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Sunday August 31, 2008

Look past race

Being young and a fresh face in politics is no easy task. Like me, other elected representatives of the same ilk must have learned many new things about Malaysian culture and the Malaysian mindset in the last five months.

I have to deal with multiple problems faced by the residents and many simply do not understand the role of an assemblyman.

Some lie to get me to listen to them, some throw tantrums as and when they wish, some ask for personal loans, some refuse to talk to their neighbours and want me to do it for them instead and other are quite lost as to who and where they can go to about their problems.

Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh

All this has been an eye-opener – the observation of “first-world infrastructure and third-world mentality” makes a lot more sense now to me, and probably to many of my comrades in other constituencies.

Older constituents sometimes assume the role of a parent when they see me.

But being young does not have to mean an absence of wisdom and being older also does not always mean the presence of maturity.

The test for us is to discern the cause of a complaint, the truth behind it and the agenda of each complainant.

And the challenge is to “develop” the mindset of our constituents simultaneously with improving the delivery system of our local government and other institutions.

We must aim to have more constituents with a first-world mentality by the end of our term.

I have also come to realise that we can do something very significant as elected representatives. We can act as agents of reconciliation in our multiracial society.

One noteworthy observation made about the March 8 general election is that Malaysians in general are beginning to reject race-based politics.

It is distressing to see that though Malaysians despise it, certain groups are still going about proudly, ignorantly, carelessly and irresponsibly promoting race-based politics.

This is a huge threat to the unity being promoted in our nation.

As assemblyman, I have seen poverty in an urban township like Subang Jaya. Poor families of different races struggle to make a decent living in view of the higher prices for almost everything.

We must make a point to educate and create awareness among residents to be sensitive to the needs of others living in their community.

In every decision we make, we should be mindful of our responsibility to reconcile Malaysians, to restore what has been shattered and crushed in the minds and spirit of Malaysians, to bridge that gap shaped by previous governance.

And Malaysians must work to assist in mending the net that is essential for carrying the weight of reconciliation, restoration and rebuilding of this nation.

You are all indispensable threads.

This National Day, Malaysians should reflect on the meaning of our “independence”. We must be free or “truly Merdeka” from race-based politics.

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