The Dawn of a New Era

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

For many Malaysians it is a vindication of sorts for the sufferings they have endured from a ruling coalition that had been in power for over six decades. The 14 th General Elections (GE 14), held nationwide on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, was a watershed in the nation’s history. It marked the end of Barisan Nasional (BN) and the beginning of the hastily-forged Pakatan Harapan (PH) made up of four parties under the stewardship of an ageing but energetic former Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Upon being sworn in as the country’s seventh Prime Minister on Thursday, May 10, Dr Mahathir now holds the unenviable distinction as the world’s oldest head of government. The 92-year old’s stamina, as he canvassed for support in a gruelling campaign trail around the country in the run-up to the keenly contested GE14, put his much younger contenders, including his nemesis, Najib Razak, to shame.

And the grand old man was handsomely rewarded when he and his Pakatan Harapan political partners handed the Umno-dominated Barisan Nasional a crushing defeat at the polls dubbed the “Father of all Elections”. What prompted Mahathir to come out of a 13-year political hiatus was mismanagement by his one-time protégé Najib Razak that had raised the hackles of the man who helmed Malaysia for 22 years (1981 to 2003).

The joy surrounding the victory was felt by all of those who partook in the elections and I was no exception. There was much excitement in the days leading to the long-awaited polls. Rumours were abound that a state of emergency would be declared should BN be defeated. Assurances by the police and the armed forces did little to assuage people’s fears but when the day came Malaysians of voting age came out in droves to determine who would administer their battered country for the next five years. And they did it in style.

When the dust settled Najib and his cohorts were roundly beaten. The party that was once the darling of the populace managed to garner only 79 parliamentary seats to Pakatan Harapan’s 135. Umno’s stronghold, Johor fell for the first time ever. The party’s long-time partners MCA, MIC and Gerakan were routed, their presidents biting the dust in their own backyards.  This is the extent of the rakyat’s rejection of a party that was long on promises but short on actions. Years of abuse, a string of financial scandals plus arrogance and a sense of entitlement among its leaders were the primary reasons for its downfall.

Voters that thronged my polling station at the school in Bercham were mainly Chinese with a sprinkling of Indians and Malays. My wife and son were in our respective poling streams by 8.30am on Wednesday, May 9. The queue was long but orderly.

I chanced upon many youngsters who had journeyed home from their workplaces outside of Ipoh to vote. It was phenomenal. The one thing on their mind was to perform their citizenry responsibility of picking the right political party to lead the country out of its misery.

And picked they did for the betterment of the nation. I am mighty proud to be a party to this change in spite of the many discomforts I had to endure. Topping the list was the long waiting time in a queue that inched its way round a block. Fortunately, we were under cover and thus were spared the searing heat of the morning sun.

My brief conversation with a fellow voter while taking a breather in the shade summed up the mood that fateful day in May.

 “People’s feelings were not respected, the rule of law is long gone. Every institution in the country has been messed up with. Simply put, the country is going down the road of no-return. The rakyat are getting poorer by the days. I want BN out for good,” he exclaimed.

I shared his sentiments. Malaysians are being hook winked by a leader who is so disconnected with the rakyat. His promise not to tax young working Malaysians under the age of 26 should BN be returned to power was the last straw. Didn’t he know that working youths of that age never pay income tax, as they don’t earn enough?

All said and done, Malaysians had made their wishes known and now look forward to a new future. They bid farewell to 61 years of one-party rule and welcome the dawn of a new era filled with hopes and expectations.

And by all reckoning it was neither a Chinese nor an Indian nor a Malay tsunami. It was a Malaysian tsunami. Period.

The indelible ink on my left index finger remains although it is fast fading. It is history and I am proud of it. Wednesday, May 9 2018 will remain etched in our memories as the day Malaysians united for a common cause. This old coot has experienced the racial riots of May 13, 1969 and now, the euphoria of GE 14, almost 49 years apart.

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