By Ikmal Hazlan Ikmal Hisham
Depending on where you were on May 9, 2018, the date might mean different things to you. Some might say it was the day of a miracle. Some might say it was the day where the early morning jams were comparable to Hari Raya eve traffic. However, what most would say of the day now, and for years to come, would be that it was the day when Umno lost.
To me, it was the day that my sense of politics was rebooted. It is certainly a different feeling, facing a loss as colossal as this. While other people might view it as the day the biggest titan in the history of the nation was beaten, to us, it certainly feels more like losing a home and a job.
To politicians, even budding ones like me, politics is more than just news, speeches, programmes or crowds.
Politicians politicise. It is our career, where the transactions we make every day involve values, philosophies and convictions. And when I say we, I mean everyone in the party that I serve – from the president, right down to ordinary members like myself.
If you are in a party where the leaders have stellar records and are loved by the majority of the people, the transactions you make every day are easier because there is always that legacy of trust that you can depend on.
If you are not in that party, let’s just say it is like building a sand castle on a rainy beach in the middle of a thunderstorm.
The art of losing
There is a sobering sense in losing big battles. Of course, what comes after the loss is instant disappointment, which is the opposite of the instant gratification your rival rejoices over.
But give it some time and the feeling of sobriety will kick in. The fact is, having lost big battles enables you to unload a big burden, simply because the big burden you bore all this while has been denied its relevance.
In this sense, losing immediately becomes the great equaliser. Having lost your stature, you will once again know what it is like being nothing. And the best part of being nothing is, you can always begin to build something.
That faith – the belief that you can start anew – is a detoxifying factor.
And now, having learnt what has been proven relevant with the new Malaysia, we can build even better messages, suggestions and counter arguments as the opposition. This is another detoxifying factor in Umno now. No longer will we be screaming and yelling in Parliament – we will actually be forced to bow our heads and work on serious intellectual arguments.
In short, to all of us in Umno, it’s back to the basics of being a government once again – the quality that we lost, having been drunk on our own success (or better known as Kool Aid) all this while.
To me, that is a very good thing to have, and the best thing is, we definitely have it easier than our rivals during our time. After all these years of brandishing mature politics (or politik matang) as a buzzword, we are finally able to really pave the way towards building one.
The challenge of creating mature politics is as much a burden on the government as it is on the opposition. Politics is essentially the art of agreeing, disagreeing and arguing, and that being the case, the government will not, and cannot, bicker among themselves, because that would be seen by the rakyat as a sign of disintegration and disunity.
No, they cannot. For that reason, they dearly need us, the opposition. It may take only two to tango, but if your dance is politics, you will need the whole of the opposing bench to dance.
Our rival does not have to be our enemy. They are our competitors, and running beside them, side by side, in their pursuit of competency will enable us to be competent. But for that to happen, we need to be competitive so that we will always look at them eye-to-eye and remind them again of the purpose of our existence.
And that is what it means to be the opposition – the other side of the coin, the unsung hero that will take Malaysia into a new age of political maturity.
We need to start rebuilding our competency. To be on the same level of the playing field as the government, in order to keep the government on its toes, we need to keep fighting.
The art of building
I mentioned earlier how the process of rebuilding Umno is like building a sandcastle on a rainy beach in the middle of a thunderstorm. But the good thing is, we are actually building.
The government that you see today has proven that society does not necessarily need a young leader. What it needs is a leader with the right philosophies, values and convictions. Society does not care if the leaders did wrong before; society does not care if the leaders were slandered. Society does not even care if its leaders are 32 years past retirement age.
Society wants leaders who speak about their struggles and work towards their dreams. And the best way to understand their struggles is to embody their values and philosophies – to be able to see the world from their interpretation of it. Finally, what they really want is for someone to have a stronger conviction than they do in pursuing their dreams of a better future.
As the opposition, we are free to build on all of this. We do not have the restriction of having to please every member of the coalition before we can come to a decision to build what we want to build. We do not have to wrestle (as hard) with coalition leaders who have different philosophies, values and convictions.
We are free to be the best version of a political party for the new era, something that the current government is not able to do as they have to bear the burden of their leaders from the old era – the same burden we had to carry before.
Let’s get busy
And for that very reason, Umno is currently on its way to becoming the most relevant political party post-GE14. We are free to define the most relevant philosophies, to imbue ourselves with the most relevant values, and to strive for them with the strongest convictions of the modern era.
The youth can expect a new set of party representatives who may be busier than the government representatives in serving the people. The youth can expect more vibrant policies that speak to their interests and values. Above all, the youth can expect a very competitive shadow government.
We will do all this, perhaps even better, simply because we are more desperate to survive as a political party. We are more desperate for the rakyat’s trust, and we are willing to work hard for it.
All this is happening because, in honest truth, we have been destroyed. And now from the ashes, we have sworn to rise again. But we cannot hope to do it alone.
Umno is a party that is currently in dire need of a new modern push, a modern definition. That being the case, we are effectively the only party that would actually force itself to listen and provide the best response to the plight of the new era, in order to derive its own purpose for existence.
And that… that is the reason why youth should consider supporting Umno. Because we are the only party that will be most able to represent your interests. Let us prove it. Let us get busy.
Ikmal Hazlan Ikmal Hisham is Tanah Merah Umno treasurer and an Umno Youth exco candidate.
The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.