In late June, when Malaysians were battling a deadly growing epidemic, pictures of black flags and people moving them from their cars or homes appeared on social media.
With the hashtag #Lawan, meaning “fight” in Malay, the flags became a critical cry against the government’s failure to manage the coronavirus. Dissatisfaction took to the streets in July following a series of large-scale peaceful protests.
By then, the number of Kovid-1 of had reached a new peak, with more than 20,000 new infections and 200 deaths every day, and protesters demanding the resignation of then-Prime Minister Muhiuddin Yassin. During the protests, at least 47 participants investigated the police.
The black flag movement was started by the Loose Lola Alliance, a group of about a dozen youth activists, calling itself the Secretariat Solidarity Rakyat (SSR), which first rallied in March to protest the delay in lowering the voting age from 21. 201 was passed in Parliament in July.
Political analyst Bridget Welsh told Al Jazeera that the government’s delay in implementing the law after it was passed is a catalyst for the insensitivity of many young people.
Other factors include the high unemployment rate among 15- to 30-year-olds প্রায় almost double the national average-stable wages, unsustainable housing, and the lack of a real social safety net in epidemics.
All of this has been exacerbated by Malaysia’s political ups and downs since the 2018 general election, which has led to two changes in government since February last year and the devastation caused by the epidemic.
“There are some young people who have lost their family members. I know someone who has lost his grandparents and his aunts in less than a week, ”said Kaira Yusri, a 27-year-old co-founder of Undi18, an NGO that led the campaign to lower the voting age. “They’re just looking at our government and wondering what’s going on.”
When Malaysia handled the first months of the Kovid-1 pandemic epidemic relatively well এমনকি even after Muhiuddin came to power পরিস্থিত the situation spiraled out of control after an election in the state of Borneo in Sabah in September 2020.
In January of this year, as politicians from his fragile alliance continued to vie for power and coronavirus cases escalated, Muhiuddin declared a state of emergency and adjourned parliament. Then came the extended lockdown.
Much of Malaysia turned to social media and young people pushed themselves to the forefront of political activism when the older generation was more at risk for Kovid-1 to.
The Welsh movement is widely described as urban, but transcends geographical, class, and racial divisions that aim to be inclusive.
July 1 A few days after the SSR protests, which drew about a thousand people, Muhiuddin resigned as prime minister.
“While I can’t say for sure that the protests made a difference, the important thing is that it gave people a chance to express their frustration,” Kaira told Al Jazeera.
Since then, UMNO’s Ismail Sabri Yakub, a scandal-ridden party that dominates the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition that ruled Malaysia for decades and was ousted in 2018, has been nominated for the top post. Like the Muhiuddin government, Ismail Sabri is not popularly elected.
Cultivate new youth leaders
The epidemic and the issues it raises have pushed youth activism well beyond the vote.
Youth groups are now campaigning for a variety of reasons – from refugee rights to climate change and suicide bans – spreading laws and policies across Instagram, Tiktok and Twitter in a more understandable and shareable form.
But their activities have also caught the attention of the Malaysian authorities.
Two days before the July 311 protests, Sara Erdina, the 20-year-old founder of the youth organization MISI: Solidariti, was arrested on sedition charges and detained overnight by police for tweeting about the upcoming protests.
Participants in the previous July protests were also investigated earlier, so the SSR was ready.
It has crowded in to pay the fines and has collaborated with the Young Lawyers Movement (YLM) to ensure that participants have the necessary access to free legal representation. YLM itself is advocating for a minimum wage for legal apprentices and a more effective system for processing allegations of sexual harassment within the profession.
Still, at a time when young people in Myanmar, Thailand and Hong Kong have taken to the streets to demand institutional reform, analysts say young people in Malaysia have resorted to less confrontational approaches.
“Their main goal is to provide a platform for young people and make Malaysia a more politically inclusive place for them,” Darrell Tan, an analyst at Bowergroup Asia, told Al Jazeera. “What they believe is that if you give young people a political platform to spread their views, your other types of conversations will happen as well.”
Undi18 recently announced a new umbrella initiative called UndiNegaraku, which aims to build 10,000 youth leaders across the country by 20223, when the next general election will be held.
Last year, it hosted Parliament Digital, a mock online session featuring 222 members with the youth community, to show that the sessions could virtually go into epidemic after the physical session is adjourned. For this too, some of its participants were called for police interrogation.
Undi18 also coordinates several policy initiatives, run collectively by about 200 volunteers, ranging from environmental protection to finding more women in parliament. “When you want to push for a cause, you have to hyperfocus on certain legislation and reform issues,” Kyra said.
He wants to provide a platform for young people to champion the issues, not as a political approach, but as a starting point.
But that doesn’t mean avoid politics.
Kiara noted that Undi18 alumni are joining Anwar Ibrahim’s Cadillac and MUDA (Malaysian United Democratic Alliance) -Diversities from UMNO – a new youth-centric party co-founded by 28-year-old Syed Sadiq.
“We want to give them equal exposure to the political parties there without any undue influence on them,” Kaira said.
Some Undi18 alumni are also going to form their own working group.
Nineteen-year-old university students Rifki Faisal and Izanna Azuddin founded the Meyer movement in April calling for education reform-especially urgent in this epidemic, when many students lack resources for online education.
The two activists say they have seen whole families share a single device to join the class, while the government’s promise to provide thousands of laptops to disadvantaged students has yet to be fulfilled. They ignore the lack of mental health counseling for students studying isolated at home and rural students and educational disabilities.
“I think our government sees our education as a one-size-fits-all system,” Izana said.
Other young Malaysians are also hearing their voices differently. Junior contract doctors, most of whom are handling Covid-1 handling, went on strike in July as part of a fight for greater job security.
Ain Husnija, a 17-year-old student, is campaigning for schools to be free of sexual harassment after one of her teachers joked about rape in class. Heidi Kwah, a twenty-year-old refugee activist, is challenging the constitutional validity of a law that has been widely used to criminalize “offensive” comments after being accused of a Facebook post describing the mistreatment of refugees in detention centers.
“Obviously, there are some people who are very opposed to the idea of young people talking. It’s a whole top-down culture, especially in Malaysia, where you have to respect your elders, and the elders don’t really respect the youth, ”Izana said.
For example, young people have had to demand that their voices be heard. “Over the past year, youth organizations have created a huge space for young people to start working on the issues they care about,” Rifki said.
A new activism and politics
Welsh described the new activism as a grassroots movement.
“Young people support young leaders like Syed Sadiq and Mudar, but political leaders do not have direct participation or leadership,” Welsh said.
Former champion debater, Syed, the interim president of Muda, was instrumental in bringing the Undi18 bill to the attention of lawmakers when he first proposed it. But he himself is not part of the SSR movement.
Mudao also promises a new future: refraining from ethnic politics that has long dominated the Malaysian negotiations and focused on the potential for youth leadership.
Amira Aisya, 25, and 13 co-founders of the party, told Al Jazeera that the evidence lies in the diversity of the Mudar Central Executive Committee-not only ethnically, but also in education and profession. These include Dr. Thanusha Francis Xavier, a physician; Lim Wei Jeet, a lawyer; And Shahrijal Densey, a farmer. Amira herself worked in an educational think tank.
Amira also emphasizes MUDA’s goal of making young people equal to adults. Adolescents can join from the age of 15. If you are able to be part of Muder’s leadership, you will be, ”he said.
As the youth movement grows, Kaira thinks, all political parties are closely monitoring what the youth are saying and feeling.
A court has instructed the government to implement a new minimum voting age by December 31, which could mean 7.8 million new voters for the next general election.
On Monday, the government said it would follow instructions.
“I think young people are becoming more and more indifferent about political parties and politicians, but we are still able to articulate our vision for policies,” Kaira said. “And we will hold politicians accountable to them.”