What Now, Malaysia?

This is an expansion of some quick thoughts expressed on Facebook around 2.00 am this morning.

Sorry, but I can’t believe some of the “I’m done”, “That’s it, I’ve lost faith in Malaysia”, “No hope, no future” posts I’m seeing on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Are you seriously giving up just when Malaysia needs you most? Democracy doesn’t start and end with GE13.

And democracy is NOT just about voting in elections. There’s so, so much more that can be done every single day.

Malaysia needs all of us to keep fighting for the changes we want to see. Keep the government accountable. Fight corruption. Demand electoral reform. Be activists for whatever cause you are passionate about.

Perhaps people are reacting emotionally, but no one said democracy would be easy.

Malaysia has changed. We can see that in the way we express ourselves more confidently. We are slowly breaking free of the shackles of fear that used to weigh us down.

The amazingly high voter turnout shows that Malaysians care about what is going on in the government, and want a say in it. The long queues of people who came early at polling stations across the country speaks for itself. And despite what Barisan Nasional is trying to say, it is not a “Chinese tsunami” — for them to say that on election night shows that BN still has much to learn.

But we too have much to learn. Those who lament why Sarawakians continue to vote for BN — please, do you even know what the important issues are for Sarawakians? Don’t be so quick to pass judgment on the basis of a video you watched online, or a few articles you read. Think before shooting out condescending thoughts from your smartphones, which only serve to publicise your ignorance. People are complex. Politics is complex. Understanding the issues takes more effort.

So what now, Malaysia?

Instead of ranting about electoral fraud, threatening to migrate, petitioning the US (seriously?), or turning your profile photos black — if you really want to do something for your country, start now. Democracy is not just about elections, so you do not have to wait for GE14 (please repeat this sentence 5 times). Learn how to keep the government, our ADUNs, our MPs, accountable all the time.

Get to know more about the issues that affect people outside your immediate circle of friends. Get out of your comfort zone. When NGOs or other parties organise forums, talks, or gatherings — attend, support, participate. Forsake a few weekends at the mall. Watch less TV. There is time, you just have to prioritise.

Continue to demand free and fair elections. Malaysia needs electoral reform, badly. We cannot just rely on the same leaders and activists to do all the fighting for us. They get tired too.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Change isn’t easy. So if you want it, what are you willing to do to get it? Don’t feel helpless. Don’t think there’s nothing you can do. There is SO MUCH you can do. The only question is whether you’re willing to do it, or not. If you don’t want it bad enough to make an effort, then please stop cluttering up my timeline with your disappointment.

We must keep moving in the right direction, and not be interested just once every 4/5 years.

To those who voted, thank you. To those who will be able to vote in GE14, please register now — it was so irritating to hear people complaining about not being able to vote even though they registered in February. What took you so long to register? Register earlier!

If you do not know where to start, if you do not think you’re enough of an “expert” in any issues to be an activist, change your mindset. Start with the issues that matter most to you. Crime. Education. Start with your community. Start with your friends. All of you are more than welcome to come to the LoyarBurok Rakyat Centre, write for LoyarBurok (we welcome anyone, writing about anything — find out how here), and join our UndiMsia! movers, attending an IdolaDemokrasi gameshop, train to lead an IdolaDemokrasi gameshop . It’s better than lepak-ing in shopping malls, I promise you.

I loved all the ceramahs I attended in the past week, standing in the drizzle and rain, shoulder to shoulder with fellow Malaysians who believe in change, who crave for change. I understand your disappointment. I feel your pain. I share your heartbreak. But please, do something. If you don’t, you only have yourselves to blame.

Democracy isn’t dead. This isn’t the end. It’s just a part of the journey.

Now we go back to our lives. But we should make these things a part of our lives anyways. Like us LoyarBurokkers say, “it’s a frickin’ lifestyle!”

So remember how you felt on Sunday morning. Remember how you felt in the wee hours of Monday morning. And now decide what you’re going to do about it. Jom!

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Marcus van Geyzel tweets at @vangeyzel. He believes that the only certain thing in life is that everything can be explained by the transperambulation of pseudo-cosmic antimatter.

Posted on 6 May 2013. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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41 Responses to What Now, Malaysia?

  1. Marcus, that was very well written. You have said all the right things!

  2. teabagthis2

    I think Malaysia ought to know that change takes time. Please allow me to enlighten. The best example of change would be the plight and struggles of black americans. Until the end of the American Civil War, black americans were chattels which can be handled at the pleasure of their white masters, even to their demise.

    After the end of the American Civil War, black amecians have marginal voting rights which was soon taken away from them as swift as a retreating tide. Let me remind you, only after circa 80 years later, after all the hoo-ha caused by the Civil Rights movement in the mid 50's, that black american could vote and could use the same toilet as non-black americans *shock*.

    It is fascinating to think that it was just 60 years ago, America, the champion of democracy, all thing equal and human rights began to recognise that its black citizen should be treated with respect and dignity like all other americans instead of being seen as a problem to be swept beneath the carpet.

    So should we be heard by our government? Should we act to preserve our rights? The answer to both questions: yes and yes. This is no easy ride, ask the black americans. This is no Aaron Sorkin fantasy liberal drama. This is Malaysia and we have got to pen our own history – let not the government that does the writing. The government is a mere persona of the people it represents. If 51% of the voters say no to that persona, it must then vanquish.

    When faced with a tyrannical and egoistic government, we must not falter but be stern and strong. We must not be indulging but be demanding. We must not be caged but be people of free will.

    Do Malaysia need its civil rights movement? I am inclined to think so. Nonetheless, regardless of the ultimate outcome, this will be a beautiful chapter in Malaysia's history. Until we fight for what we belief, no one will ever consider us to be a matured democracy..no one.

  3. borne-o

    YEs Democracy isn't dead, it was raped. And we expressed our anger. And we turned black to show our distraught. And we walked to Kelana Jaya.

  4. jasveena

    great page! A place to reach out to malaysians!

  5. Pepper Lim

    Nice!

  6. Wing

    Well said!! its especially fitting after a day of mourning and now time to be more matured and aware and act on our conviction. This is really a good lesson for me personally on how a long fight should be fought.
    I for one would not be so quick to say that all hope is lost and such, although for a second I might have that thought lingering in my mind.
    I am happy overall that I see so many people has risen to a new level. Remember, democracy means People is power!

  7. Abu Noh

    Come on guys……..we fight back…..ok….we must do it now because GE-13 will be too late……..if we do not do it now, Umno Baru will continue to rape and plunder in GE-14…….the time is now….the momentum is here and we should not lose it
    http://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/229248

  8. Nic

    It's funny how people get confused between popular vote and electoral vote. Winning the popular vote doesn't mean you nab Parliament. It's the electoral vote that gets you Parliament. The popular vote went to the opposition, but it's the number of parliament seats that determines who controls Parliament. Thanks to the overwhelming number of seats in Sabah and Sarawak (two predominantly BN-controlled states), BN was able to retain its hold on Parliament. The disputed fraud cases occurred primarily in the peninsula, examples being the blackouts resulting in miraculous wins for BN and the hordes of phantom voters appearing at various voting stations. However, those aren't the truly crucial issues. The key states of Sabah and Sarawak are what the Opposition party needs to focus on, should they want to seize Parliament from BN. Harping on about how election fraud has been committed just proves that BN managed to succeed in pulling a fast one over the rakyat.

    • Jerry

      Please look up the word "gerrymandering" and understand why the opposition with a 51% popular vote against 49% for BN can only get 89 seats (40%) versus BN's 133 seats (60%). Does this make sense to you? From the very start they have already cheated in drawing up the political boundaries to ensure their victory without much effort with the rural populace. Just give them peanuts via BR1M, TR1M etc using our money to buy votes and saying "You help me, I help you"

      • Nic

        Two words – electoral college. Now, I am not saying that there was no trace of underhanded tactics being utilized by BN but what I'd like is for folks to comprehend the difference between popular vote and electoral college and how it's all too possible for the winner of the popular vote to not seize control of the Parliament. The political boundaries has already been drawn so that the party who seizes control of Sabah and Sarawak would have an overwhelming advantage.

        The people have a right to be outraged, but it does seem that their outrage is aimed at the wrong injustice.

        • Disgusted

          Nic, you still don't seem to understand. Jerry has a very valid point.

          To demarcate the seats in such a way that a win by a 51,000 majority wins you I parliament seat but to have a number of small seats with 1 or 2 thousand easily bribed voters (a bottle of tuak and RM5 for the penghulu will net you the whole village) netting you 5 or 6 parliament seats, may be legal but it certainly is morally reprehensible.

          • Nic

            That's exactly the point I am trying to make. I agree that the political boundaries drawn are strongly in favour of BN and while it is legal, it is definitely morally reprehensible (to use your phrase). What I am seeing is that most do not seem to understand the distinction between the popular vote and electoral college.

            The cries of outrage at the Opposition winning the popular vote by a significant margin and yet unable to control Parliament are misguided, when in fact winning the popular vote =/= controlling Parliament. Sure, generally the winner of the popular vote usually goes on to win the electoral vote too but there are notable exceptions to that. Good example would be George Bush's victory over Al Gore, despite Gore's popular vote win.

            Instead of being fixated on the fact that the Opposition won the popular vote but yet lost the election, why not examine the very biased system that we have which strongly favours BN? It would seem that should we want BN to be toppled off their throne of complacency and replaced by the Opposition, this key issue of a biased system must first be addressed. That or the Opposition needs to start focusing their campaigns in Sabah/Sarawak. A 112 seat win is required to gain control of the Parliament. With a whopping 58 seats are from Sabah/Sarawak (two traditionally BN-controlled states), the Opposition wouldn't stand a chance.

          • Disgusted

            Well, I don't disagree with what you say either.

            From looking at this as a whole my take on it is that you and the writer of this article, Marcus are making assumptions about people by the choices they make.

            So what I am trying to say is don't assume that because I make my profile picture black (which you take is pointless), I am not doing any other thing besides. Just because I complain about winning the popular vote and losing the electoral vote does not mean I don't understand what gerrymandering is.

            Most who are grieved enough to be articulate about the issue would have the understanding beyond what is discussed even if they don't express it.

            Peace, bro.

          • Nic

            Oh believe me, I am not assuming that everyone who turned their profile picture black is guilty of not doing anything else. I'm merely stating that most who do, are. I know far too many people who fit into that category. These are the same people who are the first to criticise someone's choice for voting for BN, but when asked their reason for voting for the Opposition, they get defensive and flat-out refuse to engage in civilized conversation, choosing to make snide and derogatory comments. These are the same people who would call the rural inhabitants "a bunch of BN monkeys who are stupid and retarded for not being educated enough" but when push comes to shove, their stock answer is always "why should I help them? they didn't help me so fuck them all". These are also the same people that are outraged at the sheer racism practiced by our government, but they are also the same ones who off-handedly dismiss all Malays as "stupid useless lazy pigs", Chinese as "greedy selfish unscrupulous assholes, Indians as "thieving cunning drunkards" and the Orang Asli/Kadazan/Iban/etc as "I don't care about them because they are just too insignificant".

            These are all quotes I've heard personally uttered by far too many of the same patriots who turn their Facebook profile picture black. When asked why they think winning the popular vote would mean a Parliament victory for the opposition, their answer is usually "More votes for Opposition means they win! BN must've bribed the EC to give them the victory". While that statement itself is true to some measure, that isn't the crux of the problem. My attempts to explain the corrupt system and how gerrymandering works were all met with remarks like "You think BN won fairly? You useless BN crony! Hope you feel happy with the rewards that MY taxes bought you!!! Shame on you!!"

            My comments refer to Malaysians in general, and they are not assumptions based merely on the choices they made. They are merely based off years of observation and interaction. While I stand by my comments, I do know that there are a growing number of citizens who are genuinely trying their best to change and I commend them for their efforts. However this change needs to happen on a larger scale, should we want to see any sort of improvements come GE14.

          • Disgusted

            Wow. Looks like you and I are mixing with different crowds. Peace.

  9. Jaschintaz

    Hear hear. Have a lot of views I want to express but too tired to do it now.

  10. Yap

    I changed my profile to black not because I've given up hope but as a form of protest against the blatant fraud of our electoral process. For you to presume that we did this because we've all just given up is arrogant and reeks of a holier than thou disposition. Perhaps it's a little rant on your part and perhaps there truly are those in your circle that have conceded defeat, but know that we are just human, and part of being human is wanting to retreat for the moment, lick our wounds or scream and rant our feelings to the world, but we WILL pick ourselves up and return to the fight. David said it right: No one likes a self righteous echo, especially one that did not make any effort to understand it from our point of view.

  11. raihan

    malaysians, especially those who grew up with the silver spoon, highly educated, from he upper middle class should rise and go out, meet real people. dont cocoon yourself, trap in your own bubble, believing tht everyone can think and see easily. these marginalized, underprivileged people, they need you. go out, turn off your push notifications for a while, spend quality time by volunteering for a cause.

  12. Nic

    Most Malaysians want change. Pity they don't want it enough to actually get out and do something about it. They're just content in being keyboard activists – changing FB profile pics to show solidarity for the latest Cause of the Week (TM), sharing noteworthy rants and essays on why change should happen or signing various online petitions. decrying against the sheer injustice that has been done upon <insert Random Oppressed Minority>..

    These are the same people who speak strongly of democracy and how Malaysia should not let democracy die, but yet they don't truly understand what democracy entails. They are the same people who cry out for freedom of speech and how they will fight for their right to speak, but they are often the ones who turn on the first person who disagrees with them. To steal a line off a note I read on Facebook, "the people being incredibly upset, many are also the ones who on a normal day, would rather go to a music concert than a protest, would rather watch the Sports news than update themselves on Malaysiakini, would rather stay at comfy urban homes lamenting the "stupidity" of the rural folk while never bothering to visit them or reach out to understand."

    People speak of change and how it MUST happen so that Malaysia can see a better tomorrow. Well, how many of those same people are willing to shake off the comfort of complacency and go out to actually CHANGE something? The power is in the rakyat. It doesn't mean the rakyat can rush out once every 4 years to exercise that power and spend the remainder of the period, sitting on their thumbs. By exercising the power that the citizens have only during elections, we are enabling the government to run rampant during the non-election period. They know this, and they are abusing it as much as they can.

    Malaysians want change, but they're too lazy to work for it.

    • Disgusted

      Don't tar everyone with the same brush. Seriously, how many people do you know personally who fit your description above? My own experience is quite different from what you have described.

      I sign on-line petitions, my profile picture is black, and I am a 'keyboard activist' as you put it. But I go to ceramahs, yes, and even drove 260 km one way to KL for Bersih 3.0 and back the same day when it was over. Yes, I have tasted what chemical laced water is like, I have felt the sting of gas on my face and arms.

      I have personally 'converted' a 90 year-old great-grandmother to vote PAS (see post above) and I will continue to educate whoever I come across. But I will continue to be a 'keyboard activist'.

      Being a keyboard activist and showing black profiles are only SOME of the things we do. Please don't make unsubstantiated assumptions. Thanks bro.

    • Disgusted

      Nic was ranting about those who talk about democracy but do nothing who are "often the ones who turn on the first person who disagrees with them".

      However I get a thumbs down for disagreeing with him here and in a post about gerrymandering below.. Hmmm…. I just wonder.

      Touche X 2.

      • Nic

        If you are implying that I downvoted your comments, I'd like to point out that I really don't engage in the whole upvote/downvote system. If I disagree with something, I would comment. So if you ARE insinuating that I'm the one who downvoted your comments, I'd like an apology please.

        • Disgusted

          No I am not implying that you did it. Note that I wrote in third-person form , not accusative first and second person.

  13. Mike

    what he said. profile pics are black in protest. doesn’t mean it’s gonna just stop there. if anything, it just indicates that we’re gonna be a part of this fight coz we care enough to.

  14. David

    Why does it sound like you think it is wrong to let off a little steam, scream a little and rant a little. Do you really think that all those venting their frustrations on FB won't be back again to fight the good fight? Your little post sounds as much as a rant as any other, only that it is much longer and because of that wastes even more peoples time, more so since your points has been uttered elsewhere before. No one likes a self righteous echo.

  15. Harriet

    Well said. I was disappointed with those who turned their profile black and what not. I kept mine as is as a sign of Believe, Hope and encouragement to those who have fought for democracy. Yes oppositions lost but on the bright side, BN did not get a 2/3 majority. Now there is more check and balance as compared to before. Regardless of which party wins, corruption is one factor that cannot be avoided 100% however with proper check and balance, corruption can be reduced. I believe the Rakyat has spoken. The Rakyat as a whole has won, one way or the other. Now to stop the Melayu, Cina, India business that I have been getting on mu FB and stand together as Malaysians regardless of race, color and religion. The best example where all community stand together as 1 Community is my Taman where we all live by the motto One Voice One Community. No such thing as Melayu, Cina, India business. We see ourselves as one big family striving to keep our little community safe and harmonious. If all Malaysians have this one common factor and accept the fact we are all Malaysians and proud to be one…then we are truly a United Nation. if we can see past this, we are on our way towards reviving democracy.

    • Gan Pou Wee

      Don't be disappointed. My profile (including many others I believe) was turned black in protest of the dirty election procedures. I mourn for what is lost, but we will carry on.

    • Disgusted

      Mine is also black in FB and my email ids. It doesn't mean I have given up, neither does it mean I am not positive about the future. Our future is what we make it to be.

      I have managed to convince a Chinese 90 year-old great-grandmother to vote PAS. On voting day when I met her she patted me on the shoulder and told me that she would do the right thing and not to worry. I will continue to educate whoever I come across.

      But my profile will be black to protest the dirty cheats.

  16. kaisunchin

    If democracy is to be defined as the ability for the people to vote fairly for a government they think is capable of representing them, then I'ld say democracy is dead. But again, it is our responsibility as Malaysians to revive it!

  17. kali

    "Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory."

    – John Steinbeck (The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights)

  18. Joshua

    You dont understand how we Malaysians feel. We have fought for this and we have literally poured our heart and soul in this! GE13! Our families and friends spent hard earned money to fly back home to vote, to encourage others to vote, to see our friends hurt physically and emotionally and now all for nothing! PKR won another 5 extra seats in parliment but we lost Kedah, lost Perak and did not gain any new states.. Sarawak still belongs to taib mahmud.. BN will continue to be corrupt and all those that have taken the rakyats money will continue to lead the country and to the benefit of their cronies!

    • plwp1955

      There's always a price to pay for what we consider precious to us. This is only a temporary setback. The battle is not over yet. Are we Malaysians so spoilt and fragile that we give up so easily or moan and groan over one 'defeat'? We will never truly cherish what we never fight or pay the price for. This is the time for us to take a breather and see what was lacking on our part and what could have been done better.

    • faizah

      yes… dont't give up.. democracy isnt dead yet.. keep on berjuang.. small little things count.. set ourselves in today's life, not the past neither the future :)

  19. sonnyd

    If a person steals and there is nothing the law can do to stop him/her, why would he stop. In fact if he/she can keep stealing with no one able to do anything about it, he would keep stealing more and more. So how is change gonna come if the system is off from top to bottom dear Marcus. The GE is supposed to be our voice. Its not that people are only interested once every 4/5 years. You dear sir have a respectable column but one I highly disagree with. Change is indeed something you have to keep working at and will come…. If you have a voice and an avenue to act on your rights. Where is that avenue now? The EC?

    • borne-o

      Agreed. And if you hate the complains and whining on your timeline, just hide the post or unfriend them. Internet is the only space they feel they can be free and express themselves. Give them space to do that, you are most welcomed to hide their post.

  20. Savannah

    The fight is not over. We can appeal the elections results within 21 days for fraud.

  21. Essence

    Marcus, that was very well written. You have said all the right things!

  22. felix

    Please give it and us a rest.

    Just for a little while at least.

    We are tired. We are emotionally drained. We need time to lick our wounds.

    My left brain understands and agrees with all you say but my right brain just wants you to shut up.

    For a little while.

    Thank you.

  23. Coreen Paul

    Thank you for this reminder and thank you for helping a malaysian like myelf think about how to be more involved on a regular basis.