Young people urged to get involved in NGOs, politics

Prof Dr James Chin delivering his lecture on ‘Past, Present and Future Political Landscape in Sarawak’.

KUCHING: Young people have been advised to bring about positive changes in Malaysia by getting involved in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and politics.

Prof Dr James Chin of the Asia Institute of the University of Tasmania, Australia made the call during his lecture on ‘Past, Present and Future Political Landscape in Sarawak’ held online via Zoom today (July 22); it was the first in a series of lectures under an inaugural leadership programme organised by The Sarawak Initiatives (TSI).

He said young people should not just complain if they were unhappy with the way things were.

Chin said people must be able to see that changes put in today would lead to major changes many years down the track.

“The question is: Are you willing to pay the political price now in order to create something better in the future?” he asked.

He said path dependency explained why people kept utilising the same policies and doing things the same way despite knowing that they did not work.

“Part of it is that it is usually politically easier and less controversial to just go along with the path already set rather than take a radical approach or reform or do something new,” he said.

He believed that the current political class seen in Malaysia and the current model seen at the federal level were not able to cope with the rapid global changes.

Prof Dr James Chin

“We really need a whole new generational change in terms of the way our political structure and process works in Malaysia.

“I stand for generation change. I think it is very important that we move our current failed politics down one or two generations,” he said.

He added that it was unfortunate that interesting young political activists are mostly in West Malaysia and less observed among young Sarawakians or Sabahans.

In this day and age, such people had the power to change the narrative and the future, he said, pointing out that the way the world worked today was very different from the way it did a decade or two ago.

Chin suggested that young people go out and form their own groups to bring about changes.

He said the lowering of the voting age to 18 would have a profound impact on the country.

He said being able to vote was a very powerful incentive for the youth to take part in the political process. He also supported automatic voter registration.

Chin said a key question facing Sarawak now was whether the state had been able to retain its uniqueness in the past half century.

“In some ways, we can argue that politics and political parties in Sarawak are very much similar to those back in the 60s because they are mostly personality driven.

“But the unique thing in politics in Sarawak compared to politics in Malaya is that we are much less driven by the racial angle,” he said.

Chin explained that Sarawak’s politics was driven by certain core beliefs, one of them was that the state would always require a coalition government of different races.

“There is a strong sense that we have to accept Sarawak is a very diverse place and really multiracial and multireligious. There is also a very strong sense of Sarawak nationalism,” he said.