Sunday, May 25, 2008

Take on the Mantle of Public Service

The following appeared on Malaysia-Today

Take on the Mantle of Public Service
Sunday, 30 March 2008

There have been countless times that I have wondered what our country might be like today had Dato' Onn Bin Jaafar succeeded in his vision of creating a racially inclusive Umno; an Umno open to all Malaysians – a United Malayan National Organisation.

Although there have been other, albeit less prominent parties in the country, that have attempted to forge a multi-racial identity since Dato' Onn's unsuccessful efforts, it is clear that we've not seen any emerge and approximate the kind of vision that inspired Dato' Onn and have a palpable broad-based appeal as the PKR seems to have done.

Much has already been written about the promise of the opposition coalition of PKR, DAP, and PAS. Clearly, many sympathizers of the opposition and/or alienated voters frustrated with BN remain cautiously hopeful and optimistic in this post 3/8 era that the opposition (with also a mandate to govern in 5 states) will at least not mirror the philosophically, ethically, and functionally bankrupt BN we have had to endure for all these years.

The fact that so many of us were galvanized and moved to deliver a massive message to our fellow Malaysians and, of course, the powers that be in BN, I wonder if this is also not the right moment for many of us, who many have sat on the sidelines for far too long, to seek to become a part of our country in ways we never anticipated.

As I read all the thoughtful posting, articles, commentaries and even musings here on, I am repeatedly reminded of how much talent we have available and how valuable it might be if even a fraction of all you talented people out there who participate in these dialogues and exchanges were to take up the challenge of running for public office. It seems to me, many of the voices I have heard are committed to precisely the kind of inclusive Malaysia that the father of Umno had envisioned. Hearing these voices in my contemporaries is not only refreshing, but also hopeful.

It affirms my belief that a vast cross-section of Malaysians continue to have a deep commitment to a plural, inclusive Malaysia where we reject racism as an instrument and rationale for pursuing progressive social change. And for far too long, we have allowed mediocre and petty and parochial minded figures dominate the governing political parties, allowed them – through our silence, complacency or otherwise lack of unity – to drive the country down the path of a precarious future. Quite frankly, some of these so-called leaders of political parties are so inarticulate, intellectually and pragmatically empty and, perhaps most importantly, self-serving that it's not surprising that a significant proportion of Malaysian were becoming dejected, cynical, and pessimistic about the future.

Fortunately, enough of us felt compelled to send a strong message on 3/8. Perhaps we can follow up on this by acting on some of our convictions. And without seeming elitist, it is no exaggeration to assume that the country would be much better served by the kind of conscientious contributors I read on this website than the bunch of pathetic, shallow leaders we have been subjected to. Perhaps this awakening may also find a lot more of us inspired to run for public office and take our country forward?