What does Merdeka means to Malaysian Youth?

What does Merdeka means to Malaysians? I guess different group of people will carry a different meaning of Merdeka with themselves.

Soldiers and their families who have fought in the Second World War and during the Communist Insurgency War; Merdeka means a huge victory to them.

For some workers or slaves who have been mistreated by the colonial powers; it may mean freedom from slavery or better hope of a future for them.

For statemen, who have advocated for independence, it shows the capability of the locals to lead a nation.

For the general public, it means a creation of a country that is governed by their own people and belongs to them.

But what does it mean to the younger generations of today? Some may disagree with me, but I think the youth no longer shares the spirit of Merdeka compared to the elders. Today, lesser youth expresses the love for their country anymore. Many don’t bother about the Merdeka or Malaysia Day celebrations.

One of the obvious reasons is probably these youth are born decades after the nation achieves its independence or when Malaysia is formed. They have never experienced the enthusiasm and excitement when the whole country shouted “Merdeka” with the then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. The youngest group who have seen the event at that time might have been at least 60 years old now.

And the youth before Merdeka might have took part in the struggle to fight for independence, while the youth of today need not worry about the problems of colonialism.

Today we only manage to see that historic moment captured in history books, newspapers, articles and probably the most interactive is the short video clip of Tunku Abdul Rahman shouting “Merdeka’.

Very few are actually proud of their National Anthem, the Jalur Gemilang, National Flower and other national symbols of Malaysia. Worst is some may even misunderstand that these national symbols are related to some politicians that they dislike and thus refuse to respect the objects used in the Merdeka celebrations.

Literally, the younger generations of today are not instilled with the spirit of Merdeka within them. How many actually celebrates Merdeka as a patriotic day or do they celebrate because it is a holiday? Some may share patriotic greetings and wishes; but how many does that because they feel it or because their peers do so? With politicians creating a big fuss over the difference of the national day theme between Federal and State Government; they are making it worse.

As the leaders of both political divides keeps on politicizing issues even of the National Day, perhaps the youth should take the lead to build and instil the spirit of Merdeka in ourselves. We need to craft a new spirit and a new meaning of Merdeka for this group of youth as they are seeing things differently. We need to redefine a new value of patriotism for the youth. And with these values; we must create a better nation.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 28th August 2015.

Reforming Political Funding Regulations

The recent news of the RM2.6 billion found in the bank accounts of Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak has caused majority of the people in the nation to be in anger especially when the source of the funds is still undisclosed. Although it has been announced by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) that the funds were political donations, Malaysians generally feels suspicious of the financial transaction.

At the height of all these issues happening, I believe it is time to reform and regulate political funding in Malaysia. There are many laws and regulations that we can refer to other countries in terms of political financing.

Looking at the political parties in Malaysia, there are different ways that they are funded. The most basic contribution is through their party members via annual membership fees and subscriptions. Most of the larger political parties operates an investment arm or owns corporate companies to generate funds for their political activities. Besides that, businesspeople also fund the parties through different type of donations including gift of money, property, sponsorship of event, fundraising dinners and many more.

In foreign countries, some organizations which share the same political views with a party will contribute funds as well. Take it as an example, in the United Kingdom, the Labour Party is formed by the trade unions and socialist societies. These trade unions pay an affiliation fee to the Labour Party and in return, they and their members receive the privileges of affiliated membership. Some government in other countries such as Germany also funds directly to political parties for their political activities in which they call it public funding.

Of course, some of these foreign methods of political funding may not be agreed by the people or practical in our country. But let’s look at the basics of certain political funding regulations that should be proposed.

The first would be the financial disclosure of political funding and expenses. What is the minimum value of donations that should be reported? Who are the funders who have contributed to the political party or candidates?

Should we also implement limitations to the donors? Is there a ceiling on the amount a donor may give to a political party over a particular time period? Who or what organization is allowed or denied from making political donations? Is Government Linked Companies (GLC) or companies that works on Government contracts allowed to fund as a donor?

Currently there are already laws and regulations on finance in the Malaysia’s electoral process. However, the laws and regulations are not empowered. Malaysians only starts to pay attention when there is a huge amount reported such as the issue of the RM2.6 billion. What about the fund-raising dinners that has been organised by DAP over the years? The amount for each fund-raising dinner may not rise up to billions, but there has been so many dinners organised in parliamentary and state assembly constituencies throughout the nation. DAP managed to build their multi-million headquarters in Penang within two years of ruling the government. Who is funding the development of the headquarters?

Of course, the implementation of such political funding regulations must come together with the political maturity of Malaysians. If a corporate company donates to one political party, will the company be taken action of when the opponent takes over as the Government? If an individual donates to one political party, will the person be condemned and threatened due to difference of political views?

Not only the leaders and politicians should be matured politically; the voters and the people must set a new approach towards politics. Probably the young Malaysians today who are so keen in discussing about current issues should start to set the benchmark of new politics.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 14th August 2015.