A special gift to the world from Malaysia, with love
Mahathir’s victory has made his people proud; now he must deliver for the nation
In October, 2012, I wrote about how Psy’s global hit song, “Gangnam Style”, brought much adoration and admiration for South Korea.
At that time, Malaysians, along with the rest of the world, were obsessed with the song. It was so popular that the then ruling Malaysian political party, Barisan Nasional, brought Psy in for a Chinese New Year celebration performance in Penang, just ahead of the May 5, 2013 general election.
That turned out to be an expensive PR disaster and didn’t improve BN’s GE13 fortunes in Penang.
It wasn’t Psy’s fault, but I was struck by how South Koreans were lapping up the reflected glory from his megahit and left me longing for the same sense of enormous pride about being Malaysian.
Those antics, however, were nothing in comparison to the really humongous embarrassment called 1MDB that was yet to explode in our faces. While there were questions raised about its financial dealings, the full extent of the scandal would only be exposed in 2015.
And so I wondered when would we have a “Gangnam Style” moment, when someone or something from Malaysia commanded global admiring attention.
We have it now, the person and the something. Since May 9, the world has been swooning over Mahathir Mohamad and the spectacular rout of BN. We can finally hold our heads up again and no longer bear the shame of being described by the US attorney-general as the nation with the worst form of kleptocracy.
Sure, we had intermittent street protests but not on the scale of the South Koreans’ determination to remove their scandal-ridden president.
Of course, the South Koreans had the advantage of key institutions like their press, judiciary and police being relatively free and independent and a parliament that was sensitive to public dissent. And yet, despite all the odds, Malaysians finally voted for change. For that, we can be justifiably proud and accept every bit of praise and accolade for being a shining example of people power from well-wishers from around the world.
Malaysians rejected BN because we believed it had become too arrogant and corrupt.
Indeed, the revelations from the police raids and press conferences that have transfixed the nation beat anything the writers of TV series “House of Cards” – described as a “wicked political drama” featuring a ruthless, manipulative and power-hungry president in the White House – can dream up.
Yet we should be more circumspect because the juicy revelations are whipping up our emotions and making us very judgmental. It’s a given we want all the perpetrators responsible punished but the new government must sort out fact from fiction to build a solid case to bring the culprits to justice.
Fear and suspicion
And as much as we want that and solutions to tackle the shocking amount of government debt, what is more important to me is for the winning coalition, Pakatan Harapan, to have concrete, sincere plans to build a new Malaysia.
Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim came together with DAP and Amanah leaders with one aim in mind: remove Najib Razak as prime minister. Now that’s done, they must show they can stay together and offer us something much better.
Our new government must demonstrate to us by example that we can live, work, worship and play together without fear and suspicion of each other. It must take the lead to dismantle race-based politics.
That is imperative because we have seen how issues of race and religion were abused and misused to divide and rule us.
Which brings me to the great divide that exists post-GE14. While the peninsular West Coast states as well as Johor clearly voted for PH’s brand of politics to build a more racially united, progressive and inclusive nation, that was outright rejected in religiously conservative Kelantan and Terengganu.
PH must set out to convince people in those two states that pluralism, secularism and liberalism – all of which were rejected by the previous government and labelled negatively as “human right-ism” – are not anathema to Islam.
Indeed, in PH states, the expectations are incredibly high and pressure to deliver rests heavily on 93-year-old shoulders.
Right now, there is so much love and gratitude for Mahathir for saving Malaysia that there is an online campaign to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Our prime minister and his colleagues must have the courage to create a new Malaysia so that our present golden moment does not fade.
I’m going travelling in the months to come, and I will be proudly brandishing my Malaysian passport.