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Time to forge a new revolution?

June 11, 2012

The problems of this nation cannot be solved by ‘cosmetic surgery’ via amending the laws or providing incentives to the citizens in an irregular basis.

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By Khoo Ying Hooi

Thomas Jefferson’s acclaimed remark in the early 1800s, “every generation needs a new revolution”, is still an inspiration for every new generation.

History is passing our country and that doesn’t stop. Very often, we come across sayings about the end of Western domination and the arrival of the Asian century; or rather decline of the West, and the rising of the East.

Whether one likes it or not, that similar essence is happening in Malaysia, though in a much narrow lens.

When the oppression becomes so eminent that the majority find it better to take the risk of opposing the people in power than anything else, then the revolution takes place. In many revolutions, the circumstance which leads up to them is the longing for equality.

A revolution may result either in an entire change of policy, or only in a form of modification from the existing structure.

In his recent speech at the launch of the 4B Youth Movement’s 36th annual gathering, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak urged youth to bring in evolution and not revolution because revolution could result in political instability for the country by citing Egypt as an example of how revolutionary change was unstable for a nation.

The recent wind of revolutions that took place in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries, has profoundly changed the geopolitical and social scene. Not only has it overthrown some long-established dictators, but also brought hope and passion among the youth whom, many of them looking for a change.

That immediately leads to the question; will we also have our own revolution? This begs the question as to whether such popular uprising could spread to countries as diverse as in Malaysia.

Since the British granted Malaya independence in August 1957, the Barisan Nasional coalition (previously called the Alliance) has governed at the federal level and in most states.

By co-opting their challengers, Barisan Nasional has expanded over the years from the original three parties to over a dozen today. Opposition parties are allowed to form and participate in the polity, nonetheless, with much registration requirements and other form of restrictions.

With a harsh legal system that is antagonistic to governmental opposition, Malaysia is recognized as one of Asia’s most politically conservative countries.

Obviously, many hold the idea that Malaysia is a special case for different reasons. However it is also a fact that the real change people yearn for is underway. The list of demands is lucid, straightforward and unanimous.

The Bersih movement has undoubtedly given a significant impact to the political realm. Blaming politicians is not sufficient. In order to solve the crisis, radical change will be needed at various levels.

Different system needed

What is happening in the country is not a crisis in the system but it is more accurately to be labeled as a crisis in the system.

As a result, today’s crisis cannot be solved by ‘cosmetic surgery’ via amending the laws or providing incentives to the citizens in an irregular basis, for instances.

It can only be solved by transformation into a different system altogether.

Indeed, since independence the Malaysian regime has proved remarkably resilient and resistant to change.

However, by describing the country’s political system as a semi-democracy, we are accepting, at least essentially, that the process of transition is unavoidable and that the country is somewhere in the process to transition.

The 2008 general election has revealed certain transformative elements in the Malaysian politics. It is clear that people now know about the power they have to change the government.

The contest for political power is increasingly intensive, which on the other hand, signifies a healthier competition between the Barisan Nasional and the Pakatan Rakyat.

The upcoming election will doubtlessly be the most competitive general election in the country’s history.

The time is ripe for the next generation to forge a new revolution. Be it the Barisan Nasional or the Pakatan Rakyat, they all must change or be changed in the next election if they betray the people’s confidence.

Khoo Ying Hooi is an academic member of staff at University Malaya. She is also a PhD candidate in the Department of Government and Civilisation Studies at the University Putra Malaysia. Her current research focuses on the civil society and social movement in Malaysia. She can be contacted at [email protected]


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