Use your vote wisely to build a better Malaysia

The Rt Revd Danald Jute

ON Wednesday, May 9, our beloved Malaysia will hold her 14th General Election to elect a new federal government, as well as state governments (except in Sarawak). We will elect leaders who will hopefully honour their promises and stand for justice, integrity, transparency, good governance, freedom of religion, and opportunities for all.

Our nation needs leaders who will stand for our rights as citizens, who will unite us as a people, and steer our country to greater heights through good strategic policies. Malaysia doesn’t need a benevolent leader who merely offers fish to the hungry. Such a policy has no real value for the long term. We need a leader who will empower everyone to go and fish for themselves and for their families. In this way, everyone will be able to do their part and contribute to making Malaysia a greater nation.

The importance of an election cannot be overstated. In casting our votes, we are choosing not just the administrators of our country, but also the moral and spiritual direction of our nation. Voting, then, is a privilege and responsibility that should not be abdicated. All who are eligible to vote must vote! Not voting is not an option.

The campaigning has so far been largely civilise, with some exceptions. There have been reports and allegations of dirty tactics, including unscrupulous efforts by some quarters to buy    votes. Such practices should have no part in a democratic process. People should be free to vote for whomsoever they like. Everyone should cast their vote wisely, according to their own conscience, and not because they are being paid a certain sum of money to vote for a certain candidate.

By voting, we assume some responsibility for the decisions that our elected representatives may make – whether good or bad. Thus, we must not vote without careful thought and consideration. We should never vote blindly or even out of a sense of party loyalty. In voting, as in every other activity, we should seek divine wisdom and then do our best.

We believe that voting is a God-given privilege and responsibility. We have been given the power to choose our leaders, so let us do it properly and wisely. Imagine you saw an elderly man or woman being assaulted by a mugger and you had the ability to stop the assault, but you decided to walk away. Or imagine you saw a girl being assaulted and raped, and you do nothing about it. Although you might not be legally culpable for the attack, you would be morally culpable.

We can make Malaysia better by voting for the right people; those who will safeguard religious liberty and defend the poor and powerless. We must know that if we support a party or a candidate (from whichever side) who has failed us, they will continue to fail us. That is why blind loyalty to a political party or a leader in a democracy is a bad thing. It allows corruption to flourish. It allows governments to get away with poor service delivery. It allows politicians to forget about the people and only enrich themselves.

All of us should do our part to ensure good government. Every single voice, every single vote counts. While we may choose different ways to respond to compelling issues and challenges facing our nation and communities, we cannot differ on our moral obligation to help build a more just and more united Malaysia, where the weak and vulnerable are protected and religious freedom, human rights, and dignity are defended. Yes, we must use our influence and cast our vote on the side of equality for all, freedom from forced eviction from one’s land, from racism and sexism, freedom from corruption and abuses of power.

As in all elections, some of us may find ourselves on opposite sides, supporting and voting for opposing candidates. This should not lessen our confidence in and respect for one another. We must not permit any personal antagonism or prejudice to embitter us against one another. Communities, villages, longhouses must not split because of politics. We must respect each other’s choice.

Finally, this election is our chance to take our democracy to the next level; this is our chance to help our democracy succeed. Your vote belongs to you and nobody else. It is your power. So use your vote wisely. Don’t just give it away to the same party or the same candidate for old time’s sake. Think about the future. Let us build a better Malaysia!

The Rt Revd Danald Jute is Bishop of the Anglican Church in Sarawak and Brunei, which is known as the Diocese of Kuching.

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