Welcoming contingent of different tribes at Hari Merdeka in Kota Kinabalu | Creative Commons


By Anil Netto

Oct 1 2020

WHATEVER the outcome of the Sabah state election, one thing was clear in the weeks that led up to it: Malaysians badly craved greater inclusiveness built on a celebration of unity in diversity. Many thought the country had made that breakthrough in 2018 with a change of government ushering in a new, more inclusive nation.

But then the pendulum swung right back earlier this year, when political defectors toppled the then-ruling coalition from power. It was back to the old divisive politics based on race and religion. The pushback – the swinging back of the pendulum to the old politics – had actually begun soon after the change of government in 2018.

But in the weeks that led up to the Sabah election on Sep 26, the pendulum swung back to a more inclusive direction. Many Malaysians, including those in the peninsula, were captivated by the more inclusive, rich, multicultural way of life in Sabah – and its neighbour, Sarawak.

A more inclusive Malaysia once again seemed possible. East Malaysians appeared to be less prone to divisive politics. They held out, despite the peninsula brand of ethnoreligious politics creeping into north Borneo since the 1990s. 

Whichever direction the pendulum swings – towards greater inclusiveness or the pushback to the divisive ethnoreligious politics – there is something else happening. With each swing of the pendulum, we are being elevated to a higher level of consciousness.

Call it the working of the Spirit.

We can see evidence of this from the awakening of the young people – and not just those behind new political parties.

Recently, while Parliament was under lockdown, we witnessed youths coming up with a brilliant initiative: Parliamen Digital. It was not just the way they quietly pulled off this stunning digital experiment. It was also their confidence and their belief that they were doing something positive for the nation.

And it showed. The debates that they conducted were of high quality. The delegates respected one another. There was none of the name-calling and derogatory remarks that we have come to expect from the real MPs.

How did this happen? Maybe these young people have been exposed to alternative education systems: home schooling, private schools, vernacular schools, international schools. Maybe they picked up the sense of interconnectedness from their own spirituality in their respective faiths.

Or perhaps their interactions on social media have shown them that whole world is one, and we all have more in common than what divides us. Who knows?

Whatever the case, these young people — and now the Sabahans — have given us hope that a new Malaysia is indeed possible. Many of us look to East Malaysia to show us a new way forward as a nation – minus the corruption, the “frog”, the land grabs and the environmentally disastrous policies. (Yes, Sabah has to look at more sustainable alternatives to the controversial Papar dam for its water needs.)

Meanwhile, two rarely used words have been highlighted over social media, which would seem quite apt for our times: defenestration (to jettison someone or something out of the window) and snollygosters.

Defenestration informally means “the action or process of dismissing someone from a position of power or authority”. Snollygoster is a US slang word for “a shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician”.

Let’s combine these two cute words into one sentence: It is time for a defenestration of the snollygosters who unethically manipulate racial and religious sentiments to divide the people for political gain. This can be done periodically through elections.

And while we are at it, let’s throw out of the window the divisive politics of race and religion.

Whichever way the pendulum has swung in the Sabah election, have no doubt: we are being lifted bit by bit to a new realm, as the whole of Creation groans in birth pangs to produce a more inclusive, interconnected way of life.

With that, the hope of a new, more inclusive Malaysia remains and will one day be realized. – Herald Malaysia