What to take into 2019
Real change will never happen”
COMMENT | We live in dispiriting times. The sombre mood on the ground is reminiscent of Najib Abdul Razak days, just that the mood isn’t that “change will not happen”, but that “real change will never happen”.
Most people are frustrated, and the government’s plea for time to “clean up the mess” is not compatible with how people lead their lives. For most people, they cannot wait another few months or years before tangible improvements will be seen and felt.
“The new government is not your child nor is it your master. On May 9, 2018, we did not vote in a new government because of their competence or characters as individual politicians; instead, we voted in people who could carry the cause.This means that the only thing that we must protect at every juncture is the cause, and as long as we remember the sanctity of the cause, we must ensure the current agent, the Harapan government, follows through with this.”–James Chai
Our children cannot wait for the government to come up with a grand vision for education before entering Standard One in January; our staff cannot wait for the government to improve business cash flow and market liquidity before getting their monthly salary; our families cannot wait for the government to provide more disposable income before we can spend for the upcoming festivities.
Be that as it may, most people still keep their complaints dormant. This is because there is a sense of ownership in this new government and the people are still afraid of going back to the dark Najib days. That explains why people are additionally furious whenever Najib speaks up because behind that fury is anxiety that fears the return of the old.
So when Najib’s social media popularity soared above all other politicians lately, the same time Pakatan Harapan’s underperforming ministers are being gradually exposed, our nightmare seems to move closer into reality.
However, this is a misconception.
The new government is not your child nor is it your master. On May 9, 2018, we did not vote in a new government because of their competence or characters as individual politicians; instead, we voted in people who could carry the cause.
In other words, on May 9, it wasn’t the Harapan coalition that won; it was the cause that has won.
This means that the only thing that we must protect at every juncture is the cause, and as long as we remember the sanctity of the cause, we must ensure the current agent, the Harapan government, follows through with this.
The cause that we signed up for was for there to be a more equitable and prosperous country where the country would experience the growth that is shared equitably without the political elites taking it for themselves.
We wanted a government to carry out the cause for institutional reforms so that the fountains of our principles, values and beliefs can flow without the disturbance of human greed and indiscretion. We wanted an end to corruption and abuse of power, and a government that listens to the grievances of the people – this we made explicit.
On top of that, we must also remember that we have fought for the cause to succeed organically from the ground and that it was not easy.
Not a single international analyst in the world expected us to succeed. They unanimously predicted a comfortable victory for the BN political elite. At best, they said Harapan would make some gains compared to the last term.
We voted for the cause
They could not be blamed because the former BN political elites controlled everything. You could not speak your mind because the narrative on the mainstream media was controlled by the establishment.
You could also not cast your votes equitably since the principle of “one man, one vote” was violated to its core with gerrymandering and malapportionment. You could not seek justice and freedom because the institutions of the judiciary, executive and legislative had long been reduced to being merely pliant tools of the government.
The official economic numbers at that time were also highly encouraging, but not reflective of the economic mood on the ground. Most analysts assumed that since the official GDP numbers were higher than the rest in the region, the BN political elites had things under control.
The implied assumption was also that the Malaysian people on the ground were generally submissive and deferential people. As long as there is still food on the table, albeit lesser than before, Malaysians would willingly accept corruption and abuse of power at the top.
International observers had also long lumped Malaysia together with other South East Asian countries where there is at best a semi-democracy, and typically an authoritarian, strongman rule.
However, on May 9, we have proven to the world that we are the crown jewel of the region. We are a nation of principles and will not bow down to leaders running the country if they run us down. Despite all the cheating, bribing and stealing, we mobilised ourselves on the ground and we have realised the impossible.
At a time like this, it is difficult to remember and situate how significant that event is in the history of the world. But I plead for all Malaysians never to forget how hard we have fought for the cause to succeed – and we shall bring this spirit into the new year.
JAMES CHAI works at a law firm. His voyage in life is made less lonely with a family of deep love, friends of good humour and teachers of selfless giving. This affirms his conviction in the common good of people: the better angels of our nature. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.