It’s a hot and humid Monday afternoon yet the weather didn’t stop officemates Jerry and Zizan exchanging heated opinions on the current political state of Malaysia.
“I’ve had enough of politics. Politicians are the same. They’re all spineless, opportunistic pricks”, said Jerry after finding out the wakil rakyat representing his neighbourhood in Puchong recently jumped parties.
Partially nodding in agreement, Zizan remembers how excited he was to vote for the first time in 2018, only to be disappointed by 2020’s fiasco, “They’re all the same lah.”
A third person, Farah chimed in, “Come on guys, I believe there are still good, honest politicians out there. If there aren’t, we’d be living in a pile of mud right now, grazed to the bone and scraped to our bare existence. It’s not perfect, but it’s not so bad.”
Continuing to prove her point, she added, “I understand if you guys have lost your faith in politics. But you should never lose your faith in the system. The parliament. The judiciary and the democracy we live by. Without it, we’re savages.”
Chapter 1 : Feeble Faith
While it’s true that politics, on the surface, is arguably the most-loathed topic of discussion for most, especially youth, the very essence and purpose of politics, however, might conclude different opinions.
Politics is about being aware and informed. It’s about caring for the facts, a tool to restructure groups and societies – that’s why it’s easy to forget the fact that politics has been embedded in our lives since forever.
And we, like it or not, have played a part in making it work.
Think of it this way – there’s an election in Subang Jaya, where Jerry stays. He votes for his candidate, YB Parthiban, who then wins the election and now Parthiban is officially a Member of Parliament (MP).
Thanks to Jerry’s vote, Parthiban now represents Subang Jaya in the house of constitutions. He has the power to propose a bill, the power to object to an idea and the power to vote for a new law to take place.
In the Parliament, a bill is proposed to raise the tax for Subang Jaya folks because the Parliament thinks folks like Jerry earn a lot, therefore should be taxed more. MP Parthiban then opposes this bill, rallying other MPs behind him.
What happens to a bill when the Parliament says no?
It fails to become law, and Subang Jaya is saved.
In this context, learning how the whole system works, and how MPs or lawmakers execute their responsibilities could mean night and day for everyday Ahmads and Arumugams like us.
As opposed, it’s when these elected representatives fail to do their job that we immediately point our scorned fingers to the whole system, further expressing our thinning faith in the wrong direction.
And this jilted sense of disgust is the reason for the gravely thinning faith amongst the next generation, especially ones like Jerry and Zizan who came out of the proverbial closet back in 2018.
Ask anyone from this generation, the answer would mostly be the same – they’re staying away, not participating and worryingly, not even voting.
Chapter 2 : Renewing Reliance
What if young minds like Jerry and Zizan expressed more interest in politics?
What if we have more people like Farah, always in-the-know, always aware of what’s going on?
Awareness, similar to other topics of discussion, is something that comes with passion. A passion to know what’s going on and the steps that need to be taken should the situation arise.
Political awareness is not about knowing PAS is the green Islamic party from Kelantan, or that DAP may come off to look like a Chinese-based party, or that UMNO is never actually dead.
Political awareness goes beyond shallow, party-mindset.
It’s about knowing what goes on behind the system, knowing how the voting and democracy system works and learning about what happens to the country should democracy fail.
But today’s generation, however, if being unfairly generic is admissible, tends to look away.
“Nah forget it, politics is for old people,” said Jerry’s friend, Radzi.
“It’s a world of corruption. I don’t wanna be a part of it,” Nina responded across the table.
Chapter 3 : A Worrying Trend
When young folks like Nina, Radzi, Jerry or Zizan express their disinterest in the idea of politics (or political engagement), the system itself becomes segmented, disconnected beyond its reach, only circling around old Datuks and Tan Sris.
The inaccurate assumption – not just today – that political participation requires one to be an activist, a wakil rakyat, an election candidate or a party member is clearly unhealthy.
In reality, the whole essence of politics is about collective decision-making.
Collective in this context means the system takes into consideration the opinions from all colours and creeds, people from different backgrounds, interests, genders and most importantly – age.
This lack of interest, lack of awareness and knowledge by the younger generation is in fact the sole reason why we have 55-year-old men making the decisions for everyone.
And everyone should contribute to the decision-making process because in the end, it will affect our lives directly or indirectly.
Chapter 4 : How Young is Young Anyway?
The participation of youth used to be limited to spin-off political wings masked as youth wings with no real power. PKR’s Angkatan Muda Keadilan, DAP’s DAPSY and of course, UMNO’s Pemuda all have been championing their approach to empower and recruit young people.
But how old or how young may one be considered a youth?
For many years the maximum age limit for youth is 40. Means a 39-year-old may still participate, engage and contest in youth-based political parties but the previous government, however, has changed that.
Last year, the Parliament approved a Bill to amend the Youth Association & Development Act (Act 668) with a number of changes, one being a lower maximum age for youth at 30 years old.
Proposed by (former) Youth & Sports Minister, Syed Saddiq in the Parliament, the Bill was then read the second time by Saddiq’s Deputy, Steven Sim to the approval of the Dewan.
You don’t really get that much youth participation in the big hall of lawmakers with an average age of 55 years old, all very seasoned politicians.
55 is in stark contrast to 29, the median age of the country’s 32 million population) – 29 years old and this is what needs to be changed.
Chapter 5 : Do You Really Need to Know Politics at This Age?
First of all, Syed Saddiq took office when he was 25 while Khairy Jamaluddin was 37 when he became the Youth & Sports Minister.
The post is now held by Dato’ Sri Reezal Merican who took over a few months ago. He’s 48.
Maybe Jerry, Zizan and their friends of the round table may not agree with this simple fact but would a younger candidate fit the post?
Would a 26-year-old minister do better than Reezal Merican?
While the answer may still be a 50:50 ratio, passing the baton to someone more fitting would signify the country’s impartiality in equal potential, equal share.
And being equal means having a fair share of the audience in the Parliament, a fair share of space and voice to argue, discuss and amend policies concerning the people. Isn’t that what power is all about?
Chapter 6 : MUDA
Apparently word on the street had Saddiq conducting a secret meeting involving 33 young minds from diverse ethnicities and backgrounds.
Rumoured to be the new kids on the block, MUDA is purportedly a new political party by Saddiq himself after publicly rejecting his admission into his mentor’s new party, PEJUANG.
Reportedly tired by the shackles of money and power of the bigger party player, MUDA is aimed at rejuvenating young minds with the right goal to move Malaysia forward. Inspired by French President, Emmanuel Macron’s youth-oriented En Marche and Thailand’s Future Forward Party, Saddiq’s new venture is said to be an open medium regardless of race, belief and background.
But wouldn’t having a specifically youth-based party contribute to more segmented segregation? What happens when the members, the candidates get older? Would their fight be void?
Will this party then ignore the plight of Malaysians, not muda enough?
Some like Zizan would probably agree with this new flag but others like Jerry have scepticism written all over their faces, crossing fingers it wouldn’t be just another artificial youth party.
The real question is – will MUDA attract young people onboard?
Chapter 7 : The End is the Beginning?
Perhaps it’s the right move to decline an invitation by Mahathir. Perhaps it’s the right move to set a new foundation for a new party. But a more monumental task needs to be done first to get more young Malaysians actively participating.
Young people need to willingly learn to educate themselves to bridge the gap of knowledge instead of just ranting on social media platforms and limiting their political opinions only on sensationalised news.
Yes, it is like an unspoken rule that the existence of MUDA would very well serve the same purpose as PEJUANG – to break the current majority in Parliament, but that’s beside the point.
Having less to non-existent youth participation would only let loud, ancient politicians take the centre stage. So if Jerry or Zizan or Radzi wants more say, more voice, then their effort shouldn’t stop at posting a rant on Twitter.
It should start beyond the comfort bubble, ready for a healthy dose of scrutiny and always ready to make a change.
Youths, your voice matters.
Start safer, more decent politics at home or in the office. Not the back-stabbing kind but learn and practice the system.
If your voice is being heard, your opinions are taken into consideration – that’s politics.
It’s a pool of collective opinions, discussions and decisions. And that’s something you can manage because like Jerry and his friends, you may not realise that you’ve been playing and practising politics all along.
If this article is giving you mental torture, you might consider reading this story here.