I woke up this morning and like all mornings I reached for my phone. This time though I had purpose beyond just checking messages. I wanted to know the final tally of the election results.
When I pulled out the Malaysiakini page, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that Pakatan will be taking over the federal government but that feeling was quickly replaced with disbelief. Disbelief that this managed to happen in my lifetime. Just the day before I was telling my friends that it was impossible for BN to lose given how the odds were so in their favour and even though the opposition had all the urban voters on their side but because of the gerrymandering it wasn’t enough. But now it had happened. Pakatan is no longer the opposition.
I didn’t know what to feel. On one hand it’s too early to tell if our new government will be uncorrupt, allow freedom of speech and restore the institutions we have in this country be it the police or judicial system. But on the other hand I felt something lift: a fear, a burden that I’ve had all my life. The fear of speaking out against the (previously) ruling government.
My parents have always taught me that a businessman must avoid politics unless your business depends on politics. The fear is that if a businessman or entrepreneur stands up openly against the ruling government, we could be punished via our business. I realise this is a common fear among entrepreneurs though to be fair, it’s a fear that is not necessarily material especially if we’re business owners of small private companies. Still it doesn’t help that we’ve seen examples being made of people in the past.
Over the years though I found it hard to not care about the country I grew up in. It became increasingly difficult not to be passionate about certain issues or angry whenever I see Malaysians being let down by the government. My wife too shared my sentiments and we would talk about it behind close doors but publicly, I acted like I was indifferent to politics.
Then the issues our country faced got worse… and worse and finally I caved.
First I started donating money to Pakatan parties since two elections ago, and even then I was afraid to do it in a manner that could be traced back to me. I would draw out cash, and then do anonymous cash deposits into the party bank accounts. Or I would donate via other people like more recently through my friend Tim Teoh who started Pulang Undi. We ended up chartering two busses with the money and sending voters (regardless of whoever they were voting for) back to Malacca and Kedah to vote.
Then I started going for rallies starting with ceramahs, then Bersih. At first not posting about it, then eventually posting about it openly on social media. I wasn’t sure if Bersih was effective but this election proved to me that it was. It created a lot of awareness of how one could cheat in elections, so everyone was prepared for it this time round. Still I stopped short of openly saying that I support the opposition.
This morning though that fear dissipated. It’s the first time in my life that I’m openly blogging about politics on my blog. When I think about this new start we’re given I can’t help but feel gratitude for the collective of people that made this possible.
From the opposition politicians that joined up as the underdog party and risk being prosecuted like Lim Kit Siang and Rafizi, to people like Ambiga who fought for free and fair elections to even Sarawak Report or The Edge for exposing one of the biggest financial scandals of our time. On the ground too the polling and counting agents and to voters that made it in the middle of the week to cast their votes. One paragraph will never be able to do an exhaustive list of all the people who made this possible, but it happened. To all these people I owe my thanks and gratitude, for giving our country this new chance.
In the beginning of this article I said that it’s not certain yet that the new government will be uncorrupt or keep their promises of fixing our broken country. But I do know two things: I feel less afraid now and more importantly, Malaysia finally has a two-party system. Some people ask me how I can support Mahathir after what he has done in the past but the truth is that I don’t necessarily vote for parties or people, I vote for country. I ask myself if our country is better off with one dominant party, or two equally strong parties. The answer I found is the latter and that is what we Malaysians achieved yesterday.
That in itself is a big win for me. That in itself, makes Malaysia a better place for us and for our children.
Thank you Malaysia for making me so proud to be Malaysian.