By Syed Saddiq
The federation of Malaysia is already 57 years old, yet there are still voices that are trying to break us apart.
It is hard to imagine generations of people who had shared experiences from the moment we gained independence until the year 2020 are so much different. We faced the oppression of British, the horrors of Japanese occupation, the terrors of the communist, the petrifying May 13, the daunting 1998 economic crisis and sinister 1MDB thievery.
The reality is in the heart of most Malaysians: we are living in a world where we are one big family as generations of living together has brought us in a destiny where our fates are intertwined, or as the Malays would like to put it "cubit paha kanan, paha kiri terasa juga". The reality is we are all "wo men dou shi yi jia ren".
A lot of people will think the above part is just a built rhetoric spurred to quash the racist reality that remains in the hearts of many Malaysians. But really, look at it, whenever someone is in trouble and seek help, regardless of what race they are, Malaysians race together to help the person. The recent COVID-19 especially at the start of Movement Control Order where ordinary Malaysians embarked on a mission to safeguard and help the unfortunate. It was a people mobilized effort #KitaJagaKita that transverse beyond any race.
Whenever we see our sports team in a major final, all of us will be cheering together. The nights at the mamak watching our badminton or football heroes battling it out. We are already forged as one.
We feel sympathetic to the unfortunate; we feel a strong sense of shared responsibilities. We cry together when we lose; we cheer together when we win. That is the true "wo men dou shi yi jia ren" that when you put aside all the minor racist voices, the real Malaysia stands bright.
In order for us to understand what the Malay wants, we need to understand what happened when Pakatan Harapan won the election, because I think the moment when the enemy was blowing the air of racism, a lot of people started calling each other based on their race and not as Malaysians.
When Pakatan Harapan won the election, Malaysians in general were ecstatic and happy. A few months down the road, the monolith block of Muafakat Nasional has spurred a campaign specifically targeting the Malays to start hating the government, an attempt that later brought the fall of the government.
I will be honest, we were focused so much on the revamp of the system that we forgot the bread and butter issues of the Malays. We fail to deliver on the economic front. BR1M was reduced without proper communication, allowance to the fisherman was slashed from RM300 to RM200 during Barisan Nasional time, and was improved to RM250 during Pakatan Harapan's time yet it was heavily politicized as Pakatan Harapan failure. The recurring problem that we had was ineffective communication that was easily hijacked by Muafakat Nasional. That is the unfortunate truth.
BR1M and fishermen allowance might seem like a small deal for many, but the majority of Malaysians, Malays especially, heavily depend on these to get a moment of breather. Years and years of mismanagement has created a system where people became heavily dependent on cash handouts.
To add fuel to the fire, issues like Jawi and LTTE were heavily politicized when in reality there was nothing. Both issues were used as political ammo but when Muafakat Nasional regained power, the issues went silent. Again, tactic of diversion and antagonizing a certain segment of the society was utilized.
The unfortunate turn of events has created a veil of divide in our nation, damaging our identity of "wo men dou shi yi jia ren".
But, are we really that different? What people want in the next election? The Malays, the Chinese and the Indians — actually we are not. We crave for the same exact thing. We want quality education for our children; we want a robust economic environment for us to find jobs and let business strive. That is what normal ordinary Malaysian simple cries for.
These are basic tenets that all governments should aim to resolve. Let's not politicize these basic needs. Everyone wants to ensure they have food on their table; everyone wants the best possible pathway for a successful future for their children. We hold these principles closely and we will ensure Malaysia will be revived as Asian giants.
But what do we need now?
What Malaysia needs is a vigorous change in our political landscape, a change that could redefine how our children live side by side. This change must happen quickly.
We need to realign so that we can achieve the Malaysian dream, the dream that was envisioned by our forefathers when they formed this country.
(Syed Saddiq is former youth and sports minister.)