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WHEN I read the news that former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had cited the Chinese insistence on using chopsticks as an example of the community’s reluctance to be assimilated into the local culture, I didn’t believe it.
I thought he must have been misquoted by the media, but later when I watched a video of his press conference, I was resigned to the fact that the elder statesman had indeed committed a serious political blunder.
There’s no need to go over again why his statement was way off the mark and offensive. However, what is deeply unsettling is that people like the two-time ex-PM are still major political actors in this country.
Dr Mahathir is not alone. People like Najib Razak and Muhyiddin Yassin have been around since the 1970s. Lim Kit Siang first stood for election in 1969. Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Guan Eng were already active in politics since the early 1980s.
As long as people like them are still around, Malaysia cannot progress and will be stuck in the old mould.
It is true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, especially when these veteran politicians are already so ingrained with ideas like racial politics and patronage.
As 2021 draws to a close, it is time we ponder about our political future. We need to be brave and embrace new political ideas, platforms and alliances if we are serious about changing the country for the better.
As it is, Barisan Nasional has too much baggage, especially when it comes to corruption. Pakatan Harapan has not been able to live up to expectations. This was proven after it was taught a lesson during the recent Malacca elections.
Perikatan Nasional, too, is made up of many politicians of yesteryear.
We cannot hope to solve today’s problems with old mindsets. We need to be bold and ditch identity politics, especially that related to race and religion.
For far too long, politicians have manipulated race and religion for political means, but to the detriment of our national unity and competitiveness. We need truly multiracial parties to take care of all Malaysians, not those which only pay lip service to this notion.
Just this week, Parliament debated the uniforms of airline cabin crew. How many more years do we have to put up with this nonsense?
Hasn’t this been brought up countless times already? Unless we embrace new politics, this rhetoric will continue like a broken record.
We also need political parties that treat women with respect and dignity. We should not discriminate against women anymore.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and recently retired German chancellor Angela Merkel are exemplary female leaders.
Now that Undi18 has been approved, we need to rope in the young to play a more important role in our politics.
They have less baggage, more fresh ideas and are not yet tainted by desires to enrich themselves in the way many of the veteran politicians.