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MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku

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Friday, September 28, 2018

The government of no evil


This is my personal account of serving as a minister in the cabinet that Malaysia doesn’t deserve to have because of our willingness to compromise on democratic values to vote for the ‘lesser of two evils’ in the last general election.
Here, not only is a government of no evil imaginable, it is a necessity.
In this shadow cabinet, we have enhanced existing ministries, and created new ones to not only reflect our democratic values, but our vision for a better way forward – unlike the cabinet of Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, it’s the prime minister of the Coalition of Rebels (Core) government, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri!*
At the core of her administration, she ensures the best and brightest young leaders are given mentorship and ample opportunities to take up leadership positions.
Unlike her counterpart, she does not believe that a country with a median age of 28.5 should be governed by someone who is 93. She believes wholeheartedly in justice, egalitarianism, equality and human rights, and her wholesome view of politics and democratic participation makes her the best person for the job.
She also chairs the Rebel Alliance Party (RAP), whose manifesto focuses primarily on institutional reforms to devolve power from the executive.
During the first direct democracy session with other constituents, which, coincidentally, was held with the first Parliament session of the Pakatan Harapan government, her government passed a bill that limits the service of any minister to two terms.
Now, regardless of who comes to power next, no prime minister or minister can ever hold office for 20-odd years again.
New ministries
While we keep portfolios which are eternally relevant and important, the Core government has created a handful of new ministries to respond to 21st-century needs and concerns, like the Feminism and Equality Ministry and the Rebellion and Dissent Ministry.
As the youth minister myself, the work cut out for me is not even close to that which my colleagues leading these new ministries face. All I have to do, basically, is deliver the basic things that my Harapan counterpart Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman hasn’t, such as addressing youth unemployment, stagnant wages, as well as the lack of access to housing and meaningful political participation, to name a few.
I don’t have the time for photo ops at the Asian Games, selfies with inspirational quotes, or debates on unconstitutional topics (why repealing a repressive law even needs debate is beyond me). My job as minister is to solve real-life problems faced by youths, not to deliver inspirational talks that nobody actually asked for.
But I digress. The new ministries sure have their work cut out for them. Fortunately, the brilliant Juana Jaafar,* the unelected Shah Alam MP and Witches Party chairperson, has been appointed by the prime minister for the perfect job, to head the Feminism and Equality Ministry.
A feminist through and through, Juana also holds the positions of Mother of Stray Cats, Protector of Children, Slayer of the Patriarchy and Sister of the Marginalised. She is empowered by a team of witches whom she handpicked from the Anggerik School of Dukunism and Science, where knowledge on power, politics, and potions have been passed down through generations of women, acquiring the ability to understand men’s greed for power and control.
With this army of powerful, intelligent witches, Juana’s ministry combines both social and hard sciences to dismantle the shackles of oppression on women and children. For this, she has earned another nickname, the Breaker of Institutionalised Chains. Under her leadership, no children will ever be brides again without her coming down personally on the lowlifes who dare to hurt children by marrying them.
During the first direct democracy session, she presented and successfully passed a bill to end all underage marriages in Malaysia. Her ministry also works closely with others to ensure all forms of discrimination against women and children are eradicated at every level of society. Her tenacity and backbone are inspiring; I want to be like her, but it would take me 10 years to even get there.
A check on authoritarianism
To put a check on authoritarianism, the Rebellion and Dissent Ministry was also established. Students have been at the forefront of this ministry – unofficially – long before the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 even came into existence.
If they were to study almost anywhere else other than Malaysia, they would be called student leaders. But they study here, where political participation in universities is criminalised under Section 15 of UUCA, they are labelled ‘rebels’ and ‘dissenters’.
We have plenty of talent to lead this ministry, which is why it has a board of ministers instead of just the one. Every time one batch graduates, another rises up.
After your Syed Hamid Alis and your Hishamuddin Raises, student activism went underground in the era of the Great Dictator. When he stepped down, and students attempted to revitalise campus democracy, then emerged the UKM4s, the Black UiTMs, UM8s and the UIA2s.
Today, we have the likes of Asheeq Ali Sethi Alivi and the Izzah Devaju, via student-led organisations such as Demokrat, Buku Jalanan, TFTN, and Malaysia Muda.
In the Fadiah administration, the importance of these dissenters is amplified, not stifled. They are the real people who keep politicians in check, the actual people who risk their comfort, popularity, and careers to ensure accountability of politicians everywhere.
It is my great honour and pleasure to serve alongside these unsung heroes of Malaysia's much-needed shadow cabinet. Especially now, with the new government’s acute lack of a viable opposition.
In many ways, the challenge to expose authoritarianism is now greater in this era of the ‘new Malaysia’, as the autocrats now better disguise themselves as charming, smiling old men.
A luta continua, mi amigos. Respeto para siempre.
Names marked (*) used in this satire are meant only as homage to the brilliant young men and women who would have really made meaningful impact to Malaysia.

 MARYAM LEE is a writer with a chronic tendency to get into trouble. What she lacks in spelling when writing in English is made up for with her many writings in Bahasa Malaysia. She believes in conversations as the most valuable yet underrated cause of social change. She wants people to recognise silences and give them a voice, as she tries to bring people together through words. - Mkini

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