The Arab awakening was driven by youth, organised by technology, and fired by a hunger for political change.– Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, sixth prime minister
Amid countless blockbuster news of late churned out by the news mill, one news stuck out in particular and frankly, it had gone unnoticed, at least in these shores.
It was former federal youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman who was in the spotlight when he announced his intention to form a youth-based political party.
To me, the idea deserves more attention than it has received. Basically, what it represents is that it is time for the youth to be more involved in politics.
But then again, understandably, in these shores, the idea of it isn’t what I would describe as “being welcomed with open arms”.
The root cause of this rejection somehow isn’t all too surprising. We have a system that works, I get that the understanding is that all of us need to climb the proverbial ladder — to get to the stratosphere and I don’t take issue with that.
But sooner or later, what the people will have to realise is that this is a group that they have to pander to and not pretend that its support, ideals and aspirations can be relegated to just being an afterthought.
My concern is that if we keep on ignoring the youth and blindly think that they are solidly behind us, the damage would be irreparable.
Just as I am writing this, I have read multiple academicians welcoming the setting up of a youth-based party.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Prof Dr Azmi Hassan who was quoted by Free Malaysia Today (FMT) called the move timely, noting the lowering of the voting age to 18 and recent evidence showing young voters’ influence in swaying electoral results in Singapore and Finland.
Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, polled by the online portal also echoed Azmi’s views, adding it could even be potent enough to win a handful of seats, putting itself in a position to negotiate political spoils with the winners.
The multiracial nature of the new party was also welcomed by Prof James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute saying this was the future for Malaysia, as it should.
But it goes without saying that there are few things that the youth too need to adapt if they are to be of any actual benefit to the system of government.
They will need to show a level of maturity that is exemplified by our elderly and restrain in terms of their emotions for them to be regarded as someone who is dependable and not being regarded as a liability.
The youth too need to be well-informed and not fall prey to politics of perception and politics of hate.
The last thing we need the youth to be is for them to be driven by politics of extreme ideals, driven by socialist agendas which would disturb the current norms and harass the way of life as we know it.
Such example is aplenty, with the recent incident of affixing Chinese characters in the city of Kuching or even the placement of a roadside banner to express their displeasure to their local leader in Kota Samarahan.
All of these are unbecoming and frankly, I fear that the worst is yet to come.
That is why we need to give them the room and opportunity to be involved in the administrative process for them to grow and learn.
In the words of Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, the youth are like a boat — it needs to tread the unchartered waters carefully due to their inexperience; callously driving the boat without any regard for the tide will lead it to capsize.
The point I am making here is that the youth, if they were ever to set up a party for themselves and even contest in the general election using their platform, will need to do some adjusting.
Politics in the real world is far from ideal; it’s imperfect, it’s flawed.
But also, in terms of the process of government, there is a pressing need to get the group involved for them to fully understand and comprehend the weight of responsibilities that they will need to shoulder.
The old Chinese saying “If old things don’t go, new things will never come” is more relevant than ever and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.