FAQ on OCCUPY DATARAN
Q: What is Occupy Dataran?
A: Occupy Dataran is an independent and autonomous grassroots initiative to reclaim Dataran Merdeka as an open and democratic space for people to gather, discuss and explore the true meaning of democracy beyond the representative system, to redefine democratic participation beyond the ballot box, and to imagine a new political culture beyond race, ideology and political affiliation.
Q: Who started it? And how did this idea come about?
A: Occupy Dataran was started by a group of people inspired by the 15-M movement in Spain, the grassroot movement that was calling for "Real Democracy Now" and adopting participatory democracy based on the popular assembly model. The idea to occupy Dataran Merdeka was developed during the first informal gathering of about 23 people, some friends and some strangers, at Dataran Merdeka on 30 July 2011.
Q: Is there a leader in Occupy Dataran?
A: In Occupy Dataran one does not look to one leader, but make space for all to be leaders. The group endeavours to organise itself in a democratic, horizontal and non-hierarchical manner. All roles such a moderators, minute-takers and coordinators, are rotated weekly.
Q: Who organizes the programs?
A: Anyone who joins Occupy Dataran can organize programs. There is no central organizing committee. Programs are organized on voluntary basis. Roles such as moderators, minute-takers and coordinators are rotated weekly.
Q: Who can join Occupy Dataran?
A: Occupy Dataran is open to all, regardless of race, religion, gender, creed, social class, political affiliation and ideology.
Q: What do you do in Occupy Dataran?
A: Past programmes have included the Universiti Rakyat (free, open-to-all informal workshops and lectures for people to share knowledge and skills), Pasar Percuma (a market of things and services offered for free), potluck picnics, music and theatre performances, poetry reading and more. The most consistent program is the KL People's Assembly.
Q: What is the KL People's Assembly?
A: The KL People's Assembly aims to be an open, egalitarian and democratic platform for people to share ideas, address problems, explore alternatives, propose solutions and make decisions on any issues. Decisions are made collectively through consensus decision-making and direct participatory democratic processes. Typically, the assembly runs from 8pm to 11pm, every Saturday.
Q: What does Occupy Dataran hope to achieve? What are your objectives?
A: Occupy Dataran and the KL People's Assembly can be seen as a laboratory where we experiment with a new kind of democracy that is more horizontal, that is more inclusive and participatory, where common people learn to deliberate and directly participate in decision-making, rather than arguing and delegating representatives to decide for us.
The group chooses to occupy Dataran Merdeka because of the lack of democratic space and free public spaces in KL where these things can happen. It is a reclaiming and re-appropriation of Dataran Merdeka as a playground of ideas and activities, as a forum for deliberation, as an agora for democratic assemblies, as a platform for collective decision-making.
Q: What has Occupy Dataran achieved so far?
A: Occupy Dataran has consistently been held at Dataran Merdeka every week since the 30th of July and through the KL People's Assembly, have created a new democratic space and platform for common people from diverse backgrounds to come together to meet as equals, a space to listen and to be heard, a space to connect and share ideas, a space to discuss issues openly and intelligently, transcending beyond the racial, cultural, religious and ideological differences that are constantly being used to divide us.
Q: What's your connection with Occupy Wall Street? A: While Occupy Dataran has no direct connection with Occupy Wall Street or any other Occupy movement in other cities throughout the world, there are some common threads. It is not in the demands and aims, but in the application of horizontal, anti-authoritarian and non-hierarchical structure, and also our commitment to consensus decision-making using direct participatory democratic processes through popular assemblies. Also in the occupation of public space as a means of reclaiming democratic space and building a new democratic people's movement from below.