The 'rakyat', no more in the shadows

MAY 17 — I don’t want you to be forgotten.

Malaysians who’ve made the colossal shift in our country’s destiny.

Which is why I endeavour to separate the narrative, between the winners last week and the force which made them win.

A lot has been written about the winners, and rightly so.

But songs have to be sung about those who made them winners.

It was usual for the only government we ever knew till last Thursday to say nonchalantly, we are a democracy because we allow the people to go to the ballot box every five years. I want to discard that think in the waste basket of Malaysian history. Decimate it, repeat it as the cautionary tale of letting the few rule too long.

This begins with reminding them, the politicians.

What should the politicians know, then?


That the rakyat care. This has been the lesson for me too. It must be repeated over and over that Barisan Nasional (BN) caught only a third of the rakyat’s votes. The juggernaut humiliated.

After utilising all the machinery and wealth possible, they were found out on Polling Day.

And that even with three-way fights, they understood the nuance of their vote and how it had to factor the split. They considered their votes, and that is the best compliment to be passed to an electorate.

But even that, does not tell the whole story.

The energy was boundless.

The sheer captivation the election held for the masses was electrifying. It was in the air on voting day, and it was clearly there as people cheered on the results as if it was the Thomas Cup Final. And just like the old days, when the world badminton titles went on past midnight thanks to the service game, few were ready to sleep before the end.

It was a reality show where their futures were being shaped.

That the rakyat have been watching since. That it’s not out of our hands and over to the ruling class for the next. That it is for them to negotiate and navigate the journey from this point onwards.

Every step has been monitored. Has the palace accepted the Pakatan delegation? Is the new prime minister decided on his ministers? When will Anwar Ibrahim leave prison? Who will be arrested next week?

Politics has become tantalising for the rakyat, and they are not ready for matters to be kept from them, anymore.

That the rakyat want to express. With the fear of the fake news law receded, there were ready comments from the people.

Why are you complaining too quickly, Rafizi (Ramli)? Why should he not complain, we are not in a controlled state anymore! When will Mahathir announce the remaining Cabinet posts? They’re investigating 1MDB, but when will they start on the Scorpene submarines, Felda and even that Youth ministry project?

They will continue to speak out. If the government of the day does not engage and learn from those they’ve replaced, then the voices will turn into frustration and indeed disdain for those they did cheer on before.

Government has to find a way to have that conversation with its people and accept they have only won a temporary job.

But the best bit is this.

That the rakyat have got a taste of being in power. This would be the true legacy of the election. While we expect much from Pakatan, and BN too in opposition, the people believe that the mandate to rule emanates from them.

Trust me, in the weeks to come, Malaysians will remind every government delivery, the civil servants, from national registration department to the forestry department that they demand service. They’d say, they elected their bosses.

The politicians work for the rakyat, would be the gist of the message which will reverberate no less in Putrajaya.

The new contract

In short, it’s not that we have changed government last weekend, as much as we have changed the way governing occurs in our country.

It means the rakyat are ready to bear our responsibility as citizens.

Often it won’t be dignified as we clamber through this blue ocean, but we have come around to the idea the journey is collectively ours, and that’s joy unrestrained.

The new chapter reads this way:

We are a democracy because the rakyat demand to matter every day and everywhere in the Federation of Malaysia. The elections are our street parties, sure, but we’ll be dancing all the time, not just on voting day.


* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.