I was never interested in watching a Malaysian Parliament session before July 2021. Life was, after all, too busy. With work, family, and quite honestly, I could think of more fun things to do.
But, in March 2020, everything changed dramatically. Not just for me, but for everyone in the world. The events in the months that followed woke me up. It made me look at the country that I have lived in my entire life, in a new way. In short, it was a critical juncture for many. It was a critical juncture for our country.
And so, in July 2021, I watched the Malaysian Parliament Session for the first time. Here are my reasons why:
We’re Living in A Time Unlike Any Other
On March 16, 2020, the former Malaysian Prime Minister, Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Mahiaddin bin Md Yasin announced that the Movement Control Order or MCO would be imposed on the nation. I remember vividly listening to his announcement, and not fully comprehending how the MCO would work, and yet knowing deep down in my heart that everything would change.
Now, nearly 18 months since that first announcement was made, more than 21,000 lives have been lost. The gruesome statistic doesn’t end there. As of July 2021, the unemployment rate stood at 4.8%. Shopping malls remain eerily silent, with the Malay Mail reporting on August 13, 2021, that 66 percent of malls surveyed are expecting 10 to 30 percent of their tenants to vacate by December 2021. Additionally, compared to pre-pandemic levels, footfall at these malls has dropped drastically from 60 to 90 percent. As a result, 14 percent of the malls have laid off their employees.
The pandemic’s toll on the economy has left many going hungry and losing their homes. It is also leading to many spiralling into the depths of depression and even resorted to taking their own lives. In the first five months of 2021 alone, a total of 468 suicide cases have been reported in Malaysia, and out of this, 117 cases, or 25% of the total number of cases, were reported in the state of Selangor, where I live.
And that is why I am beginning to see that we are living in a time unlike any other.
The Change Starts with Me
As a Malaysian millennial, I was born in a time when the economy was booming, and I never had to go through what my grandparents or parents went through. But when the pandemic hit, it rocked my comfortable world. Whether I liked it or not, I had to begin to look at the community around me.
Could I live in my comfortable home while others went hungry and some even had no shelter? What are the things that I could do? I suddenly understood that my world must include those who are less fortunate. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t. I saw that to change the world around me…the change starts with me.
I then realised that even small changes can make a difference, and that’s where I should start. It can be as easy as scaling back on expensive coffee, so I can contribute to a food bank or help others. Small changes can cause a powerful ripple effect, as was evidenced by the White Flag movement in Malaysia, where those in need were encouraged to hang a white flag to ask for help from the community around them. Many Malaysians ended up responding to these cries for help.
A Legacy for The Future Generation
More importantly, I want to think beyond myself at those who are coming after me. What kind of Malaysia do I want to leave for my future generation? A Malaysia straddled with debts and a struggling economy? I can choose not to care and point fingers, but that wouldn’t be right, and for me, that wouldn’t be responsible.
For all millennials out there, we live in comfort because the generations before us made the way. Do we want to let it all go to waste and instead choose to fold our hands in a time when all hands must be on deck to rebuild our nation?
It is time for us to start thinking: what kind of legacy do we want to leave for our future generation? After all, I believe that we do not just inherit the earth (or our country, in this case) from our ancestors…we borrow them from our children.
If Not Now, When
The thing is: I can spend my whole life talking about a better Malaysia, but if I don’t do what I can when it is needed the most, I am nothing but a noisy gong. I must learn to think differently, to come out of my comfort zone to do all I can, and play my part during this critical juncture that Malaysia is in.
But for me to do all these things, I have to be aware of what is happening politically because it impacts every Malaysian, whether we like it or not. I cannot afford to bury my head in the sand anymore or worse still, to be a ‘katak di bawah tempurung’ (literal translation: a frog under a coconut shell), an old Malay saying that is used to describe an ignorant person. And I must do it now. Because if not now, then when?
In his maiden speech addressing the nation, the ninth prime minister, Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri, introduced the concept of ‘Keluarga Malaysia’, or the Malaysian Family. In a family, members squabble, fight, and disagree, but at the end of the day, there is still a tie that binds everyone together.
Likewise, in Keluarga Malaysia, things may not be perfect but at the end of the day, I was born here, and it is the only home that I know, on this side of eternity. And I believe that where we come …..from shapes our identity very much.
So if my home is in a dismal state and needs help from me, I shouldn’t leave my home to live in my neighbour’s house simply because it is in better shape. Instead, I believe that I must do all I can, in whatever way possible, so Malaysia can be all that I know she can be.
And to my fellow Malaysians, wishing you a Selamat Hari Malaysia.
Negaraku, Tanah Tumpahnya Darahku.
Rakyat Hidup, Bersatu dan Maju
Rahmat Bahagia, Tuhan Kurniakan
Raja Kita Selamat Bertakhta.
My country, my native land,
The people live, united and progressive
May God bestow blessing and happiness
May our Ruler have a successful reign.
-The Malaysian National Anthem
Hannah Becca is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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