IN mid-1998, while living as a student in Perth, I saved up enough to buy a ticket for a flight to visit my friends who lived on the other side of the continent in Melbourne.
Perth was still a backwater city then but one that was affordable to live in and had the advantage of being in the same time zone as Malaysia, but with continental weather.
Anyway. When I was in Melbourne, I recall picking up a copy of Time magazine and flipping through the articles until my eyes lit on an article about Anwar Ibrahim.
As someone who grew up in the Dr Mahathir age – I was a drooling four-year-old when he became prime minister in 1981 – I had never experienced any political changes until the ripe old age of 22.
Heck, I didn’t even know I could vote (or even cared to) when I turned 21 because, well, nobody told me.
A Generation X-er like myself was just collateral, unlike you lucky Gen Y’s on whom all matters now are attributed and blamed in equal measures) and the only media spotlight us youths of that time were given were either demonisation about our supposed ‘lepak’ culture or the facetious Rakan Muda programmes.
I am of the generation nobody gave a damn about.
The chance encounter with that article in Time – which stated that Anwar was the prime minister in waiting – didn’t really spark anything in me. All I felt was, “ Cool, this guy will be next”, and moved on to whatever I had planned for the day after crashing at my friend’s sofa for the night.
Little did I know that a few months later – September 2018 to be exact – the whole shebang with Anwar transpired and the Reformasi protests ensued while I was back in Perth on another day of classes.
Alarmed after watching the news reports on the protests in Dataran Merdeka – the media framing of the events did overly dramatise the protests notably with close up video and photo shots of the protest – I called my parents back home on a “real” house telephone (this was ages before WhatsApp calls) and asked what was going on.
They informed me that the commotion was happening at a very specific space around Dataran Merdeka.
You have to put some context for somebody of my generation – the threat ISA Internal Security Act was very real even to folk who were never even invested in national politics.
Now that my peers are in their 40s, the events leading up to and also that unfolded on Thursday is really significant.
I ranted to my students yesterday that was their age when I thought this Anwar fellow was going to be our next prime minister until he was subsequently arrested and paraded on trumped up charges and all.
My political awakening came late but it was sparked by these events in 1998 from which I started to be more in tune with what was going on in the country.
It was wholly a decision; nobody lectured me nor forced me to think about these things and I’m very sure a lot of my generational peers also went through this period of self-examination.
So November 24 is a super significant moment in our nation’s history. As a disclaimer, I am not a card-carrying member of any political party.
This moment is significant because our 10th prime minister has displayed a tenacity unseen in Malaysian society since our inception. This alone is what I feel built our deep respect in this man.
He and his family have faced unimaginable challenges us mere Malaysian citizens could ever experience nor even wish upon ourselves.
So, with this my dear readers, I would like to wish a safe journey for all of us on this next chapter in our nation.
We finally have a leader who has spent 20 odd years proving himself worthy. Let’s please give him a chance.
If we tolerated the last two years of politicians going against our mandate, let us own up to ourselves to the present one.
Congratulations, Anwar Ibrahim.Here’s to the next version of Malaysia, whatever it may be. – November 25, 2022.
* Azmyl Yunor is a touring underground recording artiste, and an academic in media and cultural studies. He has published articles on pop culture, subcultures and Malaysian cultural politics. He adheres to the three-chords-and-the-truth school of songwriting, and Woody Guthrie’s maxim “All you can write is what you see”. He is @azmyl on Twitter.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.