LO­CAL RE­PORT: MIL­LENIALS AND A NEW MALAYSIA

Retelling the his­toric mo­ments af­ter GE14, from the bright and ob­serv­ing eyes of Malaysia’s very own mil­len­ni­als

Marie Claire (Malaysia) - - News - By Daphne Ng

His­toric mo­ments af­ter GE14 told by Malaysia's very own mil­len­ni­als.

The younger gen­er­a­tion of Malaysian mil­len­ni­als (born 1993 1997) cast their first votes dur­ing this elec­tion. Say you’d like to play devil’s ad­vo­cate; you can call on the stereo­typ­i­cal be­hav­iour of mil­len­ni­als, known for hop­ping on the fastest trend wave—in one day, out the next week. Call on the never-end­ing jokes of mil­len­ni­als spend­ing their money on av­o­cado toasts, their

per­ceived lack of loy­alty to jobs that tie them down, or how they travel the world Eat, Pray, Love-style on their par­ents’ sav­ings. Stereo­type all you like, but the fact still re­mains; the mil­len­ni­als are the fu­ture.

Sta­tis­tics show those aged 21 to 39 this year made up 41 per cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers. Say­ing we owe this new change in the democ­racy to the new mil­len­ni­als may sound far­fetched—what about the other 59 per cent who braved the hot sun and queues de­spite health prob­lems and old age? The seis­mic shift was one that built up over a decade of un­just feel­ings. When talk was all that could be done, GE14 pre­sented an op­por­tu­nity—one where the masses could be united and swayed, one where the peo­ple kept a sharp eye on phan­tom vot­ers and bal­lot cast­ings by putting in time and ef­fort as a PACA vol­un­teer.

Ask any Malaysian what made them brave the sea of cit­i­zens at their polling sta­tions; or the ones overseas who bite their fin­ger­nails anx­iously wait­ing for postal bal­lots to be de­liv­ered to and fro on time; or those who booked flight tick­ets back to their home­land im­me­di­ately af­ter the date of GE14 was an­nounced—just to cast their vote. What they had to say rings true in ev­ery coun­try: it is our civic duty and right to ex­er­cise our priv­i­lege. Say­ing the winds of change be­gan to blow when par­lia­ment dis­solved on 7 April 2018 is an un­der­state­ment. Be­fore the rush of the GE14 fever in April, there was fer­vent hope sweep­ing across the na­tion—will this year’s elec­tion make a dif­fer­ence? Or, if you’d like to trace it back to ex­actly a year ago in 2017 when your so­cial me­dia feed over­flowed with in­for­ma­tional videos and de­tailed step-bysteps on why, how, and when you should regis­ter to vote to be el­i­gi­ble. Fed by mil­len­ni­als, eaten up by mil­len­ni­als, the in­for­ma­tion spread far and wide.

De­spite the fact that half of the na­tion hopped out of their front door by 7.30am on 9th May 2018, polling sta­tions were crowded. Queues upon queues lined the front of schools and snaked out to class­rooms and fields. The shift in the air was pal­pa­ble as well—peo­ple seemed to be friend­lier and chat­tier; smiles were be­stowed upon each other in an un­der­stand­ing nod of the head. One young man prac­ti­cally skipped out of the polling booth af­ter cast­ing his vote; a lady pulled out her phone and started tap­ping away on the screen, pre­sum­ably to up­date her What­sApp group: “I’ve voted!” The closer the queue moved to the polling sta­tions, the tenser the mood was—I’ll ad­mit I was so ner­vous try­ing to re­call ev­ery pre­cau­tion­ary step I should take in the polling booth (Make sure they pro­nounce your name right! Look for smudges or stains on your vot­ing bal­lot! Loudly protest if some­thing goes wrong! Do not

Call on the never-end­ing jokes of mil­len­ni­als spend­ing their money on av­o­cado toasts, their per­ceived lack of loy­alty to jobs that tie them down, or how they travel the world Eat, Pray, Love-style on their par­ents’ sav­ings. Stereo­type all you like, but the fact still re­mains; the mil­len­ni­als are the fu­ture.

It was a his­tor­i­cal mo­ment some placed high hopes on, while oth­ers daren’t hope. “Malaysians demon­strated to them­selves some­thing many had never thought pos­si­ble

cross any­thing else out­side the box!) I com­pletely zoned out when the polling agents read my I.C. num­ber out loud.

What’s the first thing you no­tice about a per­son? On a nor­mal day, I’d be drawn to phys­i­cal fea­tures that stand out—a beau­ti­ful, hair colour, or a set of solid toned arms. By 5pm on 9th May 2018, one would al­most think a se­vere case of very spe­cific frostbite (the tip of the in­dex fin­ger, to be ex­act) swept across the na­tion, judg­ing by the In­ter­net’s so­cial feed. I caught my­self eye­ing ev­ery per­son’s left in­dex fin­ger. I wasn’t the only one. “I’m check­ing out ev­ery­one’s in­dex fin­ger now,” my friend Yee Teng said, vi­va­ciously eye­ing ev­ery passer-by, post-GE14. A group of us de­cided to take ad­van­tage of the empty roads on an oth­er­wise busy Thurs­day for lunch at a shop­ping mall. “And I’m silently judg­ing them—if it’s not stained, it means they didn’t vote.”

“They may have been in­el­i­gi­ble,” said Hui Mei, the other voice of rea­son in the group. By then it was al­most a so­ci­etal im­print: if you’re not for­eign, if you look old enough to vote, and didn’t have a solid rea­son not to, you’re go­ing to get a sub­tle stink eye.

Aileen Wong, 25, was not el­i­gi­ble to vote in GE14. “My reg­is­tra­tion to vote is still pro­cess­ing,” Aileen tells me. “But I just wanted to help out, get my­self in­volved in this sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment.” Hence, she took on the role of polling and count­ing agent (PACA) sta­tioned at Wangsa Maju.

Train­ing takes place a month be­fore­hand, which in­cludes an in-depth ses­sion on how to carry out tasks ex­pected on the vot­ing day. “It was fairly easy, I’d say.” Yee Teng, also a PACA vol­un­teer, tells me over lunch. She at­tended one train­ing ses­sion and three meet­ings with her sta­tion mas­ter. The de­ci­sion to vol­un­teer as a PACA for at least 12 hours at a polling sta­tion ver­sus call­ing it a day af­ter a two-hour vot­ing process was an easy one for her. “The need to keep it a fair and clean elec­tion was def­i­nitely my drive. We [PACA vol­un­teers] were told that we are not tech­ni­cally rep­re­sent­ing ei­ther po­lit­i­cal party, but it was just to keep an eye out for foul play.” The first few hours went by smoothly. When night fell, bal­lot count­ing started. Her three moods? “Wor­ried, stressed out, and tense,” she ad­mits. Al­leged news cir­cu­lated around so­cial me­dia that PACAs in a Se­tia Alam school were be­ing held hostage. “I wasn’t wor­ried about the talk of fake bal­lots; it was the po­ten­tial of a riot that scared me. Civil­ians and res­i­dents started crowd­ing around the school when ev­ery­one caught wind our KTM (ke­tua tem­pat men­gundi, which ba­si­cally trans­lates to the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer), re­fused to sign Forms 13 and 14. The whole school was on lock­down - you don’t know who is on your side and who isn't"

No one slept be­fore the witch­ing hour. The coun­try was buzzing with a mix of fer­vent fear, hope, and

We can change the gov­ern­ment. That's im­por­tant, be­cause many mil­len­ni­als, my­self in­cluded, grew up think­ing there was no hope of a fair, trans­par­ent gov­ern­ment. But now we can tell our next gen­er­a­tion, look, we've done it once, we'll do it again. You have the hope that we didn't have.

ex­cite­ment. It was a his­tor­i­cal mo­ment some placed high hopes on, while oth­ers daren’t hope at all. “Malaysians demon­strated to them­selves some­thing many had never thought pos­si­ble,” says Ja­son Yong, 24. “We can change the gov­ern­ment. That's im­por­tant, be­cause many mil­len­ni­als, my­self in­cluded, grew up think­ing there was no hope of a fair, trans­par­ent gov­ern­ment. But now we can tell our next gen­er­a­tion, 'Look, we've done it once, we'll do it again. You have the hope that we didn't have.'”

Now that we’ve con­quered one moun­tain, the next beck­ons—taller, larger, with a big­ger change—sway­ing the mind­set of each and ev­ery per­son. Du­ties as a con­tribut­ing cit­i­zen are not lim­ited to just vot­ing or vol­un­teer­ing as a PACA, Ja­son claims. “We al­ways think ‘this is some­one else's job’. But the re­al­ity is: when you have an ed­u­ca­tion when you have a per­ma­nent home when you have money to buy gro­ceries and es­sen­tials, you have the means to con­trib­ute more to so­ci­ety by what­ever way you choose, es­pe­cially if you live in a cen­tral city and have ac­cess to the In­ter­net and like-minded peo­ple. If you think you are just one per­son, think again. Think of all the priv­i­leges you pos­sess. If not you, who else do you ex­pect to do all the dirty but nec­es­sary work in help­ing Malaysia progress? If you can con­tem­plate mak­ing a dif­fer­ence, that means you can. And when you can but you don’t, that’s on you.”

In an ideal sit­u­a­tion, the pro­gres­sive forces driv­ing the coun­try to a new level would be suf­fi­cient. Young Malaysian cit­i­zens are, af­ter all, the ones that are re­spon­si­ble for driv­ing a change in the coun­try.

A woman waves a Pakatan Hara­pan coali­tion party flag in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thurs­day, May 10, 2018. Tun Dr. Ma­hathir bin Mo­hamad ap­peared set to be­come Malaysia's prime min­is­ter once again af­ter deal­ing Dato' Sri Haji Mo­ham­mad Na­jib bin Tun Haji Ab­dul Razak's rul­ing coali­tion a stun­ning de­feat, ce­ment­ing the coun­trys first trans­fer of power in six decades.

Vot­ers seen pos­ing with her inked fin­ger at a polling sta­tion dur­ing elec­tion day in Malaysia.

Vot­ers queue at a polling sta­tion in Subang Jaya, Malaysia.

Source: Merdeka Cen­tre (Au­gust 2017)

For­mer Beauty Queen, Jo Anna Sue Hen­ley Ram­pas,29, dur­ing nom­i­na­tion day in Tuaran Sabah.

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