As the Johor state election draws closer, all eyes would be particularly on the cluster of 18 to 20-year-old voters to see what they would do with their newly acquired right to vote after Parliament passed a law in 2019 facilitating their enfranchisement.
The Johor polls would obviously be historic as it is the first time the youth in the state, who are part of the estimated 1.2 million youthful voters nationwide, are expected to exercise their democratic right.
Hopefully, their youthful idealism, presumably underpinned by such good values as honesty, integrity, justice, compassion and diligence, would be put to good use when they vote, as the elections are really about the future they ought to help shape.
We would expect them, together with their elders, to have an idea of what a better Johor in particular and Malaysia generally ought to be before they make their political preferences.
A Malaysia mired in corruption surely cannot be part of their future because, as recent years of financial scandals have shown, it is destructive in many important ways. The young voters must see to it that this scourge is battled at all costs.
When casting their ballots, the youth should also remember that public institutions that have been infested with corruption must be cleansed as it gives rise to inefficiency, financial bleeding, undemocratic practices, social injustice and public distrust.
The young voters must be mindful that corruption should never again be made part of our national culture, our ethos – as it is so toxic.
As education is important to the nation, the voting youth should ensure that the politicians they would vote into power are those who would be able to embrace and emphasise meritocracy, social justice and inclusivity into the state education system.
The diversity in our multi-ethnic society should be regarded as an invaluable asset and not a bane, so that the voting youth would reject parties or politicians who still resort to the colonial legacy of divide-and-rule strategy through race and religion for their own self-preservation.
Inclusivity is vital in a diverse society such as ours. The youth, thus, should also appreciate that minority groups are to be taken care of and deserve government assistance and not neglect, so that as stakeholders their living standards can be uplifted and their rights protected.
Equally important is that the current economic policies, which are laced with neoliberalism, need to be reformed so that the interests and concerns of the poor are prioritised over those of the well-heeled. Social justice must be embedded in such reform.
If health is indeed wealth, then the public healthcare system must be beefed up to ensure proper and adequate medical care that can be easily accessed by the majority of the people, especially the lower-income group.
This approach would go a long way towards addressing, say, the woes of contract doctors, whose services are greatly needed.
Similarly, contract hospital workers and ancillary workers would not have the necessity to go on a convoy from Penang to Putrajaya to present a memorandum to the health minister to seek occupational redress.
The youth would surely be mindful of the political importance of freedom of expression and media freedom as a freer environment is crucial in bringing about the transparency and accountability of a sitting government. Besides, they also need such freedom to express their aspirations, grievances and hope.
Politicians who are a stumbling block to this important freedom should be cast aside.
There are obviously leaders who, to borrow an animal lexicon of contemporary politics in Malaysia, behave like a tiger that cannot change its stripes. Voters, particularly the young, must steer away from such politicians who are set in their ways that are inimical to democratic practices and the interests of ordinary Malaysians.
The young voters should, of course, avoid betting on politicians who are bent on behaving like frogs, leaping from one party to another to protect their vested interests. Political stability, which was the official rationale given to the calling for the Johor election, cannot be sustained with such jumping amphibians. – The Malaysian Insight