Have your umbrella ready before it rains 

“It’s going to rain.” 

Considering that black clouds, pregnant with monsoon-sized precipitation, had  been assembling over our heads for the past 30 minutes, Andi’s prediction has a 100% chance of being true and totally unnecessary.

“You think?” I said, but the sarcasm was lost on my friend.

The cumuli-nimbus couldn’t hold back its water any longer and the downpour began. We retreated to the back of the kopitiam.

Andi and I go back a long way. Once in a while, over kopi-O and smokes, we’d talk about nothing for a couple of hours, but today he has a bee in his bonnet.

“It’s raining,” he said. “I bet it’ll be raining when we are standing in line to vote this year, the way things are going. I’d probably catch pneumonia and die. There is nothing we can do about it, our system is broken.”

“Emotional damage,” I said in support.

Andi is not what you’d call a political animal: he has no party affiliation, not interested in rhetoric of politicians, and cared less if the candidate he votes for comes from the Sacred Party or the Young People’s party. He’s what I would call the voter on the street. Someone who just wants a decent government and see his kids grow up.

For the longest time, people of my generation, those born before the Internet, have had it easy when it comes to voting. The world was black and white, You either choose the government (the good guys) or the pesky opposition.

Barisan Nasional was the party that promised you continued happiness, business-as-usual security, bridges, roads, hospitals and they gave you free rice and sarongs during elections, while the Opposition was the party of naive do-good activists who wanted to take it all away from you. In the last General Election, the Opposition’s main message was that the government didn’t work, and unfortunately proved their case when they got elected and couldn’t make government work.

Between the two, there is a shape-shifting Islamist party who can never be wrong because they have a religious justification for everything and had been an outlier for most voters.

“To the best of my recollection, that religious party leader has never suffered any harm from anything he said or did,” Andi said.

But today, in 2022 Malaysia, the balance between good and evil, crime and punishment, is not clear cut. 

“Today up is down, true is false, and I cannot get common decent justice anywhere,” said Andi. “And there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Andi said he didn’t know who to trust anymore because “the system is broken.”

I asked him to elaborate.

“Well, it used to be that criminals do their crime and they get punished. Simple. Society, that means everybody, makes sure that this happens. It’s the balance of the world,” he said.

“But now we have convicts demanding regular outings to visit their constituencies, and go here, go there in Armani. I mean where does he change from prison wear into suits? Is there a valet attending to him?

“And the worst thing? There are people who allow this to happen.”

Andi then went down the list: The war boats scandals, the VIPs who owe taxes in the millions, the racist religious people and so on. (It was a very long list). But the common thread is that they all go seemingly unpunished by the people who should be doing their jobs.

“Politicians don’t even try to hide their lies, they tell it even when everyone can see its not true. This happens because there are no consequences anymore. The balance is broken.”

Andi is of course, entitled to his opinion, and his opinion is no doubt shared by millions of other ordinary Malaysians who are tired over their helplessness to participate in the affairs of the country. They are tired of their future being discussed in smoky back-rooms and without oversight. The balance is out of kilter.

The same atmosphere was present in 2018, the last time Malaysians chose a legitimate government. At that time voters were so fed up that they turned out in record numbers despite the incumbent government’s effort to discourage people from voting by holding it mid-week on a working day.

People like Andi made up their minds quietly and on voting day took leave, traveled thousands of miles, crowdfunded others to vote, and they voted out the only government they’ve had since Merdeka.

“At the time I was angry because they used the system to manipulate my vote, and I decided that my vote, my single vote, was the only link to the government and they were not about to rob me or that, come hell or high water.”

The euphoria and the relief we felt in 2018 is obviously missing today, deflated no doubt by disintegration of the Pakatan Harapan government midway through their tenure. Whether Malaysians will still vote “come hell or high water” will be tested if the Prime Minister listens to calls from within his party for elections to be held during monsoon season. They may have their reasons to expedite elections despite the hardship to voters, but with some prominent party members currently on trial for massive corruption, people are making up their own minds.

So while we fuss over whether prisoner “Melati” is really in a prison cell or drinking macchiato with Netflix in some hospital, the fact is Election is coming and every Malaysian should use this one chance to have their say, come hell or high water.

“The rain has stopped, I will go now,” said Andi as he got up to leave.

“So are you voting if it’s in the monsoon?”

 “Of course. If I get pneumonia you can drive me to the hospital.”