Malaysia Baru — can it be done?

I’m not a fool and I won’t be taken for a ride. I will stand up for my self but at the same time I don’t presume the worst and I don’t see people coming at me with negativity. Until they do.

— Michele Bachmann, molecular virologist

It is almost three years since May 9, 2018 — a date which was supposed to mark a new chapter in the nation’s illustrious history.

The then new Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government took over, to the delight of international observers which of course, many were led to believe to know what was good for Malaysia.

International media praised the win by the new government which was 50 over years in the making, ushering a supposed new era of Malaysia — a new country reborn.

But three years down the line, with PH ultimately collapsing on itself in a game of thrones for the prime ministerial position, we ask ourselves this question — was there even such a thing as a Malaysia Baru?

Were we naïve enough to think that with one simple cross on the ballot paper, our lives will be exponentially better, that the petrol prices the next day will fall to RM1.50 per litre and that our supermarket cart can be filled to the brim with a single RM50 note?

Did we really think that we were able to rid ourselves of all the corruption in the world through such a simple act?

At least for people my age, did we really believe that the government can really deliver on the promise of free education to all while at the same time abolish the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans?

In a real world, one that isn’t as mired in fantasy, we would have said, “Well this feels like a straight up con-job” and “No way I’d trust the words of a bunch of snake oil salesmen”.

But we did and we elected a new federal government.

I think for us to arrive here, ending the reign of a 50-year plus ruling coalition, it took many years for the perceptions of poor governance to be fostered into the minds of the people.

And despite how well the government is doing, it will continue be viewed as tyrants — as absurd as it sounds, it was the view by the layperson, the aggrieved and oppressed.

But were we really among those who were aggrieved and oppressed? Or was it simply a popular and prevailing perception?

We traded a stable and socially secure administration for one that was in constant turmoil from one week to the next.

We chose to forego an economy that was rather doing well in pursuit of our insatiable desire to punish the people who did not in any way cause the hardship that we were in, carefully packaging it as an exercise of democracy.

While the feel-good factor waned over the first week of the new administration, the reality settled in — that the change we want isn’t the change we got.

The economy — remember the propaganda that we were going to be bankrupt like Greece if the Barisan Nasional (BN) were to remain in power — not a peep on that.

There was no such mention that we were having an economic resurgence, that all of that, the fear that was being disseminated in our feeble minds was just another perception.

We weren’t going to be bankrupt; we weren’t in crushing debt. That was the fact.

The reality was that the grass isn’t any greener on the other side. It was no change and all the same. But then again, I think that is the biggest lesson that we took.

In that 22 months of the Pakatan administration and which continued until the Perikatan administration, we learnt more things about the country that aren’t just as relevant before.

Back to the question of whether Malaysia Baru is just a myth — in the same mould as national unity and social cohesion. I still think it can be done.

But we’ll be royally screwed if we think that the change has to start from the government — that or nothing else.

The onus is on the people to change their mind set and behaviours — we can’t be ultra-conservative and chauvinistic, thinking it is our way or the highway.

We have to strike a middle ground, agreeing on what works and what won’t. If we are able to do that, I think we will be able to progress as a society.

Blaming the other side for what you are also doing in secret is of no help.

All of it is on our shoulders — it is up to us to build a new Malaysia.