MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, November 30, 2023

Downright foolish to tar all politicians with same brush


Most Malaysians in my middle-class, English-speaking, largely non-Malay bubble are in a state of quiet despair.

We recognise that after decades of a rotting system, there is a myriad of problems and yet even when the solutions seem palpable and tangible, they are not addressed properly.

Progress is crawling and limping along instead of taking a great leap forward.

Worse still, even after the momentous changes of the last few years, there is no clear reformist mandate and seemingly insufficient political will to make sweeping changes in this country.

“I wonder if we’ve become no better than the MIC sellouts of previous generations, who accepted a backseat as long as their rice bowl was filled,” I said to a colleague recently.

And yet when former minister, Khairy Jamaluddin said something along those lines, I did bristle.

“PKR has become like Umno that it used to hate,” said Khairy, claiming that PKR, and Pakatan Harapan in general, are also committing the “same mistakes” that Umno-BN did when the latter was in power.

“The rakyat has high hopes for Harapan, but nothing is being done to handle the expectations.

“Sure, there are several good things like the National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR), the New Industrial Master Plan 2030 (NIMP), and the Madani economy, but hardly anything is being done to help the rakyat handle the current challenges,” Khairy (above) said on his podcast.

I have little faith in the chap who’s always talked a good game and then represented racial politics.

I’ll never accept that multiracial PKR is just another Umno, that Hannah Yeoh is no different from Abdul Hadi Awang, that Syahredzan Johan isn’t much more admirable than Wan Saiful Wan Jan.

I make that last comparison because I brought both of them on board to write opinion pieces at The Star more than a decade ago and now they are newly-elected MPs but the latter has shed all pretence of being progressive, while the former represents a bright hope for our future.

At the same time, let me acknowledge that Khairy is not wrong in that PKR and the current government are not living up to the high hopes of its supporters.

Participate in the process

For me, the disappointment so far is that low-hanging reforms are not being rushed through.

Still, I don’t think I will be like many friends and acquaintances who in the depth of their frustration, will emphatically declare that all politicians are the same, and should not be trusted and that there’s no point participating in a system that is too broken to be fixed.

This is wholly understandable but it would also be a fatal mistake.

You cannot abdicate your own tiny role in determining your future. If anything, you need to fight even harder to be heard and felt.

Losing battles, going in circles, mounting frustration - they are all part of the game - but you are really only defeated at the moment when you give up and leave the battlefield.

A disgruntled auntie told me that she is determined not to vote anymore but I asked how happy she would be when handing a walkover victory to the right-wing, identity politics players of PAS - whose supporters will always turn out en masse to defend their way of life.

We think they are stupid but if they keep standing up for what they believe and you don’t - well who is really being stupid?

Nahvin Muthusamy

Recently, I spoke to student Nahvin Muthusamy who garnered national attention for speaking out about inequalities in educational opportunities.

He used an award ceremony for his own achievements to highlight the fact that others like him are being denied because of the country’s quota system.

I asked Nahvin why he didn’t give up on the system, and he said that he believed that change would come one day.

And that’s what it takes, steadfastly sticking to your beliefs and fighting for the right thing, even when the odds seem unsurmountable.

Earlier this week, I helped organise a Malaysiakini forum titled “One Year of Madani Government: What’s Next?”.

Our panellists gave some props to the administration of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim but said that he has a long way to go to deliver on his many promises.

I was heartened by the presence of Malaysians who cared enough to listen to what our esteemed panel had to say.

I was also reminded of just how far we have come since the dark days of Operasi Lalang and the Reformasi era when a mainland Chinese couple attended the forum and were astonished by the freedom of speech Malaysians enjoyed.

In a social media post (translated for me, of course) they said they were amazed that the speakers and the audience candidly conveyed their dissatisfaction, without being afraid of retaliation. They actually expressed admiration for our democracy.

I know it’s a low bar but I was touched. It was a timely reminder that we have to keep pushing hard to gain small victories. - Mkini

Martin Vengadesan is associate editor at Malaysiakini.

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