News Personal

The Malaysian Mess This Week

It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to say about the events of the past weekend leading up to Monday, and how I was going to say it. I was not a political science student, don’t have any insights into policy making or government, and as such I can only speak about how I feel as a regular urban middle class Malaysian, if there’s even such a thing as “regular”. I’ve voted twice, spent a bit of time in community related work, and know a few people who work with or under policy making departments. That’s it. I have no other credentials other than the dubious one of being a taxpayer.

As of today there are tons of things online claiming to be the definitive story of what really transpired starting Sunday and will likely dominate the media landscape throughout this week. Many of these things are being said by politicians. Others are said by their staffers, or friends, or what I sometimes refer to as “insiders”. Not all of it makes sense, and I have reason to suspect the accounts that do. Some of these people no longer have jobs, as part of the incredible shakeup that happened on Monday. It’s hard to wrap my head around, and I suspect I’m not the only one feeling lost, confused, or dispirited. I don’t even dare reenter Facebook for fear of losing my mind. It’s a crazy time.

In 2018, I went out to vote because I wanted to kick Najib and his BN goons out. After decades of horrible policies and theft it was the right thing to do. By and large Malaysians voted around the same way and we drove the BN government out peacefully and solidly. Back then the choice seemed clear – the alternative coalition had enough appeal and less thieves anyway, so the maths seemed easy enough. We may not have trusted the process, but enough of us trusted the system to deliver our voices upwards, and it did. We achieved the goals we wanted, and while there was no ideal government or candidate it was the best we had given the options. Not voting was never a consideration, because it meant giving BN a free pass, which I had vowed never to do. Easy maths.

As of today I can’t say honestly that I still trust the system. Someone will argue “it’s not the system it’s the politicians” but if the politicians are operating in a flawed system it’s even harder to affect real change. It seems patently unfair and incredibly privileged to say “fuck it all, I don’t care about politics” because it is an unfair, privileged, and incredibly stupid position to hold. The option seems to be, in the case of a snap election, to go out and vote again. The question is, for what/who? If there was a “trust deficit” before, what do we call the mess that has come into form this week?

Yes, democracy is messy. This is something I know. Democracy also means nobody really wins. I know this too. Despite all that, looking at multiple good projects that were started last year and are now effectively dead because there are no more ministers to lead them, rank and file staffers who suddenly lost their jobs because of machinations nobody really understands but everyone claims to, it’s hard convince myself that it must be the way forward. Maybe it’s just me. I hope it is. Many Malaysians may not deserve better, but significantly more do.

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