Let me begin with the phenomenal dream of 2018. Many Malaysians voted for a new government – Pakatan Harapan – simply because they were fed up with six decades of Umno-led coalitions (the Alliance and Barisan Nasional).
Yet, as we all know, the PH-led government was short-lived. Meanwhile, the ‘backdoor’ Perikatan Nasional regime that took over clung to power for an even shorter term, despite having the world’s largest cabinet.
Bang! The ‘next PM’ relay began – and now we are back to pretty much the same ol’, same ol’.
And so, the political picture has changed little, mostly shaped by a minuscule group of actors – tellingly male and aged – who undoubtedly still dominate the power base.
Aren’t we so tired and so fed up with it all – the political dramas and power play during the Covid pandemic and high new infections and daily deaths?
Clearly, the political stagnation and frustration has catapulted a large section of people, particularly young people, to a new visibility.
For example, the black flags and #Lawan movement and protests have been triggered by people’s anger directed against the failures of Mahiaddin Yasin, the then-Prime Minister, to solve the serious problems facing the nation and the people.
Many want effective measures to manage the pandemic. They want genuine reforms to improve the political, economic and social situation, protect democracy and combat systemic corruption and cronyism.
So over a thousand of them took to the streets, and many more turned to social media to organise various creative and peaceful public assemblies.
These peaceful assembly movements surfaced over the past months to demand the resignation of Mahiaddin and his cabinet, who resigned on 16 August.
These movements have neither central a dictatorial leader nor rigid organisational structure. They are just ordinary young Malaysians concerned about the wellbeing of society. They want to protect democracy and bring genuine change, rather than accept politicians clashing relentlessly over power and the seat of government and spouting meaningless rhetoric.
The most recent solidarity action was the candlelight vigil to commemorate and remember all those who have died from Covid – a purely humanitarian act. Yet, it is bewildering to read about the participants being harassed, manhandled and arrested by police.
To what extent will these young movements transform into a political force in future remains to be seen. The key factor is that many were discontented with the government and wanted to make themselves known, heard and seen.
This is the crucial point: many ordinary young Malaysians are able to organise themselves to make their views and needs understood politically. They can definitely make a difference and demand political participation. A Malaysiakini reader summed it up well in a letter “Whom I want in the new cabinet line-up“.
The worn-out politicians are completely out of step. Now it is time for the next generation – of diverse backgrounds, gender, educational status, ethnicities and geographical locations – to explore new ways of engagement for democracy and taking power.
Carol Yong is an independent researcher and writer