During the 12th General Election campaign, both sides of the political divide wanted to make my youth an issue and traded barbs and insults. But I wanted to focus on the issues, and challenged my opponent to a debate on her record and our different visions for the constituency. My opponent refused.
However, I do not deny that being a young politician has its respective pros and cons. The challenges are that we need humility to listen and learn from those with more experience to deal with the various issues. But it also means we can look at it from a different perspective and think outside the box.
Undoubtedly, I faced a steep learning curve in being part of the new Selangor state administration. At times, it felt overwhelming. While there was some uneasiness among the government servants at first in dealing with us, I believe the new administration’s assurances have won them over to work with us in introducing changes to the state.
The added challenge is that we inherited a government that had been under one coalition for the past fifty years. After all the excitement of the historic election results on 8 March 2008 and the high hopes of the public, we realised the responsibility of being government.
While many of the problems we face now emerged under the previous administration, the responsibility to find solutions now rests on our shoulders. Malaysians of all races placed their hopes of the politics of hope and change in the elections, but even now the legacy of half-a-century of divide and rule politics rear its ugly head from time-to-time.
This means that we need to work hard to convince Malaysians on the viability of multi-racial politics. Any dissappointment with us will result in the voters punishing us in the next election, because the immense courage they showed in voting for change in the previous election meant that no party can take the public for granted.
Most crucially, as a young politician, I’ve tried to reach out to young Malaysians to overcome their apathy and play their role as citizens of the country. I’ve met with student leaders from my former college, gave a talk against racism at a Butterfingers and Hujan gig, attended a dialogue with Muslim student leaders. In each program I consistently emphasised that the future of our country requires Malaysians to work together. As a Muslim, as a Malay, I told them, I believe that in order for the country to move forward, we must fight for all. That is what Islam teaches us.
When we make the argument for Malaysia repeatedly, the younger generation can understand the need to change.