Young, accomplished professionals must come forward to be leaders

The seniors promised us a brighter future. Yet, we remain gloomy about the fate of our country, due in part to Malaysian politics.

Malaysians are fed up with many seniors who care more about political power and status than the people’s socioeconomic wellbeing.

The only hope of overcoming the ugliness that we are witnessing today, I reckon, is our youth.

The lowering of voting age to 18 was substantially meaningful, but may not be substantially significant. Voting allows our voices to be heard, yet it remains susceptible to betrayals.

If we truly want a new, better Malaysia, I strongly believe that we need to promote our youth to lead in politics.

I feel the idea for youth to become leaders, not followers, in politics is a no brainer as the median age of the Malaysian population is under 30 and more than 60% of the population is under 40.

To stay true to this idea, youth will need to enter, rise and retire early in politics. The scarcity of their time as “youth” in public office should create the sense of urgency needed to resolve many long-standing issues and to provide timely advances, especially in education, economy and health.

It will also prevent the overstaying of politicians and redirect their experience gained in public service back to the economy through industry appointments.

Therefore, the role of youth in politics will need to change radically. Youth can no longer become mere passive observers in politics.

They should quit as keyboard warriors and “like-and-share” enthusiasts of sensational news. They must shrug off the “newbie” mentality and start aspiring, inspiring and leading the way forward with ambition, courage, enthusiasm and resilience.

They need to be agile and respond to changes in innovative and impactful ways.

To do all that, youth need to start investing in themselves. This includes monetary investment, as in the case of executive education and higher degree pursuits, and non-monetary investment, such as time and effort, as in the case of community building, impact project curation and volunteering.

This should enable our youth to succeed early in their professional careers so that they become empowered to make a credible and timely transition to politics.

This version of youth in politics is what I refer to as “young, accomplished professionals”.

Nonetheless, I do have some reservations on the effectiveness of youth wings in political parties, as the final decision-makers are often senior, political warlords.

As an alternative, I envision the emergence of a youth political party that consists of only young, accomplished professionals. The membership or term shall last until the age of 40 and they can become an alumni, with admission into the party’s “hall of fame” if they can demonstrate good public service thereafter.

The challenge, however, may reside in the readiness of Malaysians to accept youth leadership. Fundamental to that is the understanding that what should matter most is the quality rather than the number of years of experience.

Lim Weng Marc, an adjunct professor at Swinburne University of Technology, is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.