Friday, 28 October 2011

I'm 25, Malaysian. Should I give up on Malaysia?

My recent trip back to Malaysia made me realise the lack of political awareness in the country. Business owners, working individuals, family and friends have virtually given up trying, or simply not want to court unnecessary trouble. They continue to complain of our government’s incompetence. But simply complaining will take us nowhere. Only abusers and authoritarians, who do not want to hear the truth and how we feel want us to be silent, allowing them to continue squandering our nation's coffers and they be left unpunished. Countless loopholes in the legislations are making the rich even richer, and the poor to continue to suffer. A simple example is the real estate situation in Malaysia. Housing has become impossible for new starters to own, with the unaffordability standards at an all-time high. Yet, the rich are still able to continue reaping gains from the market, inflating prices, causing houses to be even more and more unaffordable. In the rural areas, people are struggling to access basic needs such as water and electricity, not to mention basic healthcare.

Malaysia has an incredible pool of talent, and I would attest to that, having gone to school with many of them. Unfortunately there has been a continuous brain drain from our country; and these are intellectuals with tertiary-level education. The outflow of talent has not been matched with equal and compatible inflow, thus damaging the quality of Malaysia's narrow skills base. 54% of the brain drain can be traced to Singapore, 15% to Australia, 10% to the US, and 5% to the UK, resulting in Malaysia's economic growth rate to fall to an average of 5% pa. Major push factors include corruption, social inequality and lack of academic freedom.

Malaysia is now at a unique moment in its history. For the first time, there's a broad realisation that the country must move in a new direction. Malaysia is fortunate to have some great political leaders, who have made huge sacrifices, and facing countless allegations, are still standing strong to fight another day for our country. They have shown us the way and given us hope to introduce the true essence of a democracy. We are on the verge of being able to make a great change to our country in the next coming election, but will it be possible without the support from all of us?

Is it important for Malaysians to realise that each of us have a role to play in creating a Malaysia we can be proud of? We live in Malaysia, and we love Malaysia. Malaysia has so much potential, and so much unique diversity that if we are able to deal with all the grouses and discontent that people speak about, we would be a world-class country. But we must act. Our communities must be transformed and become independent, action communities that perhaps one day there is no need or a reduced need for us to rely on politicians. We need to build a non-partisan, issue-based, youth-driven, community-centred platform to promote greater ownership, participation and seek workable solutions to problems that affect our communities. We need to learn how to ask the right questions and make more informed choices in our daily lives. We need to have more control more of over our well-being rather than having “top-down” policies implemented on us without our consent, tacit or otherwise.

Most of all, we need to claim our civil space for otherwise, ruthless, manipulative, racist elements will claim that space for us. By that time, the damage will be too deeply embedded to allow any rescindable change. The time is now. We need to activate all Malaysians to drive our agenda for a better Malaysia. Let us all unite and work towards creating a society with integrity.

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