainment, addiction and other short-term reasons. We all have to wake up to see that we have only one life and do great things with it before we expire. Life is short and valuable. Like our late President said when asked why he led CAP, his reply was, “Nothing better to do”. His meaning was to do things that matter most to you and to the whole of nature and humanity… he could not find anything better to do than that.

I hope you all will feel the same and continue to support CAP in your own way, so that we can persist in our efforts for a better world — one that is truly socially just and ecologically sound.

CAP’s work has always found resonance with people from all walks of life – it has been recognised as a bastion for redressing the wrongs of the commercial world, for wanting to uplift the downtrodden, for protecting the environment and for seeking a saner world.

In these turbulent times and uncertain world, where the pace of change is moving faster than lightning, where the impact of technology degrades human beings, it is important that CAP carries on to voice out and act to safeguard the world and we therefore ask all of you to support us in our efforts to continue with our endeavours.


Speech by Tuan Haji Mohideen Abdul Kader,

President of Consumers’ Association of Penang

11 January 2020