Can Syed Saddiq’s political party define the youth agenda? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Malaysiakini : “That’s the duty of the old, to be anxious on behalf of the young. And the duty of the young is to scorn the anxiety of the old.”- Philip Pullman
COMMENT | I am not going over the litany of missteps that Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman made when he was a young minister, nor am I going to indulge in the various conspiracy theories floating around that question his move to create a new youth party.
I do want to understand how this new party will operate in a political terrain dominated by entrenched narratives of race and religion, and how this new party intends to separate itself from those toxic narratives.
Syed Saddiq was part of a government that finally lowered the voting age to 18 and while we have no idea how this politically-bankrupt new backdoor government will implement this, Syed Saddiq can legitimately claim to be one of the diverse (if compromised) voices representing the youth of Malaysia.
IIUM political science assistant professor Tunku Mohar Tunku Mohd Mokhtar, said something important when discussing the viability of Syed Saddiq’s new youth movement.
He said, "I have not seen the youth identity yet. Meaning (an identity where) youth across gender and ethnicity can have a similar outlook on certain issues. That one has yet to develop."
I somewhat agree with this but I do think it is important to remember how the state, through its religious bureaucracy and propaganda organs, the Biro Tata Negara for instance, have shaped the mindset of the youth in this country, especially the majority Malay polity.
Umno and PAS, as correctly pointed out, have youth wings that have wormed their way into not only educational establishments but also various governmental agencies.
Despite being from two different parties, these youth wings work to further similar racial, religious, and political agendas. Indeed, I would consider the young apparatchiks of the state to have been moulded by the doctrines of these two political parties.
Do you know the only youth wing that is truly committed to the ideals that their parent party espouses? Yup - the PAS Youth wing and its subsidiaries.
They really subscribe to Islamic dogma that so-called "moderate" Muslims avoid publicly when they are trying to garner votes, but once in office, pander to in the name of Muslim solidarity.
How do you get those young people who hold on to the values espoused by PAS, for instance, but understand that their leadership is corrupt, to subscribe to this new youth-based political party?
Syed Saddiq hopes to emulate other youth-centred big-tent political movements, so how do you encourage a plurality of voices but speak loud enough with one voice to be heard clearly?
How do you get young people to forget their differences when some young people believe that there should be Malay-only education institutions? Or that people should be cautious of criticising institutions like Mara because of the sensitivities of those involved?
Young people have wide access to information now. This, of course, does not make them news-literate but it does make them understand that there is something wrong with this country and the people who lead it. How many percent of the “young” population vote?
Not just being eligible to vote, but do they even think that voting will improve their lives?
I have written about how the state - both Pakatan Harapan and BN, and who knows, now probably Muafakat Nasional - have targeted young people like Fadiah Nadwa Fikri for questioning the systemic imbalances of the state. Two years ago, when she courted controversy for questioning one of the 'sacred cows' of Malaysian politics Fadiah said this:
“I still feel that genuine democracy is about making everyone equal.
If we have one institution that is above others, I think there will always be a form of subjugation.
“We have existed under a culture of fear, intimidation, and threats for decades. We are so used to living like that. Our culture won’t change just because we changed the government. People are used to using violence and intimidation to protect their position.”
When I read something like this coming from a young person, on a system that the older generation helped build and sustain, it gives me hope that not all is lost. It is also demonstrative of how important it is that people, especially young people who want to effect change, have principles to rely on.
The younger generation of Malay voters is a promising demographic but they are currently embroiled in a culture war that consumes most of their energy and efforts.
Young Malay opposition types not only have to contend with a feudalistic system that rewards immorality and mendacity, but they also have to contend with the Islamic forces in this country, with no help whatsoever from mainstream Malay or non-Malay political parties.
The former youth and sports minister is right when he says that we should vote out old political operatives, but what I really want to know is what this new youth-based party stands for.
While the average young Malay has to submit to the harsh glare of Islam, the young bottom feeders that are funded by these old men are living high off the hog and attempting to position themselves as the new faces of whatever political power structure they have attached themselves to.
I believe the former minister wants to have a "big tent party" that accepts a diverse range of ideological voices, but how would Syed Saddiq ensure that the dominant narrative of the state, which defines racial and religious issues, does not become the platform of this new party?
I do not want another supposedly multiracial party like PKR and the DAP. Both have demonstrated that they are playing the same game as their political adversaries.
I want young Syed Saddiq to succeed because there have always been young people in this country who have walked the talk and have been dismissed by the establishment. Now, when the country is run by political prostitutes, kleptocrats, religious extremists and kakistrocrats, the old are making the young pay for their sins.