Speaking as someone who grew up in a very repressive Malaysia where one party has held the reins for getting on 60 years, since the creation of the country:
The place of my birth now has a new government, a new party, but an old face, and I'm not really having a good feeling about this at all.
So first off, I'd like to start by putting into a bulleted list, what the news outlets have to say about this whole matter:
- First and foremost, the BBC. Their article on this matter has thrown in words of caution, including that the Electoral Commission failed to remove the votes of now dead people, failed to improve on the postal voting system, and in light of past events, also cast a shadow on the whole thing.
- The Guardian is extremely optimistic.
- The Independent was the first paper I encountered that had former Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, give an official statement on his defeat. Again, the tone is hopeful and optimistic.
- Moving on to local papers, the New Straits Times covers the swearing-in of the new-old Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad (let's dispatch with the honorifics for now, shall we?). Some key opposition figures, who had campaigned for better human rights in the country, are to be made top figures -- for instance, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, whom I remembered as quite the firebrand even in my school days, is going to be made deputy PM. Bear in mind that the same paper reported, in January this very same year, that the leaders of the then opposition, Pakatan Harapan, or the Alliance of Hope, rejected this very same Mahathir Mohamad as a Prime Ministerial candidate.
- The Malay Mail has done a very quick post on the swearing-in of Mahathir Mohamad.
So naturally, one wonders, whoopee! Change has come! Malaysia has its first hung parliament! What next? Thing is, considering Mahathir Mohamad's track record, I have my misgivings.
For starters, I remember him being Prime Minister when I was a child. Specifically, all the way up till I was 11. At that time already, he was the longest-serving Prime Minister in the history of the country. To his credit, he did modernise the country and bring in information technology -- a little late, considering most of the developed world had it in the 70s and 80s and we were playing catch-up in 1995, when it was introduced to us. However, he perpetuated some pretty horrible things, including the awful Malaysian human rights record. He brought with his reign sentiments of Malay dominance over all the other ethnic groups, just like a fair few of his predecessors and a fair few people who replaced him.
And, most notably, he imprisoned his then deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, on fabricated charges of sodomy, charges that would be repeated in the last decade as well -- in a country where male homosexuality is illegal, but female homosexuality is perfectly fine. Don't fucking ask me why. Many people around me, particularly in the cities, saw this as unjust and perhaps a perfect way to get rid of one's enemies within the party. But there were still many more others who swallowed the lies and believed, at face value, that all of this was true. Needless to say, this leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
On top of that, Mahathir Mohamad, in the 1980s, came up with a scheme of sorts called Wawasan 2020, or Vision 2020 -- a plan to make Malaysia on par with the developed West and East by the year 2020. Many people over there may have forgotten about it, but I certainly haven't. Well into my primary school years I and hundreds of other schoolmates were singing patriotic songs about Vision 2020 in our school assemblies. I remember, I was the fucking pianist for these songs. The news reports that I mentioned above allude to Mahathir's comments that he will step down after two years. If you ask me, I imagine that it's because he still remembers Vision 2020, pardon the cheesy name -- and that if it doesn't come true, it's not only Najib Razak with his corruption who'll be a laughing-stock. Mahathir himself would be a laughing-stock as well. Mahathir wants to avoid that.
But honestly, what drastic change can be done in two years without its immense share of problems?
I mean, come on. I am in Britain now and I love this country with all my heart, but Britain already has its problems; we're in what people describe as a constitutional crisis. Our brethren in the US... well, we hear enough problems in that country every day because of the President-made-of-cotton-candy-and-clown-pubes. And back when I was in Malaysia, many of us who were fed with information about Vision 2020 were fed also with the naive thought that we would have no more problems to deal with, we'd be a technological, prosperous paradise. I do not know if that naiveté still lingers on in the hearts and minds of the Malaysian people, and for their sake, I sincerely hope not. I sincerely hope that they realise that they're going to be faced with these problems throughout their history and they have to take responsibility, and be accountable for these things.
I must also mention perhaps the most important thing of all that is filling me with unease.
The last time an opposition party took a lot of seats, it was in the 1960s. Immediately, goaded by political bigotry and hatred, a bloodbath happened that took the lives of very many people, predominantly from minorities. That came to be known as the 13 May 1969 Incident. Now, I am all for change if it is really heartfelt, and properly followed through -- but a lot of people tend to pay lip-service to that change. I remember that throughout my school years, propaganda about the 13 May 1969 Incident was consistently hammered into our heads. We were made to live in fear that if we elected anyone apart from the ruling government, something like this would happen again. We had to at least maintain a surface relation of harmony between all the ethnic groups -- fuck all the problems that happen beneath the scenes -- so that something like this doesn't happen and so that the status quo could be preserved. Now forgive me for my cynicism; I sincerely hope that it doesn't lead to something like this but what are the odds that Barisan National, or its component parties, won't go kicking and screaming throughout Mahathir Mohamad's new term? Or worse yet: what if they don't, because they're subjected to the same repression that we all knew in decades past?
Will many people be able to talk about their fears without prejudice? Will people be able to protest freely without tear gas and violence given to them? Will the Foreign Office here in Britain finally lift the warning to avoid centres in cities where protests are going on?
Will the sunset clause on majority rights for the Malay people finally be put in place, which has not been put in place since 1957, the independence of that country? Will it finally say, "until such time that there is economic parity between all the ethnic groups"?
Or will their legacy be one of a technological autocracy? Will people try to perpetuate the dominance of one ethnicity over all the others, like all the almost fascist rhetoric of "Malay lordship" or ketuanan Melayu that was propounded in the last decade?
I am still simmering with memories of what had been inflicted on me during my time in that country. I have nightmares of it in my sleep; they've happened nearly every night now. So naturally, I take a massive change like this with extreme caution, because I've known that country to be volatile in the past.