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“What do you care? You left the country. Ran away from all the problems associated with Malaysia. You can’t talk. I bet you don’t even care about Malaysia!”

The above is a summarisation of what a friend on Facebook had said to me a number of years ago. This was late 2007, and this particular Facebook conversation happened in the middle of November that year. The 2007 BERSIH (clean) rally (a rally for electoral reform) had just occurred, and there were still numerous postings by many of the friends I had on Facebook. On one of my friend’s posts, I decided to type a comment that expressed my opinion at the time.

Clearly, I had stirred him up. Oh boy, did I get a fiery reply!

He basically put me in my place, telling me I was wrong, why I was wrong, and how naïve I was for thinking what I thought. Most hurtful of all, he accused me of not caring for Malaysia, the country I was born in – the place I had come from and lived for 12 years. Home!

I will be forever grateful to my friend, for him accusing me of not caring for Malaysia hurt me (though I didn’t think it did at the time) that I remember incident.

At this point, I’m going to put my ego aside and openly admit that what he said was factually correct. Truth be told, I DID NOT care about Malaysia at that stage in my life. I had just migrated to Adelaide, Australia a year earlier and I couldn’t be bothered to have anything to do with Malaysia. I had basically been naturalised into the Australian culture by then. I had a good group of Caucasian friends and I actively searched for more because I thought they were better than the rest. Australia was meant to be my home now, and I was supposed to embrace it. There was no need to become good friends with any Malaysians who happened to live in the same city as I did. Who cared about them? Certainly not me. Honestly, looking back, I was a complete snob! I’m sure if you’re reading this right now, you’d be thinking the same thing.

A year after the exchange between my friend and I took place, I departed on a flight back home for the first time since migrating to Australia. It was Christmas 2008 and by then, the 12th General Election had come and gone by, with the incumbent party (Barisan Nasional) being re-elected once again for the 12th time since Malaysia’s independence from the British. My time there was filled only with bad thoughts for my home country and I constantly caught myself thinking: ‘I would never live here again’. I do ask you forgive me, for I was only 14 years of age at that time. Young and naïve, you bet!

It wasn’t until my next trip back during Christmas 2010 at the age of 16 that I started feeling like Malaysia was where my true home was, and always would be no matter what. Leaving Malaysia this time round was significantly harder than the trip back in 2008. It was at this stage that my sense of identity started coming back to me – that I was a Malaysian first before anything else.

All this culminated when I took off on a self funded trip back home to Malaysia earlier this year in January for close to a month. Never had I felt so at home, and so connected with who I really was. Malaysian first, Australian second. That’s the way it should be, that’s the way it is, and that’s the way it always will be!

This is where the article really beings, for by this point in time, the political tension in Malaysia was at its highest it has been in many years. Churches were constantly praying for the political situation of the nation (my own church partook in this as well), banners promoting the sitting party had started appearing one by one, the opposition was starting to generate momentum in preparation for an election date, and the whole country was basically engaged in political conversation. All this was in anticipation of what many have deemed will be the closest election in the history of Malaysia, and also perhaps the most critical to its future as a nation in terms of which direction it heads in.

As my holiday back home in Malaysia continued, the political noise around the date of the election was rising, newspapers were filled with articles about politics, more and more Malaysians talked about the political situation, and political chatter in general increased substantially. It seemed as though that what had been the great divide in the country since its first days of independence, started to have the opposite effect instead. People of all backgrounds were slowly uniting towards one goal: CHANGE.

After 56 years of governance by the same party, same ideals, same visions for the country, Malaysia seems like it is finally ready for a change, one that is most likely overdue by a number of years. A country that was once what its Asian neighbours strived to live up to, has slowly fallen on its sword in recent years. The soaring of crime rates, inflation, lack of transparency, illegal citizenships being given out,  fraudulent elections, lack of freedom of speech, claims of corruption that went up to the highest office in the land, and perhaps the most important of all in my opinion, equality. It is something that I hold very dearly to my heart: that everyone be treated equally, with no bias in a positive or negative way toward another person/race whatsoever. This, unfortunately, does not happen in Malaysia and racial inequality still exists. After all, if we live by the claim that we are all Malaysians first and foremost, why then, should anyone be treated in a different way to another just because of their race? Something simply doesn’t add up.

Never have I felt such a passion for my country. Taking that near month-long trip back to Malaysia was liberating, to say the least. I knew then for sure, once and for all, where my connection lied, and most importantly of all, who I really was.

I am a Malaysian first and foremost. Malaysia is my home, and it always will be.

I am unfortunately too young to vote (I’m 19, the voting age in Malaysia is 21), but if you’re reading this and you ARE eligible to vote, please exercise that right. The right to vote is a right that NO ONE should ever take for granted.

You may even choose to vote for the incumbent, or an independent. I do not, and will not hold anything against you. No one is meant to know who you voted for anyway.

But before you do, I sincerely believe that something has got to change in Malaysia. Sure, there’s a risk that nothing much will change even if there is a change in government. This is the risk Malaysia faces, yet this is the risk I believe is time for Malaysia to take. Perhaps you may have considered the past government to be a good government, I do not know. What I do know however, is that the current government has lost its way. Another 5 years of the same might prove disastrous for Malaysia. We simply cannot afford it. Stand, fight, and reclaim your country. The power lies in YOUR hand, your vote. Don’t let it go to waste.

Come this Sunday, the 5th of May, I urge you if you are a fellow Malaysian:

Vote wisely. Vote for a change. Vote for a better Malaysia.

Change. Malaysia is ready for it. Malaysia needs it. It is time.

One small step for man, one giant leap for a country.

Written by Weetyr Goh

Disclaimer: I am a pro-DAP supporter and so this article is slightly skewed towards the opposition, which the DAP is a part of.