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Renewing hope amid political apathy: A reflection on Malaysia’s journey for change

The future of Malaysia depends on our collective resolve to pursue a vision of progress and inclusivity


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Recently, I attended a Lunar New Year gathering with friends from my primary schooldays.

Our conversation, initially brimming with nostalgic reminiscences and updates on our lives, took a sombre turn as we delved into Malaysia’s current political climate.

The shift in mood reflected a broader sentiment of disillusionment about the political landscape. This has been especially evident after the 2018 general election and the perceived unfulfilled promises of Pakatan Harapan.

The political apathy, palpable in daily exchanges and across social media, reflects deep-seated disillusionment over the slow pace of promised reforms.

Words like “reformati” (reforms are dead) and talk of staying away from future elections suggest collective despair. Such expressions mark a dangerous flirtation with disengagement from our democratic responsibilities.

Yet, it is crucial to confront this apathy head on. We need to recognise it as the antithesis of the very spirit that catalysed a historic shift in Malaysia’s political landscape. The 2018 general election was not just a political event; it was a beacon of hope – a moment when the people of Malaysia, across the spectrum, united under a banner of change, challenging the entrenched powers of an authoritarian regime.

This monumental achievement was born from the refusal to succumb to the inertia of apathy. It was a testament to the power of collective action and the relentless pursuit of democracy.

Faced with current disappointments, it is all too easy to declare that nothing has changed, to view the present through a lens tinted with cynicism.

Yet, such a perspective overlooks the subtle yet significant shifts that have occurred. The political landscape post-2018 has been transformed, ensuring that no single coalition can wield unchecked power as Barisan Nasional once did. This new dynamic compels political parties to earn and maintain the trust of the people. It also heralds a more accountable and responsive governance model.

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That’s not all. The abolition of the mandatory death penalty and the slight easing of restrictions on public dissent signal a departure from the past – slowly but surely.

Public advocacy and civil society’s vigilance are driving these changes, highlighting the ongoing evolution of our democracy.

The path to a more just Malaysia is paved by the efforts of those who dare to hope, to challenge the status quo and to envision a better future.

It is a journey that demands active participation. We can do this by supporting civil society initiatives, engaging in constructive political discourse or demanding accountability from our leaders.

The antidote to apathy lies in our collective resolve to be architects of change, to imbue our actions with the conviction that progress, though slow, is always within reach.

The essence of democracy lies in the collective action of its citizens. Change is only possible if we actively participate in shaping our nation’s future, whether by supporting civil society, engaging in informed discourse or holding our politicians accountable.

The most critical step we can take is to resist the allure of apathy. While the journey towards a better Malaysia is fraught with challenges and setbacks, we must remain committed to the belief that change is achievable.

We stand at a crossroads. We can either yield to disillusionment, allowing the status quo to persist – or we can rekindle the hope that spurred the historic change in 2018.

The future of Malaysia depends on our collective resolve to pursue a vision of progress and inclusivity.

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Let us choose action over apathy and hope over resignation. Let’s continue the work of building a Malaysia that reflects the best of our shared aspirations and values.

Chris Chong
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
22 February 2024

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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