Reflections of a final semester law student on the criteria that he would consider before casting his vote for the next general elections.
2011, another year before 2012 and I’m turning 23. Good Lord, I still feel like I am 21.
Well, I reckon the secret to looking young is actually quite easy: just think that you are young and put yourself at the age where you like the most.
However it does not work mentally because you cannot afford to arrest your intellectual growth and maturity. Oh dear, whatever would happen to those who are intellectually challenged?
Having said that, rumours are spreading: the 13th general election will be held anytime in the first half of the year. It will be exciting because this will be my first time casting the vote.
Hopefully I will be able to cast it; you never know the fate of a travelling student like me. Hopefully the air ticket will not be too expensive when the democratic process calls me to fulfill my civic duty.
The idea of voting for the first time really intrigues me; a slight imagination of the experience makes my nerves vibrate relentlessly, I feel a hot and cold sensation crawling on my skin.
It feels like I’m watching the bride walk down the aisle, shivering and waiting for the moment to say “I do” so that the whole ceremony could end as soon as possible. Wait, I’m stretching the imagination just a tad too far. I’ve never been married, how would I know how that feels like?
That’s the problem with me, or us: we imagine, assume and contemplate without finding out empirically what is it that we really feel. I am always guilty of the crime; assuming something in isolation, only to discover that the feeling that I conceived was invalid.
The same can also equally be said about our politicians.
All these legislations were enacted on the pretext of protecting the society from harm. The ministers thought that without these laws, the society would collapse.
However the questions remain:
Thus far, the regime has not given us satisfactory and convincing explanation as to why we need laws that illegitimately encroach into our lives. When we advocate human rights, we do not ask for absolute freedom.
We know that this is not how freedom works; freedom has to be exercised with responsibility.
All we ask is that our rights be respected and protected. All we ask is that so we can enjoy our rights.
The rights that we should enjoy are the rights that make us free human beings, not rights as defined and shaped by the distrusting government. Such legislated rights only reduce us into mundane homo sapiens, not humans.
So much for the nexus between unsubstantiated assumption and human rights.
Lately, I have been reading the news and occasionally turn my attention to the country’s political arena. It is amusing, really, to attune your attention to the political field sometimes.
Politicians are the best entertainers, even if they don’t believe they are. They can provoke all sort of feelings from us, the citizens: anger, happiness, sympathy etc.
But the thing that amazes me the most is the fact that a third force is emerging, a force purportedly providing the voters with an alternative between the ruling coalition and the opposition pact.
Frankly I am not sure whether their emergence is something to be applauded or ignored. It is good though that we now have a variety of choices.
I agree with most political commentators that we need a two-party system to have our democratic process work effectively, but my agreement is not without reservation.
I am afraid if this system should limit our choice. With the questionable quality of politicians on both sides of the divide that we have today, I am not entirely convinced that the limited competition between the two rivals would benefit us.
The question is often asked:
“What if the alternative candidate that I vote turns out to be the exact replica of the former assembly-person?”
While I agree with the fact that the ruling coalition is not capable of systemic reform of itself and the country, I am equally doubtful of the opposition pact’s ability to rectify the wrongs of the current regime and to depart from the corrupt system which has been in place for more than half a century.
I firmly believe that we should vote based on issues.
I earnestly believe that proposed solutions to issues facing the people should be the capital of the politicians. The one with the best solution to address and tackle the issues for the benefit of the people should win the vote.
However, I am also aware that the ruling coalition should be voted out simply because they have been in power longer than anyone could have imagined and as the saying goes, political comfort corrupts.
Now, what if, as fate would have it, the ruling coalition is able to provide good solutions to the problematic issues that plague the nation?
Or that the possible change in government does not bring about any change and instead entrenches the illness that the country has long suffered?
Too far-fetched, the possibilities one may say but it does not preclude the fact that such a scenario is possible. If such a scenario occurs, how should I cast my vote?
Leaving the dilemma to be pondered upon, I have listed several issues which concern me:
1. Education. The education system that we have now needs to be overhauled. The syllabus needs to be amended to include a holistic approach towards education.
By this, I mean the education system should strive to produce not only book-smart pupils, but also a prudent generation: one that can think critically and creatively. To those who are not excellent academically, perhaps a vocational system should be developed properly to cater to them.
Would the government be willing to do that?
2. Access to tertiary education. Looking at the poverty level in the country that transcends ethnicity, is the government ready to create another UiTM?
This time, its admission should be opened to all potential students regardless of their ethnicity, and the academic opportunities in the university should be limited only to those who are considered to be poor and those from the middle-class families.
Thus, for that reason, a standard has to be put in place to screen the candidates. Having said that, the academic standard should not be neglected; it should be maintained at the possible excellent level.
3. Religious freedom. Matters concerning religion should not be interfered by the government. There should be a complete separation of the church and the state, or the mosque for that matter.
I don’t care if you think your religion is more supreme than the religion next door.
If you should think that it is supreme, work on your approach, persuade the potential believers with wit and wisdom, and not through state’s sanction.
Counter misconceptions and lies arrowed at your religion with your brain and Holy Book, not by state apparatus meant to protect public order.
Even if the government should think they are bound by Article 3 of the Federal Constitution, its intervention should be limited only as far as providing financial aid. But if they should do so, the financial allocation should not be at the expense of other religions.
4. Student activism. Students, at all level should be free to be involved in any activity, be it political, cultural, economical or religious. A student’s movement and activism should not be curtailed or arrested.
5. Preventive laws. These pieces of legislation should go altogether. Even if they cannot be repealed for any reason, which for the record I think is really absurd an argument, judicial scrutiny should be widely included to safeguard the interest and rights of the detainees.
6. Public transportation. Currently, I am quite cynical on this matter. While the government is urging us to use public transportation, the service provided is extremely terrible. This is especially true in the Klang Valley.
I’m perplexed because the public transportation in Kota Kinabalu, which is only loosely regulated by the government, is more efficient than their counterparts in West Malaysia, which ironically is heavily regulated by the relevant ministry. So, if the government wants the ordinary folks to use public transportation regularly, and not only as the last resort, then it should improve and upgrade the current system.
The issues listed here are not by any means exhaustive. I might have missed some of the other pivotal issues that affects the country. This is what I can think of while writing.
How about you? How would you cast your vote?
Ruzaini hails from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and having resided in various places within 17 years of his life (within Sabah only, of course), he has a problem identifying any specific place to be called his hometown. Instead, he borrows a phrase from Dr. Farish Noor’s “The Nomad Prayer” in his book, “Qur’an and Cricket” – “God take me home. And let my home be everywhere.” He is a self-proclaimed perfectionist yet laid-back and fairly poor in spelling. Currently in his final semester of reading law, Ruzaini likes to go deep into issues and topics that interest him. He thinks it is more interesting to explore the “why” than the “what.” If one settles only on the “what,” one will only have superficial knowledge. Having said that, Ruzaini more often than not ends up having a monologue when it comes to understanding the “why”. He wonders why.