Talking ‘bout my generation

JAN 17 — Now that the verdict on Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II trial is in, the focus is on the next general election which is very important to both Barisan Nasional and the opposition but it will also be symbolic to another group of people —- the young generation.

Though many might be aware of the general election in 2008, almost all could not vote then.

Every generation plays a major role in Malaysia’s political scene. My generation will do too. The more relevant question is when. And when we have reached that time where the torch is passed down, another question arises: which group of people will pick up the torch and carry on the journey to manage this beloved country of ours?

Will the young generation hate us as their politicians, worse than how we hate our politicians now? Or will we be able to produce our version of Najib Razak, Anwar Ibrahim, Mahathir Mohamad or Lim Kit Siang? Or will we fare much better where the politicians of our generation will be the noblest, smartest and cleanest?

After all, that is what we are preaching now as today’s youth: condemning our politicians as being dirty, stupid and corrupt.

How do we retain our best pool of talent is one matter, the other is how do we get them to fill up the most critical sector which affects the most life in Malaysia — politics.

I was given the chance to be a part of a selection-based, tip-top internship programme last July where I met many brilliant minds from brilliant universities and outstanding personalities with captivating ideas. Though what surprised me most was this one occasion where somebody asked who planned to be a politician? I, who by far am the least brilliant there, was the only one with my hands up in the air.

And then there is another group of youths who aim to be in politics but for a particular reason. To scale the corporate ladder, earn money and then quit corporate and join politics. Sounds smart and idealistic, but might be impractical in real life in Malaysia where only a few manage to be both good at corporate, and clean and honest in politics. In this cut-throat era, some if not most might lose their humanity even if they did make the jump to politics.

So again, how do we retain these talents?

One of the biggest factors is money. Let us be frank and honest, money is important for three reasons; personal security, integrity safety net in the political world and also the rewarding factor as the carrot on a stick.

Politicians in Malaysia are not even one of the best paid in the country so it is not surprising corruption is quite rampant. In the ideal world which does not exist, it is okay but we cannot expect many people to be like Robin Hood or that other noble leader, former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for that matter.

The second factor is job satisfaction. I cannot deny there are many other people of my generation who are noble and want to be a politician not because of the popularity or power but to make a real difference in the society. But this argument is baseless if the political career itself is not noble and considered dirty.

If you are a very clean and noble person in Malaysia, why should you risk your integrity by joining politics when you can make an impact by doing charity work or fighting a civil society cause?

These two biggest factors might make you think that my generation is unpatriotic, greedy and inhumane. But think deeper and consider the fact that it is a free market and the best will be recruited by the best and usually the rewarding corporate world and the noble civil society are the best recruiters.

In this competitive world, we cannot hide under the argument of patriotism to solve the brain-drain issue and we sure as hell should not do the same if we want the future politicians to be the best Malaysia can produce to steer this country to be a better place to live in.

The future of Malaysia depends on how good our teachers are, how competitive our corporate leaders are, how creative our engineers are, how noble our judiciary system is and all the relevant similarities. But all these depend on the quality of policymakers and executive branch which has the power to achieve all of those above and brighten this country’s future.

I do not know about you, but I prefer our politicians to be guy A who spent his developing years analysing the best policies and improving his personal and management skills and not guy B who lowers down a banner with the prime minister’s face on it.

Even guy B wants guy A to change the system which slapped the former with a ridiculously long three-term suspension.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.


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