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MALAYSIANSKINI PKR might often be centred on the ideals of its de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, but for young lawyer Melissa Sasidaran, becoming a member was a chance to promote her own views on constitutional rights. 

Joining a political party, however, never crossed the mind of the soft-spoken but vocal Johorean.

“I was involved during the 13th general election, helping out as a polling agent, but I thought then when it comes to politics, that was as far as I would go.

“I was quite politically aware. It is just that I never thought that I’d one day be involved in any political party because I always thought that it was something best left to the politicians. I’m a lawyer, that’s what I know,” she told Malaysiakini in an exclusive interview last month.

But just as she did not imagine being a lawyer growing up, her views on becoming a politician changed when she was offered a spot in the PKR Youth lineup.

“(Last year) I was approached by PKR youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad to join the party, and for the first time, I actually had the option of considering whether politics would be an additional platform for me to work on issues that I am concerned about.

“I thought about it long and hard, and it was not an easy decision at all. (But) what made the decision easier was the fact that I had support from my friends.

“Also the fact that my views on the issues that I carry about are in line with the party’s values, and also the fact that PKR is more multiracial than most other parties,” she said.

And as they say, the rest is history.

‘Shocking’ involvement in politics

Melissa, who is a Multimedia University graduate, is now an appointed PKR Youth exco, in charge of the wing’s political education bureau.

News of the 30-year-old joining PKR shocked her colleagues in the legal profession, including her “kindred Chindian spirit” Michelle Yesudas, who was just as excited to find out why Melissa had joined politics during their interview together at Malaysiakini’s office in Petaling Jaya. 

“When we heard Melissa joined PKR we were all like... ‘What?’ ” Michelle revealed, to which Melissa replied: “I shocked myself too.”

Michelle, who works with Lawyers for Liberty, however, is content with where she is now, and doesn’t intend to take the extra step as she has lost faith in the current method of elections.

“Right now, (looking at) Malaysian elections, I do not see myself standing for it. I have a problem with the attitude of the electoral, including myself. [...] I feel that we are very shallow, we are an immature democratic country.

“For me, I see myself working (with the) grassroots now (on) creating a more trustworthy institution. I would also not like to be seen as somebody who wants to be involved in politics,” she said.

As for Melissa, joining PKR and carrying her Youth exco duties is the extent of her political involvement for now.

She prefers to focus on her work with Ramrais and Partners, instead of thinking about running as a candidate in the next general elections.

“I’m not keen on it at the moment because being a lawyer, what I know is to be there (as a lawyer). There are people who need my help.

“(Joining the party) was a supplement to what I was already doing. I certainly did not consider, ‘Maybe we want to groom you for the next GE’.

Too early to consider running

She added that she wasn’t quite ready to take on the challenge of being a full-fledged politician who has to face the public and not just judges in a courtroom.

“I have a lot of respect for female politicians especially, who go out there, put themselves out there for all this rubbish that they have to take, (but) I don’t know if I have the courage to do that yet.

“What I do want is to use my position right now as a platform to push forward all these human rights issues that I care about. I wouldn’t say I am discounting it, (but) I think at this point, it is really too early,” she said.

While neither Melissa nor Michelle ( Michelle on the left ) are interested to run for elections, they both have something in mind if they do run and end up being the country’s prime minister.

“Repeal the sedition act! That’s the first thing I would do,” Melissa said.

Michelle added: “(Besides that) get rid of the death penalty. Murder is the worst crime in the world [...] There’s nothing you can say that can legitimise that (death penalty), so for me it’s that, especially on (those who are sentenced for) drugs. There should be more push to educate people instead of inculcating fear.”

Melissa too wants to educate people, especially young Malaysians about their rights.

“I also want to make (learning about) the constitution as part of our (school) syllabus. That is something that I think we really need to do so that we have a better appreciation for our fellow Malaysians,” she said.

This is the second part of a double interview with Michelle Yesudas and Melissa Sasidaran.

 MALAYSIANSKINI is a series on up-and-coming politicians and activists.