FOLLOWING the victory of Pakatan Harapan (PH) during the 14th general election, the political landscape in Malaysia has indeed changed.
The PH federal government has made socioeconomic, educational, and institutional change its core objective.
To give the new administration a new image, new, but not necessarily young, faces and some old hands have been appointed to important government posts and institutions.
In what is touted as the new Malaysian dawn, there should be ample opportunities for young political leaders to serve the people through the parties they represent.
On that score, several grassroots youth leaders in Sarawak have spoken about their political aspirations and challenges they face in achieving them.
Malaysian Youth Parliament member (2017-2018) and Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) Tellian Youth chief Johan Harris Sulaiman strongly advocates the participation of youths in politics.
“Youths should be aware of politics. They are the ones who will determine the shape and direction of the upcoming generation,” he said.
He added that most of the top politicians in Malaysia started early, and in disagreeing with the term ‘youth politician’, said the country needs to focus on producing and grooming young leaders with the capability to lead.
He believes the younger generation is more educated and many could give constructive criticism.
“People now argue not for the sake of arguing or winning but upholding principles and values. People with this type of leadership quality should be brought in to represent the party.”
Johan also said “overstaying” politicians were normally not “very quick” to accept change or heed the voice of the people they represented and, very often, the younger generation would ignore them.
He stressed the importance for senior leaders to be more open to change and appreciative of the contributions from youths.
“Failure to do so means depriving talented young blood the opportunity to be groomed as future leaders.”
Angkatan Muda Keadilan (AMK) Sarawak chief Rafidin Majidi said there are huge challenges in the way of youth leaders trying to make an impact on the political scene.
“They have to contend with the stigma – budak hingusan (young upstarts) – apart from inexperience and lack of political wisdom, among other labels. You could say it’s a phase youth leaders have to go through to earn peer recognition via exemplary deeds,” Rafidin said.
Regardless, he pointed out that youth leaders would always face a situation where the seniors would question their credentials for being given important party posts despite proof of the youth leaders’ ability in helping the party achieve its goals.
Rafidin described such negativity as detrimental to the growth of political youth leaders.
On the pecking order of a political party, he said normally the ordinary members were expected to adhere to the directives of the party leaders.
“But sometimes, this can lead to problems. There are those who refuse to heed the directives of those who are younger. The implementation of the party’s programmes often gets bogged down by insubordination.”
Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak Youth chief Mordi Mimol said a shift in political mindset is now necessary with the new federal government.
He admitted the move away from the old political mindset to a new one, even among the youths today, posed a big challenge.
“Not all new ideas can be easily accepted,” said the Mas Gading member of parliament. The journalist-turned- politician pointed out that nowadays, it is imperative for youths to be in the frontline of a political party.
“Freedom of speech, promised by the new administration, has prompted more youths to be more assertive in voicing their concerns about national issues.”
On differences of opinion between senior and youth members of a political party, Mordi agreed it was not an easy issue to tackle and the “generation gap” could not be bridged overnight.
“It will take time, trial and error before the voice of the younger generation will be heard, let alone accepted.
“I feel people need to lend their ears more rather than obstinately defending their political ideologies,” he said.
Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) Sarawak Youth chief Muhammad Fadillah Sabali is on the same page, calling on senior party members to acknowledge of the contributions of youth leaders.
“That’s why the youth wing of any party needs to be more aggressive in recruiting capable leaders to be groomed to replace the seniors when the time comes,” he said.
Political leaders come and go and one cannot stay at the top too long without grooming younger members for future leadership roles.
The well-versed internet community, especially among those aged 40 and below, who are the majority users of social media, are more exposed to events and national issues and thus more aware of how these will impact the well-being of the people.
It’s time for political parties to give their young blood more opportunities to grow and have bigger say in serving the people.