Give the youth a chance to lead

A file picture of a National Youth Day celebration. - AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

Verily they were certain youth who believed in their Lord, and we increased them in guidance (Al Kahfi-13)

MAY 15 is National Youth Day. Every year, the Youth and Sports Ministry and the Malaysian Youth Council (MBM) organises a celebration, officiated by the Prime Minister.

Malaysia is among the leading nations in terms of managing youth development using criteria from the United Nations – that a country should have government agency for youth, national youth organisations and a national youth policy. We have the Youth and Sports Ministry, the MBM (1948) and the National Youth Policy (1985).

Our youth have achieved success in many areas, and these can be attributed to the role of many parties. Nevertheless, we need to overcome any shortcomings and explore new achievements. We must not live in past glories. We need to create new glories for today and tomorrow.

Therefore, we should focus on several things:

– Enhancing youth education and training thinking and practices that are holistic and forward-looking.

– Constant engagement with the youth, rather than seasonally (e.g., near elections).

– Understanding the 'three demands of youth': For their voices to be heard, their roles recognised and their issues addressed in a youth-oriented manner.

– Strengthening 'youth empowerment', especially the role of youth in decision-making.

– Expanding consultation (shura) in national development by involving the three main sectors (government, business and civil society), where youth are part of civil society.

– Breaking the glass ceiling that limits opportunities for youth. For example, youth opinion in the decision-making process – even if it is more thoughtful and deserving, it is not promoted because there is more concern about seniority.

The world today is a world of science and technology, especially communication technology and multimedia. The Covid-19 pandemic showed two new developments for use of the technology. Some use it because they have truly embraced it, while others use it because they have to.

In the first instance, youth are the pioneers. In the second instance, the youth are mentors. Hence, this is indeed the era of the youth.

History teaches about the great benefits when youth are given leadership roles. The history of Islam is rich in its teachings of, for example Ali ibn Abi Talib and Usamah ibn Zaid. The history of Malaysia gave us the second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak.

In today's politics, a particular party's move to rest its senior leaders from leadership positions and the enactment of Undi-18 should pave the way for more youth to lead parties and be nominated in elections.

May this progress spread to other fields as well.

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National Youth Day

Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah

Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah

Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah is the Foreign Minister of Malaysia. Views expressed are the writer’s own.


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