As I sipped on some Moscato on the night of May 9 2018, I held my heart close, not wanting it to get excited and go on a spontaneous marathon – only to have a breakdown before before the finishing line. My heart and I had been there before, five years earlier. I was convinced that Malaysians would create history in the 13th General Election. I went to bed late in the evening, convinced I was going to wake up to a brand new Malaysia. I didn’t. I was crushed, my heart was wounded and it took time for both of us to heal.
Fast forward to 2018, the winds whispered a possibility of change but I adopted a nonchalant stance – at least outwardly. Nobody would have guessed the fire burning inside, the flame of hope alive and well. And on that fateful night, together with millions of my countrymen, I hoped, prayed, kept fingers and toes crossed for a new government; a government that would put Malaysia on track to a better future.
I didn’t sleep that night. I didn’t want a repeat of the past election result. So I waited with bated breath until 4am, when it was (almost) official that Barisan Nasional had lost the elections for the first time ever, after 60 years. Pakatan Harapan, or the Collation of Hope, compromising of Parti KeADILan Rakyat, Democratic Action Party, Parti Amanah Negara and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia parties had won. Needless to say, I hardly slept that night, my thoughts preoccupied on the future of my beloved country.
Malaysia, on it’s own is far from a perfect country, but then again which country is? As a post-Merdeka baby, I have lived with the fact that the Malaysian constitution ensures that the Malays (or Bumiputera’s aka sons of the soil) have special privilege over the other citizens. It’s never easy to be blase about some people receiving scholarships, places in university, grants or discounts easily – just because they have the right name. I accepted and lived with it, along with bits of racial discrimination I’ve encountered over the years. Maybe it’s got to do with my ability to see the silver lining in most situations, but for me, my carefree childhood days, my friends of different races and religions, and the freedom that I have to pursue my passions outweigh other gloomy conditions. At the end of the day, Malaysia is still the first love of my life, despite its flaws and freckles.
I am super proud of my fellow countrymen, with 82.32 percent of registered voters getting out there on May 9 and voting for the better choice. I’m ecstatic that we as a nation managed to change governments in a calm and orderly fashion; and showed the world that voting can truly make a difference – and change the course of a nation’s story.
Three weeks into the new government, changes already in place but for me the euphoria of the New Malaysia has dissipated into tiny particles in the air. Reality is setting in and one thing is clear. Things will not magically change, especially not overnight. As our old-but-new Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir makes sweeping changes for the better of the country, things will be messy. Mistakes will be made, issues will need to be ironed out and we Malaysians will have to be patient.
Us ordinary people and creators of destiny now face a challenge – to change our deep-rooted issues and perspectives, in order to truly have a brand New Malaysia, one that is good for all of us. No amount of good policies or new laws will make a difference if we continue our past negative behaviour, attitude and perspective. How about paying that PTPTN student loans and making that income tax payment; and while we are at it, being courteous on and off the road? It’s time to go beyond biases, restart mentality clocks, be kinder to one another and treat each other like the way we would like to be. A better Malaysia is on the way but it will only continue on this path if we, each and every one of us play a part and make the country great again.
Saya ada harapan.
Yes, I have hope.