Haha! Oh oh, next time cannot work for BN-led government if want to lor! So, better hope Opposition wins…
Via Joshua Hooi’s blog, from The Star Youth2 (5 Mac 2008):
FOR a long time now, there has been this perception that young people are apathetic and unconcerned about politics. However, there seems to be a recognition on the need to mobilise the young in this general election.
Political parties, both from the ruling Government and the Opposition have fielded younger candidates in their attempt to remain relevant to Malaysians, 55% of whom are below the age of 24. The increase in media channels have also sparked interest among a new generation of young Malaysians who look set to exercise their rights to vote come March 8.
Most significantly though is the fact that many candidates – among them Barisan Nasional’s Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, DAP’s Charles Santiago and PKR’s Sivarasa Rasiah – have turned to young people to actively assist them in their campaigns.
Munirah Kader Shah, founder of Youth For Shahrizat, sticks a car sticker on a vendor’s stall. More than a dozen youths stormed the Bangsar Baru night market in Kuala Lumpur distributing T-shirts, pastries and flowers as they encouraged residents to vote for Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.
Jacks of all trades
Nicole Wong, 29, has taken two weeks off from her job to help out with Chew’s campaign. The sales manager is working on an elections campaign for the first time, but is the person behind all of the Petaling Jaya Utara incumbent’s ceramahs.
“I am in charge of all the arrangements for YB’s ceramahs. I am helping her because she has given us a chance to be a leader,” Nicole says.
Nicole’s fellow volunteers, Ong Yu Pey, 25, and Tee Tze Wei, 29, feel the same way.
Fahmi Fadzil (right) and Grey Yeoh (second right) document their interview with Subang parliamentary seat candidate for PKR, Sivarasa Rasiah.
“We are very young in politics and in the party, but she is giving us a chance. She is training us up as the new generation (in politics),” says Yu Pey who has just returned from studying in China .
While these three ladies have their respective responsibilities – Yu Pey helps out with activities, while Tze Wei is in charge of logistics and sound systems – they are also out on the ground canvassing for votes.
An average day for the three of them starts as early as 5am where they would all meet up and start going on their rounds. This would include house-to-house visits, appearances at the market and the regular meetings back at the Bilik Gerakan in Kelana Jaya. Some days, they are part of Damansara Utama state seat candidate Victor Gu’s cycling team when they move about on bicycles to reach out to residents in Victor’s constituency.
“Most days, we only get a few hours sleep,” Nicole shares.
Bicycles aside, this is the sort of schedule that most of the other young volunteers keep to. In Klang, where prominent activist Charles Santiago is running for a parliamentary seat, his media liaison Leong Mei Yee talks about how hectic things have been since nomination day.
Like the three MCA volunteers, Mei Yee too takes on more than just her ‘portfolio’.
“I’m the media person, so I help make arrangements with the press. But I also work on documentation whenever needed. Some days, I take video and notes to be uploaded onto Charles’ blog,” she explains.
Despite the tiring hours they take on, none of them are complaining.
“I’m still very excited,” Nicole shared. “We play very important roles.”
Munirah and fellow Youth for Shahrizat member Pravin Pillai.
Fahmi Fadzil, who helps Subang parliamentary candidate Sivarasa with his communication work such as designing fliers and updating his campaign website, likened the feeling to sitting for an examination.
“It feels like final exam week in university. So much adrenaline and energy,” he says.
Power of youth
On Sunday night, almost 15 teenagers armed with T-shirts, caps, flowers and pastries stormed the Bangsar Baru night market. While traders were peddling their goods, these bunch of youths wearing Youth for Shahrizat T-shirts stopped passers-by telling them to come out to vote on polling day, and to vote for Shahrizat, the incumbent MP for Lembah Pantai.
“Excuse me, do you live in Bangsar? Vote for Kak Shahrizat okay?”
Munirah Kader Shah, 26, is the founder of Youth for Shahrizat. Just over a week ago, this public relations senior executive was just going about her life as usual.
She, however, decided that she wants to be involved in the general election. Gathering other young people from the area, Munirah started organising daily meetings at nearby mamak spots after work where they would plan their strategies to spread the good word about Shahrizat to anyone willing to listen.
“I wanted to be part of the elections because we (youths) matter … this is our country,” Munirah says. “We all have concerns but instead of just sitting down to chit chat about it, I thought it would be better to start something we are passionate about.”
At the pasar malam, this group of youths were “selling” their goodies in exchange for people’s time to stop and listen to their spin.
“Some of us actually have single mothers whom Shahrizat has done so much for. You can see the difference in our mother’s faces,” says 26-year-old Pravin Pillai, another member of Youth For Shahrizat said, referring to the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development.
“So we made up a bunch of fliers about how Kak Shahrizat has affected us.”
Each of these youths volunteers have their own reasons for helping a particular candidate with their campaigns. For Munirah and Pravin, it is all about the candidate. The same goes for Mei Yee and Sarah Devaraj, Santiago’s campaign coordinator.
Both are not members of DAP and agreed to help out because they believe in Santiago.
“I will support Charles as an individual, a man of credibility, integrity and honesty,” Sarah, 30, says.
Fahmi shares the same sentiments about Sivarasa.
“I believe in Siva, and what he says. There is a lot of clarity and I am attracted to that,” asserts Fahmi, who will be voting in Segambut.
As for the three MCA ladies, they are helping out as much for Datin Paduka Chew as they are for the party. They are members of BeliaWanis (MCA’s young women’s bureau) and have been helping the party out for a couple of years now on ground events.
MCA BeliaWanis member Nicole Wong is helping out Petaling Jaya Utara incumbent Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun with her election campaign.
A new generation cometh
Candidates aside, these youths are also getting involved because they believe that the time is prime for young people to play a bigger role in politics.
For Nicole, this elections will serve as a learning opportunity for her, as she intends to make a career out of politics.
“I am interested in politics, in particular the issues of young women. But no matter what, we have to do our part first. We play an important role and this gives us confidence,” she says.
And for others like Yu Pey, this is her way of giving back to the community.
“I’m taking this as a learning platform and trying very hard to learn,” she says. “In the future, I would love to contribute more to the community.”
The Youth For Shahrizat group however just want to show Malaysia that young people are capable, and not as apathetic as they are perceived to be.
“Youths are capable people and as long as we have the passion, it doesn’t matter if we play a big or small part,” Munirah says, adding that, “Politics is not a privilege, it’s an obligation. As long as I’m able to be involved, I’ll do it.”
For some of these youths, getting involved in the elections is also a way to dispel perceptions of their complacency when it comes to the issues and politics.
“Two months ago, my dad and his friends were talking politics when one of the friends turned to me and just asked, ‘Are you a registered voter?’ I said no and he turned to my dad and said, ‘See, young kids nowadays.’
“I got a bit offended because it’s not that I wasn’t going to register, just that it was not in line with my plans then to go overseas and not come back,” explains Grey Yeoh, 23, who is also helping out with Sivarasa’s campaign.
“Plans changed and by the time I wanted to, it was too late.”
So, getting involved in a campaign was Grey’s way for making up for not voting.
For Mei Yee, she feels that she can help make a difference.
“I tell my friends, even though it’s been crazy, I’m part of the election process. I’m part of deciding something important for the country.”
Then there is also the youth ideal that they are invincible and that the world is their oyster.
“Everyone wants to change the world in their own way. Some people chose to do it using politics,” Pravin opines.
Press liaison Leong Mei Yee (left) and campaign coordinator Sarah Devaraj do more than just focus on their ‘respective’ portfolios in DAP candidate Charles Santiago’s campaign.
Fahmi too shares this sentiment.
“It’s not so hard to make some kind of change. It’s just about taking ownership of participation in a public political process.”
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