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As despair shrouds Malaysia, watch out for Youth Power

Are we at the cusp of a youth-driven movement for change?

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DR WONG SOAK KOON/ALIRAN

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Of late, much of the news has been nothing short of grim, apart from when politicians entertain us as they point fingers at each other, taking a ‘holier than thou’ stance as if they have done no wrong.

There is also some news we could do without: the proposed bill to control the propagation of religions other than Islam. Through this, we see the government’s campaign machinery entering pre-election mode with religious rhetoric likely to raise its ugly head and take centre stage.

Will this kind of malice towards other religions ever end in Malaysian politics? Is this the only way for Umno, Pas and Perikatan Nasional to survive – by driving a wedge between people of different ethnicities and religions?

The minister in charge of Islamic affairs, Idris Ahmad, put the blame on “out of context” reporting. He said the Federal Constitution under Article 11(4) restricts the propagation of any religions among Muslims in the Federal Territories. “The Bill is nothing new, 10 Malaysian states had approved the same enactments since the 1980s, except for four which are Federal Territories, Pulau Pinang, Sabah and Sarawak.”

Surely, his deputy, Ahmad Marzuki Shaary from Pas, would have known of Article 11(4). So is his deputy actually targeting these four states and territories? Have there been religious organisations other than Islam “propagating their religions” among the Muslim community in these four places?

Idris added that “the Bill will be part of 11 laws set to be enacted by the new Perikatan Nasional government to strengthen the position of Islam here”.

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Where is “here” supposed to be? In Peninsular Malaysia or in the four states that have not yet had this approved?

“I hope this issue is not polemicised by certain parties and [does not] threaten the harmony of unity of ‘Keluarga Malaysia’,” Idris said, referring to the administration’s Malaysian Family concept. 

One suspects he is speaking tongue-in-cheek. If the Malaysian family means we are all one family, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, culture and ideology, then why was this bill even brought up by his deputy?

Why the need for a government bill to “strengthen its position of Islam here”? Isn’t the sanctity of Islam already covered in the Federal Constitution? Why have such a bill if we are all supposedly a “Malaysian Family” – unless there are different connotations to what this really means. Hmm…

On the flip side, the cabinet has committed to several parliamentary reforms, such as a law to curb party defections and the move to reduce the minimum voting age threshold to 18.

Is there sincerity in this commitment? Or will we be taken for a ride again?

The law to curb political defections will be welcome. Far too many politicians are ready, waiting and willing to sell themselves for money, positions and prestige, with none of them having an ounce of shame. So, hopefully, this bill will put an end to party defections once and for all.

The government also plans to amend the Constitution to allow 18-year-olds to vote.

Many youths are politically savvy and aware of what is happening in the government. They are not bound by the obsolete ideas of the older generation of politicians, who have been propagating them for the past half a century.

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The millennials have friends and acquaintances who cut across ethnicity, religion, ideology and culture. They are open to new ideas from each other, and they can see what the older generation of politicians have done for the country and what they have failed to do. 

These youths are able to see the disconnect between the government and the people, which sparked recent protests over social injustices. Such an awakening and similar protests have also broken out in other parts of Southeast Asia, where unfair practices, corruption and political conflicts are rife.

Is it any wonder that the youths – who will have to take over the mess in these countries – are thoroughly sick and tired of it all? They want change for the better.

The changes in our government over the last 18 months have had little positive impact on the people.

The youths have seen politicians playing games to achieve their own ends. They have witnessed government incompetence in getting a grip on the pandemic. They have observed the politicians’ callous attitude towards the people’s suffering, especially the loss of their livelihoods.

These young people have witnessed families and friends go through the most horrendous times with little or no help from the government. They can see for themselves how divisive politics has become.

They know that this political instability and unjust policies have driven skilled workers and experts to migrate to other countries, where they are thriving, appreciated and making a name for themselves.  

Young people want change not only for themselves but for all Malaysians and others living here. Make no mistake, they will be a force to be reckoned with in the next general election, a beacon of hope for Malaysia.  

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The time has come for them to make some noise! Are we at the cusp of a youth-driven movement for change? There is always hope!

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

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Paul Lim
Paul Lim
20 Sep 2021 12.18am

I hope so and the signs are there but it needs the Youth to mobilise the Youth and party with it.

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