THE results from the 15th general election have shown that there is no one Malaysia but many with voters having different aspirations and expectations about building a post-GE15 nation. 

We can recognise that there is a very Malay-Muslim Malaysia with Perikatan Nasional securing 73 seats and PAS with the largest number (49). PAS swept the east coast, the north and made inroads to become not a regional but a mainstream political force. Jocelyn Tan calls this the “green tsunami”. James Chin articulates this as a “sea change in Malaysian politics” 

At the same time with Pakatan Harapan securing 82 seats, the coalition is seen as providing an alternative narrative of Malaysia – more multi-ethnic and multi-religious with two dominant multiracial parties DAP and PKR. This group is branded as progressive and secularist  

Then there are Gabungan Parti Sarawak and in Sabah like Gabungan Rakyat Sabah and Warisan with strong regional appeal and campaigned on restoring the regional position so that there will be balanced development across Malaysia. 

GE 15 fears & mudslinging  

There are various accusations against political leaders and parties on the messaging used during the elections because of their racial, religious and ideological tones. Name calling and labelling, such as communist, racist, Taliban, extremist, Zionist, Christianisation, neo-colonist and more, were rife. These appeared in YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.  

These short clips dominated the Malaysian narrative with their simplistic views which instilled fear and widen distrust among the different racial and religious groups. It is of utmost importance that there should be stronger guidelines on this matter, including monitoring and reviews so as to call out unacceptable practices demonising one community.  

Now that GE15 is over, there is there is a need to ensure that political coalitions put aside their differences to seek some solutions so that the nation can be governed. 

Building bridges  

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s first press conference after the appointment on 24 November was reassuring. He said that “every Malaysian regardless of ethnicity, religious belief, or regions particularly Sabah and Sarawak should not be left to feel they are ignored in any way. None should be marginalised under my administration”. He reiterated the federal constitutional position on Islam, the special position of the Malays, Malay language and the position of the rulers. 

The phase “every Malaysian” includes the Malay-Muslim Malaysia, the multiracial and religious Malaysia, Sabahans and Sarawakians as equal citizens of the land. This is not just slogans but must be translated into action (deliverables) to increase the level of trust. 

The national unity policy (NUP), launched on 15 February 2021, provides a useful framework for building a stronger appreciation of our diversity and strengthen our understanding of each other’s aspirations and expectations. It was noted that the NUP must be strengthened with a clearer commitment to Article 8 of the constitution. 

Article 8 (1): “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”. Article 8 (2): “there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender”. 

There is a need for constitutional literacy so that we have a good understanding of all the parts of the constitution, so that we do read it as a whole and not selectively.  

There is also a need to revisit the national unity consultative report (2015), which made several significant recommendations not included in the NUP nor the national unity blueprint. Specifically, the Harmony Act and the establishment of national unity commission and community mediation centre (CMC). The CMC is to be an alternative to judicial process in resolving differences of opinion and points of conflict through mediation. 

Grassroots communities  

The theme of “leaving no one or community behind” is the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The localising of SDGs adopted by the government and the All Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia on SDGs is a major implementor with a presence in 57 parliamentary constituencies. 

In the past three years (2020-2022), I have had the opportunity to visit grassroots communities and neighbourhoods like Teluk Renjuna (Tumpat), Kg Pangi (Tenom), Kg Sg Betul Bawah (Parit Buntar) and Rumah Panjang Bunga Raya (Sg Buloh).  

The communities can be distinguished by their ethnicity and religion and socio-economic status but are all in the bottom 40% of the economic divide. However, while ethnicity, religion and political affiliations might differ, they have one thing in common – all face unresolved issues at the grassroots and they are powerless to bring about change. 

There is, therefore, space to work with local communities both in the rural and urban areas in a decentralised way in partnership with them by empowering them to identify local priorities and devise approaches to resolve local needs and issues.  

These communities will stop feeling like they’re second-class citizens because of their economic and political position. They can empower themselves for resilience and sustainability. The government must create an enabling environment for the local community to take control of their own destiny.  

Strengthening grassroots democracy, holding dialogues and conversations of national policies will empower them to think through global, national and local concerns in a more reflective way. Policies and programmes, which foster appreciation of diversity, enhance constitutional literacy and dialogue on national and local development agenda, including budgets, will empower and enlighten them. Open and transparent discussions will neutralise exclusive and insular national-building conversations. Citizen empowerment is key and MPs must hold regular conversations at the constituency level

This article first appeared in Malaysianow on 6 December 2022 

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