There is hope. Malaysia went close to the precipice but managed to step back. But hope creates expectations. It will take more than just the charm and charisma of the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia to bring about real transformations. It will take more than euphoria to rebuild a nation that has been scarred by hate politics and religious extremism. Once the euphoria is over and the dust has settled, the real challenges will begin. We must continue to hope, but we, the rakyat, must own the change.
There is hope. Malaysia went close to the precipice but managed to step back. But hope creates expectations. It will take more than just the charm and charisma of the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia to bringing about real transformations. It will take more than euphoria to rebuild a nation that has been scarred by hate politics and religious extremism. Once the euphoria is over and the dust has settled the real challenges will begin. We must continue to hope but we, the rakyat, must own the change.
Governing a coalition is never easy. In some countries, governments fall from power frequently because of disagreements within the coalition. Belgium at one time did not have a government for 12 months because the coalition government fell apart and no new coalition could win the majority to form a government. Our new government is stronger but is probably still fragile.
Politics is politics and politicians will be politicians. There will be moments of disagreement, there may be tense moments and the PH-led coalition will be tested. Forming and leading a coalition is very much like the Malay proverb “menatang minyak yang penuh”. There will be compromises made and these compromises may shake our confidence in the government. The coalition will include parties and politicians who have varying levels of commitment to reform and the ideals that define the hopes that we have. And it can also be argued that these politicians also have varying levels of commitment to integrity. Some of the ministers appointed may not live up to our expectations and lead in a “business as usual” mode. Some may be savouring the sweetness of power for the first time and may succumb to its seduction. And we must not forget that this country has a long history of betrayals that predates even the colonial era.
We can expect that efforts will be made to revive the stalled institutional reforms initiated after the 2018 General Election. Steering these initiatives will not be easy and we should expect them to take time before they yield results. Reducing the cost of living will be challenging as some of the problems are rooted in the breakdown of the global supply chain caused by the Covid pandemic as well as disruptions caused by the Ukraine war. Our lack of attention to modernizing the agriculture sector is also contributing to this. Even UPM shed off the word “Pertanian” from its name. While expectations are high, the improvements are going to be slow.
Looking at the performance of our stock market and currency we can see a return of market confidence. But attracting foreign investment will require a lot more work. We may look more appealing to investors but we are not the only country vying for foreign investments. Our bureaucracy and state-federal coordination have to be improved and our national capacity has to be strengthened. Fiscal policy has to be reformed and difficult choices have to be made. Malaysia has to reduces subsidies to free up funds so that they can be used for development projects that can boost the economy. And all these have to be done while facing the spectre of a global recession in 2023. Some of the decision that have to be made are not going to be popular. But that’s what leadership is about.
It is also very important for Malaysians to recognize that we should not rely on our politicians only to rebuild this country. Democracy is messy and slow. There are many things that we can do as the rakyat. Our voice must continue to be heard and we must hold our leaders accountable. NGOs and civil society movements have to play their roles and serve as the voice of the rakyat. The media, especially mainstream media, need to become more vibrant and independent. All these entities have to be the guardians of our collective conscience. We should respect our leaders but we must not idolize and worship them. They are humans and they will make mistakes. The future of this country must be built around strong institutions and processes and not strong leaders.
Rebuilding trust and defeating hate politics and bigotry will require the effort of everyone of us. Reach out to one another to build understanding and trust. The “Bendera Putih” movement during the MCO has shown that Malaysians are helpful towards one another regardless of race and religion. And we must remember the sacrifices of our Covid warriors who worked tirelessly to save us and who were colour blind in their effort. We are still here today because of them. They were part of the “Kita Jaga Kita”spirit. We need to rekindle this spirit and overcome the cleft created by hate politics. This is our personal and collective responsibility.
The corporate sector can play a major role in bringing people together. When Malaysians from different backgrounds work together in a company, we are better able to understand one another and overcome our prejudices. The corporate sector must embrace inclusiveness and diversity in a big way. And this inclusiveness is not just about the token presence of people from other races as security guards, janitors, menial labourers and despatch riders. The corporate sector can be the force that actually cement this nation together. This will help make the healing and reconciliation that the nation has to undergo more deeply rooted and irreversible. And corporate leaders should not wait to be told by political leaders to do this. This way, regardless of who comes to power our unity remains mostly solid and intact. Let this be the legacy that we leave for future generations.
Let us all as rakyat own the hope and collectively shape our destiny. We must feel empowered and believe that the locus of control is in our hands. We can break the barriers and speed up the healing. We elect leaders to serve us but we should not neglect our responsibility to bring this country together.
The picture below is of the Prime Minister being greeted by worshippers after the Friday prayer on November 25.
Stay up to date with our newest events and publications, so be sure to stay in touch. Join our community of thinkers like you who know the impact great leaders can have in a community.