Every citizen should be heard, appreciated and cared for by the leaders

During my early days, I never wanted to associate myself with a political party.

The dream was to study law in England, work as a solicitor, obtain a visa, and eventually migrate.

Also, when I was much younger, the political discourse was between my grandfather, a civil servant in the 70s, and me.

I was never brave enough to challenge his views or form opinions on issues concerning public affairs such as freedom of speech, corruption and economics.

Thus, quite nearly after every conversation surrounding politics, I had sought to seek my own reading materials. It was through news articles and opinion pieces that I began to understand the political landscape of our nation. Additionally, I understood the importance of using our democratic right as citizens to vote in general elections.

Yet, I was still not brave enough to voice my opinions due to the constant reminder that children were incapable of fully comprehending the complexities of politics due to limited knowledge and experience.

In 2012, I wanted to participate in the rally in Ipoh which advocated transparency in the election process. My mother disallowed me from taking part as it would have risked her job as a teacher in a local private school.

Eventually, the dream to further my studies overseas became closer to reality as several universities offered me a place after A Levels. However, I decided to reject those offers as the scholarships offered were insufficient to fully relieve my mother of her financial burden. I decided to take a gap year to learn more about the governing systems of the country.

Three years have passed since I joined a political party. Alas, I am only still so young and have many more lessons ahead.

The decision to be “politically active” was to build a sense of community among Malaysians, especially among the youth. My sentiment to migrate overseas is shared by other Malaysian youths too.

I wanted to go abroad because I thought the grass was greener on the other side. “Why should I stay in a country that does not appreciate individual contributions?” was my initial thought.

I soon realised the grass is greener wherever you water it. Contributing to nation-building in our own ways via the diverse industries we partake in.

My aspiration as a Malaysian is to have every citizen feel heard, appreciated and cared for by leaders.

A strong sense of community would stand steadfast, where the people alongside leaders would stand firm in facing adversities and doing their best to overcome them together.

The political arena is a battlefield for problem-solving through compromise among its participants. The ‘industry’ will have its hard times that will result in fatigue throughout the journey. Perhaps even my own aspiration is a far-fetched dream that I may never achieve. But even then, it will be worth trying.

The nation has dealt with difficult challenges and will face many more ahead. In spite of that, I have seen the spirit of many selfless Malaysians. With this in mind, to further build our nation and strengthen the sense of our community, we should consider these three pillars:

Freedom of speech

A healthy democracy requires this significant human right. The freedom of expression, however, should not be mistaken with the freedom to express hate speech. It is not an absolute right.

Thus, this freedom has to be guarded for our nation to continuously improve and prosper. It serves as the starting point for any socio-economic policy change in the country. Indirectly, if guarded and upheld, this could raise a generation of analytical and critical thinkers.

Malaysians should continue to encourage this via political discourse. I encourage each and every one of you to write, draw, host a series of webinars, and talk about issues close to your hearts. Be bold.

Right to vote

In 2019, the Youth and Sports Ministry alongside Undi18 made a landmark constitutional amendment that lowered the voting and nomination age to 18. The law will take effect in July 2021.

Every Malaysian who has reached the age of 21 must register to vote. Efforts to organise voter registration campaigns or political education workshops should be encouraged as this can build the foundation knowledge of governance and political systems in our youth. This would ensure that young voters make an informed decision on that fateful day.

Social media activism should not be undermined. Participating in politics does not only consist of federal affairs. Perhaps there has been a rise in robbery cases in your neighbourhood or a decline in cleanliness in your housing area. Engaging with local authorities such as the state assembly persons would help solve local community issues.

Education

The national literacy rate is 94.85 per cent (2018 statistics). Although this is a relatively high rate, the comprehension skills are still a concern. Malaysia scored 415 for reading literacy on Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings last year.

Youths with digital access are able to improve such skills and stay ahead of the game. But what about underprivileged youths?

A counter argument to this might be that there are books available. But books are priced RM20 and above. Newly published materials are priced higher. For B40 families, they would rather spend that money on essential goods.

Therefore, if there is a continued lack of political will for Internet service provision, we must ensure that public and school libraries are well-stocked with past and modern materials.

Literary learning materials in schools should be diversified. Education is not for political propaganda. These efforts can help to encourage further critical thinking skills.

From a different perspective, the education system should not be limited to the traditional models. TVET and vocational schools should receive an equal social standing as traditional schools. This is to ensure a comprehensive and diverse set of skills in the workforce which can in turn lead to a sustainable nation building.

I contend that these three tiers can form the foundation in building Malaysia.

It would be naive of me to wish only for the entire nation to follow one streamlined way of thinking or to have the same exact ideology.

On the contrary, the aforementioned would help achieve that goal together despite the differences. The education system would provide an opportunity to build a strong foundation of knowledge which would train a generation of solution providers; the freedom of expression and right to vote would be a representation of that wisdom and knowledge learned, coupled with the community-led initiatives.

Consequently, the elected representatives would be the driving force in implementing federal policies to reflect the values.

I would also like to reiterate that ‘bangsa Malaysia’ has always been within us. We only need to be brave enough to reveal it together.

Conclusively, I encourage every Malaysian to continue persevering in the fight for a great Malaysia.

“Rumput di kaki, awan di kepala, gah iringi murba,
Seramainya, sederapnya, setulusnya, kita bersama
Menjulang panji negara, bangga dicium angin jati
Di tengah gelora kita sebangsa dan sejiwa murni.”
– Di Atas Padang Sejarah, A. Samad Said.

Selamat Hari Merdeka.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.