Last week, the state’s political landscape took a turn after Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) president and Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg announced that the party will amend its constitution.
This was for a special wing to be created in PBB to cater for those aged 18 to 28, reflecting PBB’s dynamism in adjusting to the aspirations of youths and Sarawakians.
A committee co-chaired by Sibuti MP Lukanisman Awang Sauni and Tupong assemblyman Fazzrudin Abdul Rahman has been set up for the formation of this new wing, including to decide on a suitable name.
This move was soon emulated by PBB’s long-time partner in the government, Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP).
The party, will be amending its constitution to set up two new wings to cater for the Undi18 generation, said its secretary-general Datuk Sebastian Ting Chew Yew.
He opined that the two wings — a new SUPP Youth wing and a Puteri wing will provide the opportunity for Sarawak youth aged 18 to 28 years old to engage in the political arena and exposure to meaningful participation in decision-making.
Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), another component party in GPS is also looking to take similar steps to cater for Undi18 by planning to reactivate its unit for members under the age of 30, according to its secretary-general Datuk Janang Bungsu.
From an outside viewpoint and on the back of a landslide win in the recently-concluded state election, this move is seen as timely.
GPS and its components should not rest on their laurels, thinking that the status quo will be enough for it to continue to score convincing victories in upcoming elections.
Undi18 — although gazetted a few days before the polling of the state election — was not implemented as the electoral roll that was passed before the dissolution of the State Legislative Assembly on November 3.
That will change tomorrow (Jan 16) as we expect an additional 1.2 million voters aged between 18 and 21 following the full implementation of the automatic voters’ registration system.
Election Commission (EC) deputy chairman Azmi Sharom said the commission has finally completed the system to enable those aged 18 and above to vote, which will see an additional 5.8 million voters at any election called after January 16.
The move would also increase the number of registered voters in Malaysia by around 40 per cent — from the current 15.8 million to a total of 21.1 million voters.
So, what now? With the creation of dedicated party blocs to appeal and cater to this generation of voters, it is time for them to work closely with the government.
I hope there will be more engagement initiatives by the component parties in GPS for those aged 18 to 21 to listen to their aspirations, needs and wants.
While it is easy to dismiss the younger generation as anti-establishment and anti-government — a point that somehow made opposition parties believe the youths are with them, that simply is not the case.
I believe the new generation is not only dynamic, it is capable of understanding the political reality — the reality where the reforms as well as revamps in the government structure takes time.
Development projects and policies take time to implement as it involved multiple tiers of coordination and fine-tuning so that every policy and approach is fully scrutinised and can benefit those on the ground without issues.
That is the political reality and one that the voters are able to understand with ample explanation and engagements.
This generation too has seen first-hand what an incompetent government is capable of — the failings of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government of old is very much an example of this.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side and the opposition may not necessarily be able to do a better job than the current lawmakers in the government despite their sweet promises.
In the case of Sarawak, the younger generation — the Undi18 generation — is fortunate to have a farsighted state government.
This is through their policies moving forward up to 2030 through the digital economy approach as well as the move towards environmental sustainability.
They are planning for the future and the future is for the young people, not the old.
The youth must realise this and in turn, work with the government for their betterment. This should be the way and now, the onus is on the youth.