The country has irrevocably changed. Naysayers, cynics, druids and microphone technicians across the country can vacillate on the causes, and invariably they will, however the change in the country exceeds beyond the obvious, more than just deciding to have Barisan Nasional (BN) or not. It has turned out to be a judgement of who we are as a people, and what we can become.
Slips of papers, about 7 million of them were issued in classrooms, village halls, military barracks and government offices; their heirs clutching their slips before they casted them; and returning officers separating and totalling the slips based on markings on their little boxes.
Everything was candid until the initial figures came; everything was euphoric when those numbers were matched by numbers elsewhere; and everything, anything and the stars ruling over the evening skies went bye-bye when the District Election Heads read the official results. Malaysia experienced a democratic pandemonium of the best kind.
A lament which has lasted more than two generations ended that early morning of March 9.
Malaysians voted a reality which did not include BN as the sole power master of the land.
A country changed?
In so many amazing ways, and these resulting changes are feeding off each other creating and fuelling further changes. Before this election, I said this election has always been about the next one. What has been a walkover all this time, is now a match. Game on. The establishment still has all the great looking jerseys and designer balls, but this time, the other in Malaysia gets to play too. And in the next election, we might see game and set in one go.
Let me put to sleep this theory of an uninterested BN producing this election results, and therefore the seats were not won by Pakatan Rakyat candidates, but were give-aways due to the disharmony in the BN camp.
This is a complete distortion of reality.
To consider BN’s ineptitude in the election is fair, however to dismiss the super human efforts of the many party workers and volunteers for Pakatan Rakyat, all who have given their commitment and desire for no remuneration is disrespectful.
Did BN not advertise in MSN? Did they not numb minds over and over through TV, Cable TV, Radio and billboards everywhere?
It is just as Malaysians we never think there is a limit to what the BN can do to us, and for us to feel it being the most natural thing ever to happen to us. Our sense of right and wrong has been crippled by a BN machine bent on an outcome not justice.
The usurpation of enfranchisement from the voters has been so complete that they only have to campaign nationally 13 times ( plus the 55 elections in British Malaya), so they really whip up a grand show of sorts with no holds barred and all resources focussed on success.
And in 2013, the latest the next elections will be held, the full fire of the BN’s goliath will be roused from its labyrinth. However by then, most Malaysians would be sufficiently convinced there are no monsters and goblin, and learn to sleep with their lights switched off, and probably ignore the box to mark BN into power.
The country has changed in that the BN cannot just do the same song and dance from now till the next time Malaysians face the ballot box and expect a different outcome.
That is change one.
Less than 40% of the voters were of cognisant age when May 13 1969 transpired. And almost everyone has a limited recount of the days of madness which ensued then. Anwar Ibrahim would have been a 17 year old in Kuala Kangsar, Mahathir Mohammed embroiled in his own electoral meltdown and Khir Toyo in his diapers. Myself and most Malaysians were not born.
The only agreement all political commentators would have, is that Malaysians as a whole don’t want a repeat.
The electoral affectation of the incident was that, Malaysians in the West coast states associated voting with violence, and always cast their ballots under duress. Duress as their continuously forewarned, not voting BN means not being grateful, and more pertinently the duress of thinking a non-BN vote would lead to violence.
In any country, the more urban parts are likely to be more forceful, determined and liberal. However this duress has enveloped voters into a siege mentality. A mentality which disabled these urban voters from choosing without fear or favour.
On March 8, Malaysians freed themselves from the ghost of May 13. The history is still relevant, however our rakyats choices and decisions will not be clouded by that fear anymore.
That is change two.
There is an unspoken formula to govern in Malaysia. It is not said, although its dynamics manifest in the way things are done in Malaysia.
Non-Malay tokenism. That all of those who are not constitutionally Malay, are not to assert themselves politically. There is space to vote and voice, however determination is a Malay preserve. This is an UMNO rallying cry. It is now dead.
A whole swath of leaders have championed the rights of non-Malays under the umbrella of BN, using the basic caveat, political obeisance is rewarded by cultivation and promotion of ethnic culture.
Therefore a whole generation of young people have been told to be happy with what they have. Somehow that requirement, expectance, calculation or equation has fallen on the wayside.
Minimums are not enough, as more and more children of the IT era grow up, less and less will Malaysians endure inequalities in their midst. More so in the West coast belt.
That is change number three.
With these changes, the future is uncertain. However it is an uncertain future for everyone. Which means for a change, the UMNO lads are going to be perpetually on their toes; and they are not used to that.
There is going to be continuous friction and exchanges in the running of the country, which is good. Through an active counterweight you start to build the robustness of your institutions.
My friends and family tell me, that there is a danger of replacing one tyrant with another. I accept that criticism, as PR have not the years of government. However, replacing a tyrant would mean the tyrant looks on with eager eyes to return, and therefore his replacement, whether like him or otherwise faces massive scrutiny from the public and the person he replaced.
These days are not going to be easy for anyone. That much is certain of the future.