A year of New M'sia: Reminiscing on a historic change

Amerul Azry Abdul Aziz & Fazrin Jamal

Modified 9 May 2019, 1:04 pm

LETTER | Like many other writers on this earth, I preach via words I pen. That's how my heart stays bridged to readers like you.

In 2018, my name as an "underground political writer" was, days before the 14th general election, mouthed by local readers who happened to read letters published on Malaysiakini.

Days before the 14th general election (GE14) kicked off, I penned "Believe in change and it will happen", "People will vote for party not candidates”, and "How does it feel to be returned unopposed" — in which I 'congratulated' Mohamad Hasan for winning the Rantau seat unchallenged.

Believe it or not, because of a domestic general election, reading had, all of a sudden, become a habit of the rising “concerned Malaysians”.

If we used to wonder how politics can change mankind, GE14 had surprisingly and enormously launched a “We Love Reading” programme that wasn’t even budgeted by the then government. 

I had never thought that politics could inculcate a habit of reading, as almost everyone that I know is allergic to reading.

On the road to May 9, I found out that many political news articles and opinion pieces written by independent writers like me received uncountable numbers of shares. I was silently amazed by Malaysians’ reading habit.

Like first-time tourists, they normally read books related to countries where they will go for a vacation. Or at least, they search for "great beaches to get sun-kissed" on Google — the quickest way of looking up unfamiliar information. 

Same goes for politics. GE14 voters, especially first-time ones, would gain believable information from any accessible source. 

Reading can convince people to make a choice and psychologically shape people’s decisiveness.

What caused Pakatan Harapan's "unexpected" electoral victory was the decisiveness of the Malaysian voters. It was believed that what they read days, weeks, and even years before the election inspired their decisions to vote.

Regardless of whether something is fake or half-boiled news, information from materials we read can influence us to make a change.

Decision to vote

Before the election, I met with my wife’s cousin at a cake shop in Shah Alam. Besides gossiping about a politician who didn’t pay for her boyfriend’s service of building the politician’s new house, we talked about the decision to vote.

“I seriously don’t know what party I should vote for in the coming election, but my dad insisted I should vote BN,” she said. 

“There are many young people like us who wish to change the government. We truly need a change. So, go back to vote to make the change,” I said.

She nodded and so did my wife.

I greatly believe that most of you, in GE14 and previous elections, had no idea about which party to vote for. Clueless voters would normally ask for others’ opinions on decision to vote.

On the election day, after getting my forefinger inked, I walked straight to the polling booth to cast my vote. 

Without hesitation, I voted out a famous politician whose severe paralysis in politics I had kept praying for. 

After erasing him from my “list-to-vote”, I had two remaining options - the unrecognised Harapan candidate and my former secondary school principal, who used to scold me for playing “wall football” in the classroom.

So, whom did I vote for? Let it be a secret forever.

A no-appetite night

Like a feverish boy, I had no appetite for dinner on election night, despite my brother buying three boxes of my favourite pizzas.

I was experiencing a mix of feelings. I was very excited, nervous, scared, and worried. “Will the government remain the same?”

Everyone was impatiently waiting for the biggest moment the whole nation had been wishing for. 

Too much news flew on my Twitter timeline and WhatsApp, so much so that I couldn’t separate what was real. I almost believed that a celebrity, an independent candidate, won the state seat he battled for against his brother. 

It was the longest night for all Malaysians, including the losing candidates who kept recalculating their votes even after the results were officially announced. 

Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his Harapan friends had congregated at a hotel. Cameras zoomed in on the one and only Mahathir.

I could feel that every pair of Malaysians’ eyes was in front of the TVs, and waiting for the words to come out of Mahathir’s mouth. 

“Harapan has actually won the election. We have exceeded the simple majority of 121 seats,” Dr M claimed calmly.

On the glorious night, a new history was written—Harapan, a four-party coalition with its buddy Parti Warisan Sabah, was going to form a new federal government captained by the 93-year-old Mahathir. 

Before going to bed, I happily finished the remaining slices of pizza.

Casting my vote

On the long-awaited May 9, like the rest of millions of Malaysians, I went to cast my vote at Sekolah Kebangsaan Chembong, which is located in Khairy Jamaluddin's constituency, Rembau. 

With the intention of expressing my "unhappiness" against the "kleptocratic government", I finally registered my name to become a voter. And in GE14, I was a first-time Malaysian voter.

On the ballot, I didn't seem to have choices, even though there were three political flags 'served' on it.

In my mind, I only had one decision—"vote for a change" even though I was clueless about the candidate I was about to vote for. 

At night, every news portal was so busy updating the election results. One of the earliest results that popped out on my phone was: "Big-named ministers defeated". Seriously?

I couldn’t sleep. And neither could you. It was a sleepless night for all Malaysians. I was thinking: "What if the EC does a plot twist?"

TV was the only thing that I just wanted to be with, late that night. For the time in my life, I was very happy about seeing Mahathir on the screen. I had never adored him as a politician but on that night, I felt different. Mahathir seemed to be my idol whom I suddenly hailed. 

Every word that would be pronounced from Mahathir’s mouth would surely be something that I wouldn’t easily forget, and one of his best lines was: "We have won the election".

I am reminded of George Carlin’s words: "If you vote and you elect dishonest, incompetent people into office who screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You caused the problem; you voted them in; you have no right to complain."

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

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