Lessons for America – Beacon
Dr. Gina Morrison
malaysia election night

Today, as we all turn to the important midterm election square, we can learn important lessons from a small developing country in Southeast Asia called Malaysia.

This beautiful country underwent an incredibly peaceful revolution at a time when the need for change required great courage to put love of country above personal desire. And I was there to see it.

If you have ever attended my classes, you know my love for Malaysia. You’ve probably heard me talk about our country’s unique multicultural society, our comfort with diversity, the kind and laid-back nature of our people, and the great opportunities that exist here.

I have been going there for 20 years and have watched its development. I love the people and appreciate the great strides our government has taken to transform this country into the hub of Southeast Asia. But over the past few years, I’ve heard groans from people in stores, restaurants, and coffee shops, as well as from trusted colleagues and friends on Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp.

I was told that corruption at the highest levels of government has tainted this beautiful country, and that grassroots opposition has taken root.

As a researcher welcomed into a foreign country, I would be wise to question the government of my host country. Still, as I have watched the Malaysian ringgit depreciate in recent years, I couldn’t help but wonder if these rumors are true. I knew that many middle-class workers hadn’t received raises in years. Some were fighting to make ends meet.

In fact, the gulf between those who were truly struggling and those at the top of the economic pyramid who appeared to be amassing incredible wealth seemed to be widening.

I went on sabbatical to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia earlier this year to complete a Fulbright Specialist Project, conducting research on aspects of modernity in Southeast Asia. While there, my husband and I noticed that people were becoming more open about discussing the details of corruption.

University lecturers urged students to question what they see on government-controlled television channels. Colleagues in Malaysian Borneo expressed absolute confidence that there would be a “tsunami of opposition” during the May 9 elections and the first change of government in Malaysia’s history.

People have been accused of being at the center of a global money laundering scandal involving 1MDB (One Malaysia Development Berhad), a pool of taxpayer funds created by the government in 2009 to grow funds through smart investments. There was talk of ousting Prime Minister Najib Razak. , for the developing Malaysian economy.

Instead, the money became a play fund for the prime minister and his closest family and friends, according to an ongoing FBI investigation. These funds reached Hollywood from all over the world through the Prime Minister’s son-in-law’s investment in The Wolf of Wall Street and his friendship with Leonardo DiCaprio, which was strengthened by the donation of a Picasso painting. It was wiped out by a money laundering scheme. DiCaprio’s charity work. DiCaprio returned the painting after realizing the source. You need to understand more about 1MDB than I can accurately explain here. To find out more about the world’s biggest financial scandals, we recommend starting with the following websites:

The U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit alleges that at least $3.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB, of which more than $600 million was funneled into Najib’s personal accounts.

People were dissatisfied and frustrated. Many people voiced the possibility that some of the affirmative action privileges currently afforded to Muslims and indigenous peoples (such as lower loan rates and preferential government employment) could be lost if there was a change in government. Ta.

But on this last visit, I began to hear Malays themselves calling for big changes that would enable their country to grow. These include uncovering corruption, returning stolen 1MDB funds to the people, fair treatment of all cultural groups, and free social security. news media, and above all wise and ethical leadership.

But as voting day approached, all we saw on TV was excessive coverage of the prime minister’s visit to rural villages, distributing food to smiling villagers. I saw people’s real conversations not being reflected, and the equal airing given to both sides in the U.S., which guarantees freedom of expression and a free press that strives to report the news from both perspectives. There was a serious lack of time.

In Malaysia, the ruling Barisan National Party (BN) has rarely been criticized in public. For many years, the power held by the BN became dangerously unquestioned by censorship, and the press ceased to be a so-called free press.

In fact, the only television channel my husband and I were able to watch in our apartment was a government-controlled public channel, and any criticism of the government was conspicuously absent.

Imagine forming an opposition coalition in that environment. Now, imagine what it would actually take for the opposition to win that election.

Voting day was scheduled for Wednesday, or midweek in countries where voters are required to return to their hometowns to cast their votes.

Some people drove more than five hours each way, waited in line for another five hours, and then drove back through congested roads to work the next day. This placement of election day in the middle of the week was entirely at the Prime Minister’s discretion and was seen by some as an attempt at voter suppression.

But that didn’t stop people from voting. Throughout the day, I saw many photos on Facebook of long lines of voters across the country. After voting closed at 5pm, I watched the first election results on TV showing a positive result for BN.

Then, around 9 p.m., election results stopped. Regular programming has resumed. Frustrated and eager to hear the results, we learned of a large outdoor gathering with a giant television screen set up on a nearby soccer field.

After an hour, we saw an amazing sight. On a hot and humid tropical night, a field is filled with Malaysians of all ages and ethnicities sitting on blankets and grass with friends and family. Children carried on their parents’ shoulders or held in their grandparents’ laps. Everyone turned their attention to the screen showing the election results.

Gradually, everyone stood up and cheered, turning on their cellphone lights in approval as districts that voted for the opposition Pakatan Harapan (Union of Hope) appeared on the screen one after another. Several people waved giant Harapan and Malaysian flags.

“Long live hope!” cheers went up. (“Hideppu Harapan!”) and “Pakatan Harapan!” Seeing that the Prime Minister was refusing to concede, ordinary people took turns to take to the stage and address the crowd, which grew larger and more restless by the minute.

Finally, just after midnight, a Malay man took the microphone and spoke to the crowd in both English and Malay: Be calm. Please do not engage in any activity that our company considers to be illegal. Good news will come to us. Look around you. Can you see the child sleeping on the grandfather’s lap?

One day you will say to him, “You were there when this great country was given back to its people.” You are also part of history. ”

That night, I too felt a part of history. I wrote on Facebook, “This is what democracy looks like.” The next day, there was a new Malaysia. I saw on public television the King of Malaysia supporting the new Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed. Dr Mahathir Mohamed is a former prime minister who led the country’s push into a developed world and was respected for his academic wisdom. From an elder who accepted his own mistakes and the challenge of leading the country through his transition period.

History was made on May 9, when an incredibly peaceful revolution took place and Malaysians quietly, deliberately, and respectfully ousted the only form of government this country had known since its founding. I am honored to be a witness to this progress. 61 years ago.

These tolerant and patient people simply reached a breaking point and decided that as a nation this country was heading in the wrong direction. Similarly, the U.S. midterm elections question the need to get our country back on track. Because I know that few people are happy about the great divisions in our country. This is off-topic, but it is possible to have a peaceful revolution. Let’s take a lesson from Malaysians and go vote.

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