I don’t remember when exactly I started paying more attention to Malaysian politics but it must have been at some point in my four years at college in the US.
I remember sitting in my dorm room with Suet, both of us in yellow clothing for solidarity, crying while reading updates on my laptop as the first ever Bersih rally unfolded in KL. I’d majored in Asian Studies with a focus on history, and was in the middle of writing my honors thesis on ketuanan Melayu.
Half a year later, again we watched from a distance as for the first time ever, BN lost the two thirds majority in Parliament for the first time. Again, I cried, this time for hope. Two months later, I finished my thesis, and when presenting it to my advisor, embarrassingly started crying again in his office. Luckily I received honors for it hahahaha.
After coming home, I made it a point to attend the consequent Bersih rallies. I voted for the first time in the 13th GE in 2013. I was pregnant with Fighter then, and very hopeful for the future. When the opposition failed to win the government, I, like many others I’m sure, was devastated. I felt that momentum was at its peak then, and we wouldn’t get another chance. Anwar was jailed, the opposition was in tatters; I thought this was the end for an effective opposition to BN.
In the last five years, I confess I cut myself off from local news. I stopped paying attention whenever a minister spoke because I knew it would be something difficult to hear, and I couldn’t deal anymore, especially with the casual racism they spouted. I vaguely knew that elections were due soon, but I focused on world news over what was happening in our own country, and didn’t give our politics more thought.
Elections rolled around and a friend contacted me, asking if I would be interested in being a PACA (Polling Agent/Counting Agent) for Maria Chin Abdullah who would be contesting for a parliamentary seat in Petaling Jaya. At this point I had no idea there even existed such a thing as a PACA. I was feeling very meh about local politics and I definitely didn’t feel like doing what sounded like an incredibly stressful job, in addition to voting. But I couldn’t say no either. I had been unhappy with our policies and government for years — I’d wanted change so badly ever since I was old enough to vote. And now I had a chance to make a change — or contribute towards making a change. Didn’t I have an obligation to do so? And if I didn’t, wouldn’t that make me a hypocrite?
So I resignedly registered for PACA training. Because there’s nothing I hate more than being called a hypocrite LOL.
With my PACA teammates, who are all from Mount Holyoke College lol figures. Hi Fardina, Oy Sim and Sin Seanne!
On Polling Day, I went to vote. And I carried out my duties. Nothing too controversial occured, and soon it was 5 pm – time to start counting the votes.
I was fairly confident that my candidate, Maria Chin, would win, since PJ is an opposition stronghold. She did win! ^^ By the time we finished, it was 9.30 pm and I was dead on my feet. I was freezing from sitting in a subartic dewan the entire day, I hadn’t had dinner except for a pastry, plus I’d been basically hypervigilant since early morning. When counting was over, I checked my phone and saw a Whatsapp from Fatty: XXX (some seat I don’t remember) is won by BN.
This confirmed what I’d believed in the days leading up to the election. Everyone in Malaysia heard about the gerrymandering – unfair redrawing of electoral lines in order, setting election in the middle of the week, the dirty tactics employed by the ROS, the EC and dunno what other government bodies la. Based on what happened the last GE, we also fully expected BN to cheat all the way – ‘blackouts’, fake ballot boxes pushed in at the last minute, vote buying, politician buying, etc. I had almost no hope that anything would change this election; what more with the practice they had five years ago, I expected BN to finetune their tactics and win even bigger. We’d also been hearing that voter turnout this year was lower than the last, which further reinforced that PH was going to lose.
I drove home. I turned on the radio and listened to smarmy radio announcers announce win after win for Barisan Nasional, noting how they played up BN wins, and minimized Pakatan ones. We live in the heart of KL and I drove by police setting up roadblocks in front of Dataran Merdeka. My parents had warned of the possibility of riots or a state of emergency in the wake of the election since tensions were so high so I was pretty worried.
At home, I drank some soup and took a shower, ready to crawl into bed. I wasn’t thinking about the results, didn’t want to think about yet another defeat. Then Fatty came down to the kitchen, holding his phone. He was just on the phone with his mom, he said. Some of his relatives are friends with Penang DAP people, and apparently the PH crew in Penang had already received unofficial results that PH had won the federal government and were already celebrating in a hotel.
I was like, WHAT ON EARTH. NO WAY JOSE. Simply celebrate so prematurely for what, results also not out yet!?
Then we pulled up Malaysiakini and saw this.
Fatty marveled, for the first time we see Pakatan leading Barisan. To me it was still too premature. I remember seeing Pakatan lead BN too five years ago before everything went to shit.
But then more and more information started circulating on social media and whatsapp. With the rest of Malaysia, we stayed up, refreshing the poll results. From inconceivable rumors about Pakatan winning, the truth seemed to solidify in front of our eyes as the Pakatan seat counter crept upwards. When the Election Commission halted announcing official results some time after midnight (because they were all refusing to sign Form 14, shitheads), I gave up and fell asleep.
The next morning, I heard Fatty stir. I was about to go back to sleep when I suddenly remembered – the election!!! I jerked up and said, how how? Fatty said, Pakatan Harapan won.
Grabbed my phone, and the rest is history.
It’s still surreal. I can’t believe we have a new government now and that it was even possible to change our leadership. It’s been three days since Malaysia did the impossible and overthrew the shackles of a corrupt, ruthless,
tyrannosaurus rex tyrant and his government. We’ve all been glued to our devices as more and more drama unfolded, and it’s not over yet! But I want to blog a bit about what I’ve been feeling and thinking these three days.
The world is a brighter place
I’m serious hahahaha. The world actually seems better and brighter. I find myself smiling more at strangers on the street now… and they smile back! I give way more on the road… only to be taken advantage of by taxi drivers as usual. But I’m still happy. ^^ We nod at each other’s ink-blackened fingers and I try to ignore those with clean digits hahaha. A Facebook friend even commented his food tastes nicer now with a new government LOL. That’s taking it a bit too far la, but I do sense the optimism and reignited passion in people around me.
We feel freer
I kid you not. Although the laws haven’t changed, people are already feelin’ it bruh. *I* definitely feel it. People around me – my brother being one of them – have mentioned it as well. It’s incredible but somehow knowing that Pakatan has pledged to uphold and restore freedom of media and speech, it’s as if a literal weight has been lifted off my chest. I feel freer to express myself already, not even just with this blog post but for everything that I say to my friends and family. Is it possible that the lack of freedom of speech had affected me for most of my life without me even realizing? Yes.
I feel like I can do more
Maybe it’s the fact that we did what we thought was insurmountable – we changed our government peacefully and democratically, without bloodshed or violence. Maybe it’s the fact that a 92 year old man can thrive on less sleep than me and do things I could never have done. I’m a terrible procrastinator, and I don’t like risk at all. So I’ve been putting things I really want to do on the back burner just because I’m scared of failure. But now I feel anything is possible! Dreams suddenly seem far more achievable and that goes a long way to tamping down any fear that I may have… because if I can do this, why can’t I go after what I want to do?
In fact, a friend asked us if we would now consider taking a pay cut or changing careers to help develop the nation. I would! With the old government, there was a sense that nothing we did would affect anything, but many Members of Parliament seem intelligent, approachable and open. I will never join politics la wtf but if I could find a chance to help with nation building, yes I’d be very interested wtf.
I’m so glad i voted and was a PACA
Because I can say I was a little part of history!!! Yea la, I gotta admit I’m proud of myself too LOL. I really didn’t want to do it and I forced myself to, but I’m so glad I did. At the end, my head PACA asked me if I had fun and I said yes I’d totally do it again. It was tiring and stressful, but it was also fun and fulfilling – knowing that I was helping to make things right and fair, and doing it well. Then she said ok onz next time we send you to Sarawak FML.
I know people who didn’t vote feel bad about not getting involved but that’s okay. If you don’t care about not voting either, it’s also okay. It’s our democratic right to vote, but it’s also our democratic right to not vote. Truth be told, I was pretty upset with some people whom I knew weren’t voting, especially if they’d been hating on the government and country. BUT. It is their right not to, and people never stop learning. Not voting today doesn’t mean they won’t vote tomorrow, and vice versa. Calm down guys wtf.
We have a two party system now!!!!
Whatever happens, however Pakatan Harapan may perform, we effectively have a two party system now. I believe people feel empowered now, that our voices make a difference and that the rule of the country actually belongs to us, not to our appointed leaders. I don’t think (or at least I hope) that our government in the future (whichever party they may be) will dare to fuck up their mandate because now they’ve seen what can happen if they do.
I have a lot of hope for the future of Malaysia. This election has restored my faith in democracy and Malaysians. I’m being very honest here, and this may be sensitive. I was never very proud to be Malaysian. To people I met overseas, I never knew what to say about us except that we had the world’s tallest twin towers and we’re located above Singapore. I loved Malaysia but I was not positive about my country.
Today I am. I am proud to call myself Malaysian, and I am so proud to be from this country who came together to achieve what we had done on May 9, peacefully, calmly and with love for one another. Not many countries can claim to have done the same, and not many can achieve this either.
WE DID IT!!!! This is for everyone who came together for this – for the millions of voters who turned out, the folk rallying others to go and vote, the awesome people behind #Pulangmengundi and #UndiRabu, the PACA teams, especially those in volatile areas, even the people who took it on themselves to safeguard the tallying centers from incoming bullshit ballots — I heard a group in Setia Alam even locked up the Elections Commission official for refusing to sign a legitimate Form 14 LOL. And lastly, thank you to the new leaders who we have so much hope for. Also, we are watching you.