Daring to hope for an inclusive Malaysia

Generational politics has failed; it is time for the younger generation to step up, Jem writes

Photograph: Eric Thoo

When I made my wishlist for 2021, one of my wishes was for up-and-coming millennials to come to the fore and emerge as a new generation of politicians. 

So I was surprised and hopeful when Sabah Umno Youth leader Abdul Aziz Julkarnain challenged his wing members to think about what they are doing, adding that “the future of the party rests in the hands of its younger members”.

This got me thinking about the younger generation of politicians and the youth wings of all the political parties.

There is no more time to waste. It is now 2021, and it is time for them to make their presence felt. It is time for them to articulate what they would like to present to those of their own generation in the upcoming general election. (The prime minister probably wants the election to happen sooner rather than later, especially with the Covid-19 vaccine around the corner, to legitimise his government.)

The ‘old guard’ should encourage their youth wings to come forward and bring the country into an enlightened new world.

Generational politics has not worked, and we have seen its downfall in many parts of the world. This is now being played out in living colour right on our political doorstep.

This kind of politics leads to nothing except corruption and autocracy which has been the bane of Malaysian politics, from its beginning. It will continue down this path if the youth wings are afraid to come out from the shadows of their ‘elders’ and show what they are capable of.

READ MORE:  Can youth dominate Malaysian politics in 2021? 

The old guard must relinquish their stranglehold on their parties and give way to the youth. Otherwise, what is the point of the youth wings?

These young, upcoming men and women would have seen, heard and learned from their elders about what should and should not be done. They would have seen how race-based politics has driven the country apart and how their ‘elders’ use of race and religion has made everyone suspicious of each other.

Any kind of bridge-building between races will never happen as long as this type of politics continues.

Then I remembered something I read from Barack Obama’s book A Promised Land. He was campaigning in South Carolina, a state that had suffered much during the civil rights movements in the early 1960s. Though he was aware of racial politics when he ran for president, in South Carolina, he saw firsthand that racial attitudes were still raw and wide open and how much the people in the south of the US had suffered during the civil rights movement.

Obama saw the “wearying effects of long-term disenfranchisement” and realised “he was not running against Hillary Clinton or John Edwards but ‘he was running against the implacable weight of the past, inertia, fatalism and fear of the past’”.

What strength and power there is in those words. As the world watched, Obama became the 44th President of the US. As a black man, he ran against all odds, but he had a message for Americans: hope and change is possible.

We in Malaysia may not have suffered as much from racial politics as in the US in times past, but the constant harping of divisive ethno-religious rhetoric here is more than enough.

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Take, for example, the recent nonsense with Jakim saying that bakeries and cake shops that have the halal logo should not be allowed to display cakes with “Merry Christmas” greetings. I would laugh if it wasn’t so tragic.

Yes, we all know this was probably done to deflect from the fake beef expose, especially if it is true it had been going on for 40 years. It would be quite a shocker, if nobody in Jakim knew. You think?

Maybe this sorry episode can be the impetus needed for young, up-and-coming politicians to speak out and stand up for a better Malaysia by becoming ‘agents of change’ – if not for the older generation, then for their own.

This is what the youth wings have to fight for – to move ahead without being shackled by what their seniors did. That old era is gone, and this is a new era of openness and fairness, a time to embrace all the multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multicultural people of this country into one ‘Malaysian-ness’ – not the silly “1 Malaysia” slogan that was used as an election ploy.

I want to use Shafie Apdal’s vision of what he wants to attain for Sabah – an inclusive state where everybody is Malaysian. Maybe this is the right time for Warisan to spread its wings to the peninsula and begin the “audacity of hope” (the title of another Barack Obama book).

So, get a move on, Warisan! Time is of the essence, and Star Sabah is following suit!

Hopefully, one of my wishes will come true – if not here and now, at least it would be a step in the right direction for Malaysia.

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We must have hope!

Jem, an Aliran reader, still cares deeply about Sabah, despite having lived in the peninsula for some time

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loyal malaysian
loyal malaysian
4 Jan 2021 3.36pm

True, Jem, I join you in daring to hope for an inclusive Malaysia.
But I will not pin my hopes on the likes of Shafie Apdal. He and the likes of Warisan have shown that when it really matters most, they have remained loyal to their feudal loyalties and not be part of the process for change!!

Yes, it is time indeed for a new generation of leaders in our country, one who can see beyond the racist and discriminatory policies in force now.