“Ordinary people have more sense than their leaders sometimes,” he said. “They know the value of cooperation, mutual respect and harmony. I believe the people have spoken out loudly and clearly.”
Speaking at a luncheon talk in Singapore at the Regional Outlook Forum, organised by the Institute of South East Asian Studies yesterday, he said: “The future direction of the country is no longer going to be solely in the hands of the political masters.
“The people want to be involved. They have had enough of scandals, abuse of power, and poor administration.”
Zaid said he disagreed with the analysts who said the people voted for the Opposition in the March 8, 2008, general election out of frustration or in protest.
“They did so as a manifestation of their desire for a better country; for themselves, their families, their children,” he pointed out.
“The non-Malays ask that they be accorded the respect and recognition they deserve as equals. They believe, rightly so, that their future is inextricably linked with that of the bumiputras.
“The Malays on their part have responded positively to the idea of a truly unified Malaysia,” he said.
Zaid said Malaysia was a unique country in that although Barisan Nasional retained a majority there was almost instant pressure on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to quit and, at the same time, the leader of the Opposition was being touted as the PM-in-waiting although he was still 32 seats short of a simple majority.
On Abdullah, Zaid said he had begun to move towards the reforms he had promised, but was impeded by certain elements in Umno.
Excerpts of Zaid Ibrahim’s speech
… for Malaysians, “Malaysia Boleh” has come to symbolise something very different. To Malaysians it is about the government or the bureaucracy doing things that could not and would not be done anywhere else. Faced with unjustifiable mega projects like the national car project, building the world’s tallest building, creating the splendour of a new city in Putrajaya, hitching a ride into space on a Russian spacecraft that has been paid for with tax dollars or revenue that should have been used for more pressing matters like better equipped schools and hospitals, or an effective transportation system, and all the things that have come with them, what else could the average Malaysian do than shrug and say with resignation, “Malaysia Boleh.”.
It seemed however, there was at least one thing that they could do. “Malaysia Boleh” took on a different resonance during the last General Election. For the first time BN only got 49 % of the popular vote in Peninsula Malaysia. In terms of seats, BN only won 51% of those contested in Peninsular Malaysia. Only the seats from Sabah and Sarawak actually gave BN the solid majority it now enjoys. As for the Malays, a vote for the Opposition is no longer an act of treachery or betrayal to the Malay cause. PAS and Keadilan garnered more Malay votes than Umno in Peninsular Malaysia. Umno is no longer the dominant voice for the Malays.
So where did the results of the 2008 General Election put the country? In my view, the future looks good for Malaysia, current events notwithstanding. Of course we have a multitude of problems, but then which country is spared? What is important to note is that given our political history we are possibly in the best condition we could be to address and resolve those problems. As I stressed at the outset, Malaysia is no longer the country it was before 8 March 2008. For the first time we have a real prospect of a two-party system in Parliament. Even if the Pakatan Rakyat opposition fails to form the federal government in the next election – in my view they have a 50% chance – we will have a stronger and more effective opposition. To me, this is the only safeguard against abuse of power, corruption and the preservation of the rule of Law, or at least whatever is left of it. Though those of you in Singapore may not need a strong opposition to ensure good governance and low corruption levels, the Malaysian experience requires the counterbalance a strong opposition allows for.
The last general election bore witness to a new dynamic. The rakyat came together, the young and old and the person on the street, to work with and for one another regardless of race and affiliation. They had a common cause; the betterment of Malaysia. The majority of Malaysians who have been told repeatedly that they are of different races, that they have different rights and privileges, and to continue to blindly trust government decisions have now said enough! They have now found comfort and unity amongst themselves; they have found a rejuvenating sense of a new identity as one people. This is the new Malaysia.
Malaysia is like many other countries where the young will ultimately determine the nature and course of politics. The people have shown their abhorrence for greed and abuse of power. The people have shown that they want to be together as one community. They have shown that they prefer pragmatic discourse. Half of Malaysia’s population is below 35. These youngsters are eager for change, for a politics of idealism and honour. They want public officials to be more accountable, or at least, for a political process that is less corrupt and dirty. They want their leaders to be in tune with their needs, they demand security, remedies to their problems and social justice. Though still relevant, ethnicity is no longer a critical factor. The young are less susceptible to the instigation of racial hatred and prejudice. They want change. This is something that both sides of the divide must take note of. At the next general election, there will be another 4 million young voters who will determine the titanic struggle.
Why am I so positive about Malaysia whilst continuously pointing to the deterioration in ethnic relations, and religious conflicts? Because the majority of Malaysian are sensible people. Ordinary people have more sense than their leaders sometimes. They know the value of cooperation, mutual respect and harmony. I believe the people have spoken out loudly and clearly. The future direction of the country is no longer going to be solely in the hands of the political masters. The people want to be involved. They have had enough of scandals, abuse of power, and poor administration. It is not true that they voted for the Opposition just out of frustration or in protest as some pro-BN analysts have said. The people voted for the Opposition as a manifestation of their desire for a better country; for themselves, their families, their children.
The future of Malaysia is no longer in the hands of political masters