Wednesday, November 13

The Young Ones

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‘THE Young Ones’, a single by Cliff Richard and The Shadows, coincidently is also the title song to the 1961 film ‘The Young Ones’.

It topped the UK charts in 1962 and its cleverly penned lyrics are just as relevant now as they were some four decades ago.

Let’s immerse in these beautiful lyrics for awhile to feel what it is like to be the young ones –

“And the young ones,

“Shouldn’t be afraid,

“To live, love,

“While the flame is strong,

“For we may not be,

“The young ones very long.

This reflects the feelings and sentiments of the youth. ‘The Young Ones’ also happens to be Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s favourite song. In fact, this was among the four songs that he sang during the recent Sibu United Chinese Association (UCA) Chinese New Year gathering where he raised around RM1.4 million for charity.

The same song was played during the recent launching of the Kemuyang development project. CM Adenan loves the song as he knows the importance of being young. One must treasure and make full use of one’s youth as this is the most productive period. He knows the younger voters are the trendsetters of the future political landscape.

But what is the definition of youth? According to the Collins dictionary, it is the quality of being young, immature or inexperienced.

It also covers the freshness, vigour or vitality of young people. The United Nations defines youths as those aged 15 to 24. In the context of Malaysia, youths are those aged between 15 and 40.

Next, comes to the voting age – minimum age established that a person must attain to exercise democratic rights. In Malaysia, one needs to be 21 and registered as a voter to vote.

In the coming state election, the young ones or youth voters are indeed the group to watch as they can tip the balance of power. Many of them are first-time voters. Seasoned political scientist Associate Prof Dr Bridget Welsh made the observation that one of the major trends in the political landscape of Sarawak was the demographic shift to younger voters. Welsh expounded that more younger voters were fence-sitters, so the next election is really about how voters under 30 vote.

She noted another trend is the transition of leadership within political parties, which is an inevitable shift. It is about who is coming in and how they engage the people. This could be one reason PBB did well in the 2011 election as the party fielded 10 new young faces and it will continue to be an important aspect in the future.

In the 2013 parliamentary election, there were 2.6 million Malaysians registered to cast their ballots for the first time, making up roughly a fifth of Malaysia’s 13.3 million eligible voters. That figure was much higher than the 638,000 new voters five years ago. For the record, most of these new voters, if not all, are young voters.

The study by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) showed how students could have tipped the balance of power in the UK’s May 2015 general election, showing the growing influence of this segment of voters.

In Malaysia, youths make up 43 per cent of the total population, where youths are indeed a critical demographic to engage with. They stamp their influence on the country’s political, social and economic landscapes. They have been known to make 11th hour decisions.

In addition, they are the most well-informed group of voters being Internet-savvy where they access various online portals for information besides the conventional media. Hence, they are better informed on issues.

The National Youth Survey 2012 found Malaysian youth to be increasingly well-informed. In 2007, 39 per cent of youths interviewed said they read newspapers every day. The number climbed to 48 per cent in 2012. As for youths watching television for information daily, the number also rose from 52 per cent in 2007 to 74 per cent in 2012. The 2007 survey observed that the growth of the Internet would continue to flourish.

The same survey also revealed a huge drop in the percentage of youth who did not have access to the Internet at all for information seeking in the past five years, from 67 per cent in 2007 to a mere 2 per cent in 2012.

In everyday language, the study indicates how quickly Malaysian youth have adapted to connecting to the World Wide Web as a source of information. Therefore, because the young ones are well-informed, they are not easily swayed by propaganda or wild accusations, and will give their votes to the side that can successfully engage them.

In fact, this under-30 demographic group has the most fence-sitters of any age group, and are being wooed intensely by both government and opposition. Many young Malaysian voters would be casting their ballots for the first time this year. As the 2012 American election demonstrated, politicians should not underestimate young voters.

The same study also showed that Malaysian youths are politically sensitive; they are aware of core government policies such as Vision 2020 and the 1Malaysia concept, while paying attention to the state of their communities and nation. In other words, their political thinking is not static but changes accordingly.

Therefore, issues faced from the youth are also different from those of other age groups. They are more concerned about employment, housing and cost of living which directly affect them. They prefer doing away with protocol, which CM Adenan is doing. Besides that, this group of voters also desires to be heard. Our Chief Minister is also engaging the youth by means of town hall meetings. The town tall is where they could raise their views and opinions.

Furthermore, in any speeches, CM Adenan hardly uses any printed text as he wants to deliver his message straight from the heart to the people. This augurs well with the youth’s perception of the Chief Minister.

The government must promptly handle issues besieging the young ones, who could tip the balance without any red tape. This is because this segment of population wants things to be dealt with fast, doing away with the rhetoric. It helps to be mindful that the young ones are not confined to the city alone as there are also youth voters in rural areas. CM Adenan is very popular among the young ones for his simple and problem-based approach. The young ones look up to his as a father figure, who within a short span of two years in office, has made 50 decisions to benefit people from all walks of life.

Well, let me sum up by giving a diagnosis of the young ones. The entry of younger voters would definitely play an important political role in deciding who will be in power. Better educated, they know what the government is doing and at the same time, what the opposition does as they are better exposed. As this voter segment continues to grow, they could well become the tipping point in swinging election outcomes in the near future.

Hence, there is a need to reinvent and revitalise the political platforms to garner the support of this group.

In conclusion, while they can tip the balance, the younger ones are likely to do it in favour of CM Adenan’s administration. This group of young voters will go all out in the coming state election to give CM Adenan a strong mandate to lead Sarawak for the next five years. The young ones are drawn to CM Adenan as he can articulate current and relevant issues as well as share similar thought patterns as them.

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