Sure, make noise now but don’t forget to vote


Sure, make noise now but don’t forget to vote
By Zan Azlee

I’ve always seen myself as part of Malaysia’s youth. But honestly, I grew up in the grunge era and count Soundgarden, Nirvana and Weezer as my favourite bands. My favourite television shows are ‘Macgyver’, ‘The A-Team’ and ‘Knight Rider’. So I guess I’m probably about to leave my youth behind.

But that doesn’t mean I have lost the vigour of youth. Or so I want to believe! I am very excited to see how the young people of Malaysia have been so passionate about social and political issues around them. With Undi18 going on strong and Muda coming up, it looks like interesting times.

It looks like there could just be a changing of the guards in Malaysian politics, which is definitely a good thing seeing that our country’s leadership have seen the same old faces for decades now. A fresh, new and young Malaysia sounds like an interesting prospect.

The latest addition to the Muda team has seen some interesting reactions among Malaysians, especially the youth. Dian Lee (above) is primed to be a new candidate for Muda in the coming Johor state election. She is the daughter of the property developer tycoon Lee Kim Yee, who also happens to be a good friend and supporter of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

I feel that I am obligated to disclose that I do know Dian. We worked together on the documentary film ‘M for Malaysia’, which was Malaysia’s candidate for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards in 2019 (it wasn’t nominated). She was a co-director and producer of the film while I was a researcher and scriptwriter. In all our dealings, I found her to be very professional, friendly and pleasant.

Anyway, back to Dian joining Muda.

The internet sort of broke, with people commenting and criticising Dian for joining politics. Many were commenting that her involvement would make no difference – just the same old same old. The elitist group is just passing the torch between one another and their interests would be protected instead of the common folk.

Many also said that for someone like Dian, who comes from privilege and the upper class, it would be impossible for her to fully understand the needs and feelings of ordinary people, hence it could be a misrepresentation. Issues like employability, minimum wage, educational opportunities and other working class issues might not be a priority.

They are calling out Muda for recruiting someone like Dian and risking being elitist. They feel that this isn’t the right fit for the current political wave and candidates who are more working class and in touch with the rakyat would be more suited to be representatives. I admit that these are all valid concerns that are being raised.

However, I feel that calling for her to not even be involved would not be very democratic. If she is stopped from even contesting and offering herself as a candidate, then how would we know if the people are okay with her or not since it wouldn’t be reflected in a vote? I feel the right democratic process would be to let her run and then let the people decide.

Dian herself has made a statement on her social media platforms saying that she understands the sentiments of her critics. She mentioned that she knows many people are frustrated and sceptical and she can’t change who her father is. She expresses that she did not join politics for enrichment reasons and that it will take time to demonstrate her intentions.

Take what you will from that. We are all pretty conditioned to the political and social environment that our country is in. All I am saying is that everyone has a right to offer themselves up, and everyone also has the right to comment and criticise. That’s the beauty of democracy.

Let Dian contest if that is the plan. Then let the people vote. The only thing is that the people need to be given the exposure of knowing what and who they are voting for so they can make the most informed decision for themselves. Then it is really the people who are deciding instead of just the more vocal ones.

If after the elections, there is a change then so be it. If it is still the same old same old, then what can we do? The important thing is that we cannot stop what, fortunately, is already happening now, which is a very energetic environment where discourse and debate can take place. As it is, Dian and Muda are already having to engage and respond to the people, as they rightfully should.

Let this thrive and we will have a much more aware civil society and a more responsible and accountable political society. So make sure to go out and vote when the time comes, because we can make all the noise we want now but it makes no difference if we don’t cast our choice.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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