It is only proper that they be given the opportunity to help shape their future and make a significant difference in society, Mustafa K Anuar writes.
Young Malaysians are often hailed, especially by politicians, as our future leaders with crucial roles in nation-building.
But in the realm of formal politics, the young have yet to be better represented in political parties, Parliament and state assemblies.
The 95-year-old former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad lamented recently that while the country has young leaders, they do not have the required reputation that could earn the trust of voters. That is why, he added, people look to old politicians like himself who supposedly have attained the right credentials and enough experience.
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Although there has been progress made by young politicians, such as Pakatan Harapan’s Fahmi Fadzil and Hannah Yeoh, there are obstacles that stand in the way of young people who attempt to acquire such a reputation in Malaysian politics. Malaysian political culture is such that the environment in which many political parties operate is not conducive enough for the young politicians to forge ahead in their careers, especially when you have the old guard cautiously clinging on to their high positions.
The vocal young may even be frowned upon by their party elders as they could be mistaken for being rude or too much in a hurry. There are not many old leaders who are willing to give way to the young to take up the mantle so they have a platform to provide fresh ideas or new ways of thinking that are in line with the needs of their contemporaries, who make up a substantial portion of the country’s population.
And in a society where there still exist stubborn stains of patriarchy, young women face an extra hurdle of gender discrimination in formal politics. In this context, a women’s wing of a party may not necessarily be a convenient platform for women politicians to be trained in leadership and gain easier access to the higher echelons of a party; it can also, unfortunately, function as a ‘storage room’.
Young politicians should be considered as an asset because they have the idealism that is much needed to initiate things that will make a difference in society. Some may argue that the young are poorly represented in formal politics because they are put off by the toxicity, given the corruption and the insidious exploitation of race and religion that involves politicians, particularly the older generation.
However, the recent convening of an online parliament, better known as Parlimen Digital, suggests that young Malaysians are interested in politics and can be vibrant in their political and democratic engagement. Their online deliberations were well informed by their awareness of the political situation in and outside the country.
Having said that, making a difference in society does not necessarily have to happen only within the realm of party politics. Civil society is another domain where the involvement of the young may help to sharpen their sensitivity toward injustices on the ground and spur them to help change society. This kind of everyday politics can be a good training ground where the young can make their mark as leaders in their own right.
It is only proper that they be given the opportunity to help shape their future and make a significant difference in society.
Source: The Malaysian Insight