A fighting chance to save Malaysia

BY now, you would have read the news of Pakatan Harapan’s PM candidate, a choice that has once again divided this nation – some of us accepting the pragmatic approach, while some adamantly rejecting on the basis that it goes against the very principles of democratic reforms we try so hard to achieve in this unjust system.

It is definitely not easy being Malaysian, especially in this day and age. The odds are stacked pretty high against us and many refuse to get involved in politics because some feel that their efforts would be too insignificant to make any difference.

A growing number of Malaysians feel frustrated and think that corruption is too deeply ingrained, that any attempt to reverse this would be as futile as trying to empty out a river with a shovel.

Yes, the past 10 years have been challenging for everyone. Being in the government (state government) you realise just how badly we need political reforms – both state governments and local governments have limited powers and resources because our system is too “Putrajaya-centric”.

Reinstating autonomy isn’t just an “East Malaysian issue” but something all of must fight for at every level. After all, local government elections can only work when the system has been decentralised and defragmented from the mess that hinders true democracy from prevailing (and yes, bringing back local government elections will always be part of our agenda).

Apathetic non-voters have chosen to abstain from voting because they feel neither Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Harapan have anything productive to offer and some have chosen to stay away from politics by not even registering to vote because politics is dirty and they are better off embracing the concept of ‘self-governing’ communities.

Many feel detached or disillusioned and would rather continue carrying on their lives whilst preserving the status quo. Some believe that no matter what happens in this country, they will still have the minimal necessities to keep them happy, but let’s be realistic – all of that can change and it will at some point.

Having spoken to a lot of people from every political spectrum (something that hasn’t been the most pleasant of experiences at times), I understand all of these sentiments and empathise with these concerns.

For the longest time, I too, was unable to fully accept the changes we have made recently, until someone pointed this out to me: Pakatan Harapan (Pakatan Rakyat) has done everything they could to obtain as many votes as they can. Both GE12 and GE13 proved that a majority of Malaysians want change; PH won 52% of the popular vote in 2013 but in a system that is just too heavily rigged – how can you fight this? How can you overcome gerrymandering –where majority Malay constituencies were especially carved out and designed to present obvious victories to BN/Umno?

For decades, the narrative of reforms always focused on ways to break the Umno-Malay stronghold and for once, we have a fighting chance. Having someone who created the system on your side, someone who is equally hell-bent in destroying it, could finally give this country a chance to recover from the oppressive measures we face from the kleptocrats in Putrajaya.

So I pose this question for all of you out there: If this was the one chance we had to finally obliterate Barisan Nasional’s rule and see a change of government for the very first time in modern Malaysian history – would you be willing to set aside any differences you may have to save this nation?

Nevermind that, we have also announced a woman Deputy Prime Minister – a first of that would definitely signal a positive step in a society that has seemingly become increasingly biased against women.

The fact is that a lot of Malaysians are still unable to digest the mere thought of Dr Mahathir Mohamad becoming the Prime Minister again. After all, he was the one who created the mess we’re in and he is the reason why I joined the battle to reinstate political reforms in this great nation.  

Although he has issued a public apology, there are those who are still unable to forgive him and I don’t blame them. I understand the anger and the mistrust but if this was the one chance we had to finally change the government, would you be willing to set aside dissenting opinions and save Malaysia?

There is still a lot of soul-searching that needs to be done but with roughly 100 days left, time is not on our side.

We must never lose sight of the most important thing we have on our plate; we must do all we can to prevent this country from getting any worse because the fact of the matter is that: we’re not seeking a change of government but a change of regime.

Now let that sink in. – January 13, 2018.

* Syerleena is a councillor at the Penang Island City Council (MBPP). She is a Malaysian who believes that our life experiences shape us into fascinating beings.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.