Malaysiakini Letter

Today, we achieved independence in substance

SK Wong  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | More than a week has passed since that monumental day in Malaysia.

It is fair to say that all election observers were awestruck and even envious by what Malaysians achieved - a peaceful transition from one-party to a two-party system. No one in their wildest dream had predicted this outcome. Even foreign observers struggle to find superlatives to describe the astonishing results.

For many years, our nation languished in shame and notoriety brought about by leaders who are corrupted and incompetent.

The determination, grit, ingenuity, resourcefulness, solidarity and sacrifice shown by all Malaysians who came out in full force, braving traffic jams for hundreds of kilometers, foregoing wages, and even flying home to deliver postal votes in person, not to mention the countless volunteers who signed up as polling and counting agents; overcoming the various obstacles and heavily-lopsided playing field, has finally redeemed our dignity. We are proud to call ourselves Malaysians again on the global stage.

This is our second independence. May 9 will be our second independence day. This will be the date we celebrate and tell our children and grandchildren, just as our forefathers told us about our first independence.

As stupendous and sudden as the election result may be, it did not happen overnight.

In 2013 (GE13), the opposition obtained the majority of the popular votes for the second time after independence (first time was 1969), and up to that point, the highest percentage of votes garnered by the opposition.

In 2008 (GE12), the opposition denied the ruling coalition a two-thirds majority for the first time since 1969. In addition, the opposition captured five state legislatures. BN’s poor showing also led to the resignation of the then PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

In 2004 (GE11), the voters gave PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s first term a resounding support, in part because he was viewed as a moderate compared to his predecessor Tun Dr Mahathir.

In 1999 (GE10), the sacking and detention on charges of sodomy of Anwar Ibrahim gave rise to the “reformasi” movement. Parti Keadilan Nasional (forerunner of Parti Keadilan Rakyat) and Barisan Alternative (the forerunner of Pakatan Rakyat and Pakatan Harapan) were formed.

Viewed over a period of decades, it is obvious that progress was always incremental. Progress is often made two steps forward, one step back. While the results of the latest election are seismic, it is fair to say, it has been brewing for the better part of the last twenty years.

Great projects are never achieved overnight. Sixty years ago, we achieved independence in name; today, we achieved independence in substance. Going forward, we still have much to do.

In a sense, we have to thank the previous two BN administrations who by their sheer incompetence, mismanagement, irresponsibility and corruption, had galvanised the people into action. The two-party system is ripe for its time.

Never again shall we become absentee citizens in the intervening years between general elections. The mandate given by the people is not a blank cheque. Never again shall we give the government of the day a free hand to do whatever it likes.

Malaysians have woken up to the true meaning of democracy. It is everyday life, not just voting once every five years. And if the government of the day strays from its course, the people will remind the government who is the real boss.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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