Keep the youth in, please

Globally, the younger people are becoming active and aware of politics, and are no longer afraid to speak up

graphic by MZUKRI

TAN Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Cabinet members in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration have been unveiled. By now, most Malaysians must have known the who’s who in the Cabinet line-up.

After weeks of political manoeuvring, the announcement, at least, would douse speculations whether PN has enough support to form the government, for the time being, that is.

This could be the respite the country needs, amid the growing threat of Covid-19 and the declining global economy.

Still, this also means that the brand new government has a new set of challenges that need to be addressed — on top of political threats, be it from within the alliance or from the Pakatan Harapan leaders.

Observers and critics have described the new line-up as “a new Cabinet with old faces”.

The advantage for PN is that, those appointed in the Cabinet are experienced leaders, save for some newcomers.

It has been highlighted that the current line-up is lacking in female and youth representation.

Some have also expressed concerns that the previous government’s initiatives could be rolled back, leaving the Malaysian youths voiceless again in the decision-making process.

The appointment of 47-year-old Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican came as a surprise as he is 20 years senior to his predecessor, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.

But, it will be too presumptuous to judge. Between the two, Reezal, being the experienced politician that he is, may have a pragmatic approach in managing youth and sports issues in the country.

Hopefully, policies that benefit the youth will be retained and not go to waste just because there is a change of guard.

For example, it was only in July last year that Syed Saddiq had championed the lowering of the voting age to 18 (Undi18) that was successfully passed in Dewan Rakyat.

The historic move will increase Malaysian voters up to 21 million in the 15th General Election (GE), from about 15 million in GE14. That also translates to up to 3.8 million new voters who are aged between 18 and 21 years old.

Additionally, the 27-year-old Muar MP also launched a Yellow Ribbon initiative, which is aimed at providing employment opportunities for former prisoners and problematic youths, pushing for more inclusivity instead of alienating these segments. Hopefully, these initiatives will remain.

Globally, the younger people are becoming active and aware of politics, and are no longer afraid to speak up.

The same situation applies in Malaysia. The new-age groups — millennials and the Gen Z’s — are becoming increasingly active participants in the socio-political issues. Despite their shortcomings and lack of experience, the youth now are becoming more aware or just as the Internet slang puts it, “woke” on the happenings.

They are not to be underestimated. Although it remains to be seen whether allowing Malaysian youths to vote would empower them, the new government should not render them voiceless.

Instead of just focusing on what is “hip and trendy” just for the sake of being relatable, the government needs to pay closer attention to their needs and listen to their aspirations.

The government should no longer see them just as vote banks…

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.