We must make the youth care about politics

Recent surveys conducted by various groups have come to the same conclusions; that young people in Malaysia are becoming more disinterested and disillusioned with politics in Malaysia.

This has resulted in young people not registering as voters, or if they have registered, not bothering to vote.

Some even made up their mind to boycott the elections, saying that both sides of the political divide are the same and there is no point in voting.

I cannot claim to speak for youth. But the current youth perception on politics is the fault of politicians and political parties.

The extreme politicking by political sides on many issues and the failure of political parties to speak the language of the youth would have contributed to this current state of affairs.

So too, the fact that young political leaders are constantly being overshadowed by their more veteran peers.

The purported decision by opposition bloc Pakatan Harapan to name Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as prime minister and deputy prime minister candidates have been argued to also send the wrong message to the youth; that the much touted ‘change’ can only be brought about by 2 people older than 60.

Make no mistake; older politicians can also inspire the young. Look at Bernie Sanders in the United States of America, or Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom.

Yet these two are unique in the sense that there were never seen to be a part of the political elite or in the corridors of powers throughout their careers, even if they are career politicians themselves.

There is now a need, more than ever, for young politicians to step up. Young people need political personalities that they can identify with, who will inspire them to care about politics and democracy.

These young politicians must be able to understand the aspirations and concerns of the youth of Malaysia, beyond the sloganeering and rhetoric. They must not merely echo the words of their more senior leaders. They must be able to know what the young people of Malaysia want and need.

Political parties must also encourage more young people to join their ranks. They must be able to ensure that the youth voices within their political structure will be heard, and not just there to make up the numbers.

At the same time, we as a society must also encourage youth participation in politics. In this regard, blame must also be apportioned to us. We have not played out part.

Despite the amendments to the University and University Colleges Act, students still face action for political activities, just because those activities are not in line with the powers that be.

To make matters worse, we tell these students to ‘focus on their studies’ instead of being involved in politics.

When young people express political opinions, they are belittled and disparaged, such as what happened to the young actress who commented on the recent Royal Commission of Inquiry findings. 

There is also skepticism and suspicion whenever a young person decides to join politics. This is especially prevalent in urban middle class Malaysians, who tar all politicians with the same negative brush.

All these must stop, if we are to try and arrest this deficit of faith that the youth of this nation have with politics, before it becomes irreversible.

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